11 juin 2012

Repeat Whiner (David Carr) Season 2 Episode 5

Is it that time of the year again? Like last year (Dan Kois), to the day, The New York Times publishes another anti-intellectual rant against film criticism...

This is exactly this type of knee-jerk reaction by so-called institutional intellectuals (isn't what the NYT stands for?) that makes American reviewers scared shitless about being too "critical" (meaning panning the blockbusters "universally" embraced by the masses). They are afraid of the base consumer's backlash. They are afraid to alienate their readership. They are shy about expressing their true intuition and deliver the expected talking points instead.
David Carr is not any less infantile than Dan Kois, and just like him he desperately tries to dismantle the independence of the film criticism discipline to subvert it to the whims of the mass. If the populace disagrees then the critic should bend over and pander to the lowest common denominator. That's the level the film discourse is at in the USA, and of all places, at the New York Fucking Times

Fortunately some observers (Glenn Kenny, Jim Emerson) react to these kinds of attacks instead of being bullied by the Studios PR, the actors on Twitter, the "democratic" voice of the sacred audience who buys all the tickets. And for once, I won't be the first one and the only one to be offended by the dismissal of critical values. Is the sleeper slowly awakening?
Nonetheless, AO Scott doesn't know how to defend himself (or his profession), hasn't got the rhetorical tools, and if we are to believe CNN-grade body language analysts (folded arms, elbows on the table, glancing sideways, sitting strait, stuttering, while Carr is sloughing in his chair, facing him more directly in a confident and dominant posture, winking, smirking), he hasn't got the will to face off, he just dodges, rolls over and ultimately, in a cynical parody of himself, word out all the soundbytes Carr wanted him to say. We know it was a second degree parody of himself, in between air quotes, but to the inattentive listeners they hear what they want to hear, which is a critic admitting he is out there to spoil people's fun. This, instead of disqualifying any loaded question and laying down the simple answers explaining the language barrier between the critical discourse and the emotional expression. He did not do so. He played the game. Because in the USA, the self-indulgent consumers rule over the intellectual discourse. An "intellectual" must adapt to their level, never the other way round. That's why American cultural discourse is forever lame...

And AO Scott is hardly the role model to defend critical sovereignty... He poses here as the one who champions morality and impartiality, but that's not really what motivates his everyday papers. I came across his anti-intellectual rampages a few times in the past (Dan Kois half-assed rebuke; Neo-Neo; festival bashing; mini-balls, Disappearing Act I...). And I don't forget, contrary to his short-memory fans (who believe he represents the authoritative quality in American film criticism). In the kingdom of blind, the one-eyed is king! Or as I would put it : the teenager is king in the kindergarten.

Some desperately try to find a hidden value in this mockery of a "debate", as if Carr was playing dumb on purpose... Is that the full force of the NYT's mindpower at work there? A highschool student would be asked to bring a lot more than that to pass an essay. Why couldn't a NYT journalist get a better grade than a highschooler??? Serious lack of ambition there, for themselves and for their readership!
If it was a witty role playing to expose the cultural gap, then why isn't AO Scott better prepared to answer? Why is he struggling against a man made of straw? Why isn't he coming out on top in the end? Why the bogus positions are considered, respected, embraced if it was supposedly a pantomime to allow a critic to justify himself?
This is when you realize the least we could expect from people employed at the NYT would be to have graduated from a basic cultural school, like say, a highschool class on rhetorics and a film class 101. The reason this level of discourse is taught and acquired before 20 years old, is precisely so you can develop a deeper discourse when you read the NYT!!! Or so it should be. Apparently the target audience of the NYT is 14 yold (which is the average mental age of the entire country, when you skim through the media content available).
It's hard to believe AO Scott was considered for a Pulitzer prize in 2010... for doing what the worse reviewer is supposed to do : "For his incisive film reviews that, with aplomb, embrace a wide spectrum of movies and often explore their connection to larger issues in society or the arts." LMAO. And this year the Pulitzer goes to the first dude who can Tweet a subject, a verb and a complement! Yay! The Decline of the American Empire...

The USA is stuck in the 40ies when you had to justify yourself to publish serious film criticism. Their basic  consumer-guide reviewing didn't evolve beyond that yet. People are still asking whether art criticism is legit. What a waste of time debating silly readers insecurities... for over 100 years now. When will you decide to move on, leaving baby whiners behind, and address intellectual issues of the level of a cultural newspaper like the NYT?

Unrelated misleading quote brought on the table by bloggers :
Dave Eggers : "I was a critic and I wish I could take it all back because it came from a smelly and ignorant place in me, and spoke with a voice that was all rage and envy."
Do not fall for it. Film Criticism isn't that. What he describes is bad practice by bad reviewers, people who do it for the wrong reasons. People who abuse their fantasied power to think of themselves as maker or breaker of works of art according to their whim. Replace his word of "critic" by the phrase "film-reviews-page employee who synopsizes everything (s)he's told to, movies (s)he enjoys as well as movies (s)he hates writing on" and you might give some meaning to this sentence (once the individual anecdote is dissociated from a universal definition of criticism in general). This is exactly the reason why the movie reviewing press is NOT the discipline of film criticism, it is only a perverted devolution of it, muffled by so many absurd mercantile constraints. (See Reality Check : Film Critics are NOT The Film Press)
This isn't in the NATURE of art criticism to proceed in this manner and attain such results. People's feelings being hurt is a collateral, not the main objective of a critic. Why should a debate on the function of criticism have to answer to this accusation? 
It's as if all reviewers in the USA perverted the original and proper role of criticism, produced ill-intentioned articles and that the entire population concluded this masquerade of "criticism" was all there was to it, thus dismissed it altogether. that's what happens when there aren't any exemplary role models to compare to.
Apparently the masses rejoice in bashing people they dislike, and act all offended when people they like are put into question... Likewise, the masses find it a duty to worship their favourites and find it outrageous that someone would praise something that is too far away from their comfort zone. WHY? 

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1 commentaire:

HarryTuttle a dit…

Super-Dreams of an Alternate World Order (Manohla Dargis; AO Scott; NYT; 27 June 2012)

Finally a serious piece about the entertainment industry in the pages of an intellectual newspaper! They still give publicity to a "summer blockbuster" (as didcated by the official distribution calendar) because they must give their opinion on the BO business, as always... but at least they are trying to give a mature look at this entertainment made for kids (as opposed to the usual infantile veneration). They still feel obligated to concede to the mainstream fans (the common-denominator majority) that they WON the argument, because they are scared to be too confrontational, or produce criticism that would offend people with self-indulgent taste... but at least they try to give a reasonably well researched cultural context to the scoio-economic phenomenon, talking as adults writers to adult readers. This is what mainstream reviewing should ALWAYS look like. This should be the minimal standard.
Beyond that, add a sense of good taste and an understanding of mise en scène and you might get decent FILM CRITICISM too, on the best days.
Whether The Avengers is worth seeing or not is irrelevant because people flock in mass to watch their guilty pleasures anyway. But criticism what superhero movies stand for in our society, identify the modernity (or backwardness) of their archetypes, replace their mythology within a wider historical timeline, consider its influence on the new generations and how their sucesses influence the future development of the next film productions is what a film journalist should do all the time (and without fear of offending the fans).