12 décembre 2008

Decline of Hollywood Press

The House Next Door points out to this corosive article by Scott Foundas (Editor at LA Weekly) : Hungry For More At LA Times, that denounces the crumbling of journalistic standards at the LA Times. First he's pissed that Hunger (Cannes Golden Camera!), a major film of 2008 (in my top10) was relegated to a secondary (negative) capsule review. And he goes on with other blatant examples of critical blindness (or is it bad taste?) revealing the marketing of the critical branch of cinema journalism. Not only Hollywood refuse to distribute foreign films and indies, but when they do get a (limited) release, they don't even give a decent treatment to the best of them...

Foundas pinpoints the syndication of wire reviews and insists on the complicated hierarchy of word count and page placement in a newspaper. While the technical aspect of this selection is probably their main concern in the editor world, and happens to also stand for de facto editorial politics, the node of the problem, to me, is elsewhere. We could argue all year long, back and forth, about the comparative size of particular reviews... but is he saying that the editor of the LA Times must agree with his own taste? with his critical appreciation? The fact that newspapers feature different films is part of the game, I believe. If they think it sucks, they minimize the publicity space on it. It sounds logical to me. I want a Press world where editors take options, risks, strong stances... to show to their readers what are their choices. Then we, readers, may question these affirmed choices and their cinema taste.

Though I get his point when he says the LA Times is expected to give a coverage to films and events according to their respective worldwide recognition, their official rewards, their importance to the eye of the critical community, and even if they are going to speak negatively about them. A great film deserves a profound reflection, an in-depth deconstruction if it is deemed pan-able. And I certainly appreciate him calling a major title for its lazy behaviour.

Scott Foundas : "Writing about Swanson’s appointment last year, Nikki Finke quoted one Hollywood studio executive’s description of Swanson as “a nice guy, but he knows so little about the business.” That would seem to extend not just to Hollywood itself, but to the broader world of cinema, including those pesky American independent movies that don’t have any marquee stars (at least none of Debra Messing’s zeitgeist value) and imports from foreign shores that come bearing those infernal little white words on the bottom of the screen. (It is also during Swanson’s tenure that the Times has aggressively beefed-up its mind-numbing coverage of that masturbatory Hollywood ritual known as “awards season”)."

The question raised by Scott Foundas is about the role of the press : should newspapers give a "fair and balanced" coverage of ALL releases? or should they intentionally suppress information to avoid exposing their readers to "useless information"?
And we need to define "fair" and "useless" in terms of Film Criticism. What purpose does serve the articles hierarchy within the page content?

This is only the tip of the iceberg, one obvious issue hiding many more about the commercialisation of journalism, selling out to populism, demagoguery, average statistics and majority opinion... which all benefit the blockbuster-driven business of entertainment : what matters is whatever publicity says matters. I don't want to live in a world where money defines the word culture, where journalists become P.R. henchmen, where cultural goods are appointed by Media tycoons...

1 commentaire:

HarryTuttle a dit…

Movie City News (01 Jan 2009, updated on 4 March 2009):
"The Last 126 Film Critics
In America


New York Times (12 June 2009) : "Everybody’s a Movie Critic: New Web Sites and Online Readers Chime In" By Michael Cieply