Saturday, May 20, 2006

CHEWING ON WALTER CHAW


A few days ago, within a post featuring several links to articles and information I felt were worth passing along, I linked to Jeremiah Kipp’s revealing interview of Film Freak Central’s resident film critic Walter Chaw. I’m enough of a film criticism geek that any time a writer whose reviews I enjoy (not the same, as I’m sure you’re aware, as always agreeing with his conclusions) gets an opportunity to speak extemporaneously in an interview situation, I get excited. So much so that I posted the link before I got a chance to read it, confident in its worthiness based on my familiarity with Kipp’s writing, the place where the interview resides (Matt Zoller Seitz’s The House Next Door), and Chaw’s own “chops,” as Kipp describes Chaw’s writing talent in the introduction to his piece. Somehow, I also felt comfortable in terming the interview “fantastic,” sure that it would be, I guess, fantastically entertaining to read, before having actually read it. Perhaps not an offense worthy of a Jayson Blair, but certainly a meaningless characterization, especially in the context of recommending the interview to others.

Kipp, in inroducing Chaw, had this to say:

“Chaw rages against the Hollywood machine's depictions of class, gender and race, puncturing political correctness, but assailing films that still think it’s okay to use xenophobic or chauvinistic stereotypes. His jihad against dumbed-down content is so wide-ranging that I’ve occasionally wondered if he needed to take a break. He's incinerated movies that were paper-thin in the first place: Bringing Down the House, The Dukes of Hazzard, Bulletproof Monk, xXx: State of the Union, Last Holiday. Maybe he justifies his vitriol on the grounds that he watches this junk so we don’t have to.”

I’ve read those reviews, and a lot of others signed by Walter Chaw, and his current review of Poseidon is in the same vein—an awful lot of energy expended on trashing or otherwise deconstructing a piece of work that seems too slight or inconsequential in comparison to the amount of bile generated in the mocking of it. However, what shocked me in reading the interview was the insistent thread of vitriol and exhaustion that seemed to characterize Chaw’s attitudes toward films, fellow critics (most of which are apparently as deserving of hatred as the lowliest junket whore) and those who disagree with his withering observations. I feel like there’s less of that obstinance, the my-way-or-the-highway stance, on display even in the most condescending reviews of his regarding films I enjoy or hold in very high esteem than what I found roiling through many of the statements he makes in this interview.

To start, personally I’d agree with Chaw that, say, Brett Ratner is probably not a director I’d want to hold up as a shining example of an artist working in American cinema. But, also just as personally, I feel like I’ve grown past needing to read reviews, or hear reviewers, that think it’s a badge of blunt integrity to refer to a movie, even one as obvious and dull as Red Dragon, as a “piece of shit.” In conversation, okay, whatever. But in published conversation, that kind of closed-off, reductive, tough-talking provocateur noise just reminds me too much of every collegiate film writer I’ve ever read who has never grown out of his desire to put down people and films just so he can see how red he can get people’s faces to turn.

Sillier still, when I hear Chaw, or any critic, start going off about how alone they are on the landscape, tilting at the windmills of Hollywood’s bad taste with no one getting their back, it makes me weep, all right, but with tears of laughter. In my own brief comments before the link I posted, I praised Chaw for countering claims that he was an elitist snob through his raves for films like Batman Begins, V for Vendetta and, most importantly for me, Peter Jackson’s King Kong. So imagine my own face blushing just a bit when I read this:

“I’m not making a play for ‘man of the people’ here, but I agree, according to Rotten Tomatoes, with the consensus a pretty depressing 73% of the time. I think what gets people is that I’m not all that equivocal about dislike of a film and, more, will actually say if something is repugnant about a picture’s message, or if it patronizes its audience. Folks don’t like to be called—even if it’s just by the association of their affection for a picture—racist, misogynistic, dimwits with retarded critical faculties. Can’t say that I blame them, but unless they’re willing and able to frame a cogent response to my outrage about some of that shit, they’re just bolstering my sad, hermetic little beliefs about the kinds of people who get a real charge out of North Country and Million Dollar Baby.”

The trouble is, and maybe I'm wrong, but I get the feeling that Chaw would probably hold any such attempts at a cogent response in contempt anyway for the writer’s daring to put themselves on his level of discourse, in much the same way he himself feels dissed by writers who have much more visibility and perks and not nearly the talent. (And is yet another dig at people for their variance with his tastes really necessary? If it’s so goddamn important to note them, then let’s hear a little more about those “sad, hermetic beliefs” so we can decide for ourselves just how sad they really are. I know a lot of film writers, professionals and bloggers, who just don’t have time for this kind of game-playing, who don’t think, say, Million Dollar Baby is much of a film, but who would never harbor contempt for me because I do.)

Clearly, Chaw thinks he’s better than most everyone out there writing on the Internet. And who’s to say he isn’t? But, forgive me for championing a little modesty (perhaps that’s what gets you eaten up in the dog-eat-dog world Chaw occupies in Denver, Colorado, where he is based) when I suggest that maybe that’s an evaluation best left to others, or perhaps posterity, not the writer himself. What comes through Chaw’s comments even more clearly, though, is a gnawing anger at being left at the kids’ table—he’d much rather be at that earlier screening with just one or two other critics, both of whom, if I’m calculating correcty, he probably has just as much contempt for as “the entitlement freeloaders, the pass-rats (and) the other Internet guys who work out of their basement without editors or taste” who he ends up jostling elbows with over their shared cupholders. It’s telling that Chaw offers no solution for the problem of the Online Film Critics Circle allowing anybody with a mouse and an attitude into their membership, no thoughts on what should constitute acceptable criteria for admittance. It’s easier, and I suspect more amenable to venting steam, to recycle tired platitudes about the lack of standards rampant in the world of blogging.

And the Internet critic is obviously enjoying lobbing a bomb or two into the arena of film bloggers in Kipp’s interview. Yet he can barely be moved to draw an distinction between the entertainment gossip/Ain’t-It-Cool-News school of writing and other more serious attempts to frame film criticism within this as yet still wide, nebulous and ever-shifting virtual world. Chaw is undoubtedly aware of the many scholarly film sites available, and he may well have given them his blessing. But how he can maintain such an attitude toward bloggers when he admits, in responding to some not-so-positive reaction to his comments in the section posted directly under the interview, more than a passing familiarity with sites like Filmbrain’s Like Anna Karina’s Sweater?

(Filmbrain himself, in a response full of wry annoyance and sharp observations about Chaw’s sour grapes, finds that while Chaw may have a legitimate beef with the way Internet critics like himself still find themselves misperceived and disrespected, “instead of offering up something constructive, he turns it into a pissing contest by creating a hierarchy as a means of distancing himself from the rest of us. That Chaw has an editor at Film Freak Central is all well and good, but why does that necessitate resorting to the beyond-tired clichĂ© of… bloggers as 'guys who work out of their basement without editors or taste?'" He also pointedly wonders if Chaw imagines himself as “God’s lonely critic,” and Chaw, on the Film Freak Central blog recently, may have provided the answer, writing about his experience at a screening of Pixar’s Cars:

“I did have the pleasure of sitting in front of some yahoo with press credentials who laughed heartily every couple of minutes whether or not there was a joke: the studio’s gotta get better at planting their ringers. Wonder if the summer of NASCAR (with Will Ferrell’s racing flick coming up in a couple of months) will leave me further out of the proverbial loop. What’s disturbing to me is that lately I’ve had the opportunity to be more in contact with the “average” audience member and the suspicion that I’ve been harboring that I’m way out of whack in terms of the popular taste has been brought home to me in a real personal kind of way. Seems like I should wear it like a badge of honor, right, but it really just makes me feel sort of melancholy and lonesome.”

As a friend of mine put it after reading this paragraph (in terms that Chaw would undoubtedly find to be an insufficient response from anyone but himself), give me a fucking break.

Frustratingly, there’s truth to that kind of power-tiering based on the visibility of one’s media outlet, but Chaw undermines his own quest for validation by coming off simply like a petulant brat who isn’t getting the kind of cookies he really wants. There’s a desperation to some of Chaw’s comments here, particularly in regard to how he perceives that he is perceived by the print media critics who have little respect for writers who don’t have a paper to scribble on. Yet he reserves just as much venom, if not more, for his peers on the Internet, 99% of whom he’s pretty sure he would support banning from advance screening based on their lack of talent as writers and observers. “Of course, I don’t think that I deserve to be lumped into that ghetto,” Chaw states. “[But] it still burns, and it gets worse as time goes on... knowing that there was a better way to see this film just a few days earlier with just one or two other critics in the auditorium.” (Does anyone recall that Pauline Kael used to go out of her way to see movies with paying audiences?)

Speaking of whom, Chaw also eagerly provides the requisite knocks on the critical establishment, an exercise which wouldn’t be so annoying if it weren’t obvious that Chaw really feels like he’s hurling sharp daggers instead of dull platitudes. He likes Andrew Sarris insofar as his auteurist approach opens up discussion of films, and claims the critic’s methods to be useful as they can be applied to Chaw’s own aesthetic and approach.

But after endorsing Pauline Kael’s claim that film criticism is for him, as it was for her, an autobiographical process, he makes sure that we know he doesn’t buy that whole mythology surrounding the late critic. “I don’t like Kael, by the way,” just in case anyone was ready to mistake this fiercely independent voice for one of those fawning Paulettes. “I think she was a brilliant writer,” he expands, “but a mean person, a borderline personality, and a shaky critic;” he also later describes her “gut-and-fuck philosophy.” I’m assuming now that Chaw knew Kael personally, though he never says whether or not this is true; how else to get away with a blithe toss-off about her being “a mean person and a borderline personality,” particularly without explaining, true or not, what exactly these descriptions had to do with her abilities as a critic? (And what the hell is a borderline personality, by the way? And what the hell hell is a “gut-and-fuck philosophy”? These are the kinds of terms tossed off in interviews that are meant to make the spouter-offer sound knowing and tough and not-to-be-messed-with, but unfortunately only do so when the spouter-offer is surrounded by a bunch of like-minded, and probably stoned, pals on the floor of one’s freshman college dorm room.)

He goes on: “She (Kael) did have a way of articulating ephemera like performance and fashion, though. But ultimately, I’m not certain her bully tactics and popularization of film criticism did anybody any favors.”

First of all, count me shocked to discover that performance in film can be characterized as ephemera. (This truly will be news to anyone who still delights in the popular artistry of, for example, Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert in It Happened One Night-- at 72 years and counting, that’s some pretty stout ephemera!)

But I’m hardly shocked at all that a female critic would be concerned with articulating fashion and trends and other quickly evaporating elements of film at the expense of all the other more important elements that her male counterparts are wise enough to prize. And is it slightly ironic that a writer like Chaw, who so values bluntness and taking no prisoners when it comes to articulating his own experience with a film, would be so concerned about what he perceives as another’s “bully tactics”? Finally, his lament about Kael popularizing film criticism would be funny, in light of all his other complaints about the pathetic qualities of those critics in the print media, if it weren’t such a sober-faced inverse of Groucho’s joke about never wanting to join a club that would have him as a member.

Roger Ebert, being the far easier target, one that almost all would probably agree is a mere shadow of his former self as a film critic, gets thrown under Chaw’s bus too. “What a gasbag (Ebert) has become… commenting proudly about his love of tits to his recollection of last year spent reading the works of Willa Cather,” recounts Chaw of Ebert’s recent appearance at the Conference of World Affairs in Boulder, Colorado. Call me a yahoo, Walter, but I’m not sure I trust anybody who can’t allow for an appreciation of Willa Cather (or any other writer) to coexist with an appreciation of tits. There’s something fundamentally dishonest about that, in my view. And I would also suggest that even though Ebert is pretty watered down these days, he still has insights to offer on occasion for those who are willing to look for them.

Jeremiah Kipp’s fascinating interview with this irascible subject is just as good and illuminating as I assumed it would be when I posted the link to it, and a lot of what Chaw has to say about film is, of course, intrinsically interesting and well-observed. What else might we expect from a critic whose writing typically displays a contentious love for film and a sharp and cogent way of articulting that love? The interview is also, courtesy of that subject, a good deal more aggravating than I suspected it would be. But Kipp gets points for directing the conversation to fruitful places and, happily, even challenging one of Chaw’s toss-offs-- at one point Chaw proclaims of graphic novels, “They’re just bound storyboards, aren’t they?” to which Kipp retorts, “I don’t believe that at all. They’re two radically different mediums.” (The critic, momentarily stunned that his questioner isn’t just mindlessly eating up whatever he puts forth, offers no real counterpoint.) The end result of the interview is, however, strangely rather disturbing-- a self-portrait of a critic who craves the power of influence and recognition in a world rapidly shrinking away from any kind of respect for the concept of honest film criticism, a film critic trapped in a system that makes him feel powerless but who writes because he has the desire, the need to express himself about a medium he finds so challenging and conflicted and engaging. It’s here that we discover, even if Chaw does not, that he may have a lot more in common with do-it-yourself film bloggers than he might like to admit. Chaw gets the penultimate word:

“Most people who hate me haven’t read more than one—if that—review of mine in its entirety. When I look at what I write--and I seldom have to, thank god--I hope that what I’m seeing there is a real, throbbing outrage at films that are out to do harm and, on the other side, a real live joy at films that feed me. Stuff that’s just out to make money off of easy stereotypes and nakedly shill to robotically-demarcated demographics of imaginary people– and looping back around, here, offering up all this feckless garbage to the blind eyes of the vast majority of the critics in lofty positions that I (if no one else) hope are manning the gates—makes me exhausted.”

Jeremiah Kipp’s interview with Walter Chaw, “Keep Up, or Get Out Of the Way,” is a portrait of a very entertaining and intelligent critic who, during the course of the piece, ends up coming off like a driven, near-burnt-out, smart-as-hell and ever-so-slightly paranoid, well, gasbag.

(If you haven’t yet, you can read the interview and the ensuing commentary here.)

24 comments:

Sal said...

I for one having spent some time with you and understanding a little about the person you are, I have to say with all honesty that you are, Mr. Cozzalio what you write. You are honest and sincere with your opinions and you are also willing to accept changing your opinion when presented with a valid argument.

Often you will find writers or people with the willingness to sit back and critic others are sometimes not as truthful as they seem. You and I know from experience that there are some people willing to trumpet their own horn yet do nothing to garner such praise. Or worse than that, there are people who seem to run in the same vein as the rest of us yet they turn out to be very different.

It's refreshing to hear your honest reaction to being presented with evidence that has changed your opinion about someone you once held some value for.

Flickhead said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Flickhead said...

Perhaps you could've titled this essay, "What's in Walter's craw?" But, please, avoid tacky allusions to old episodes of Get Smart (re: "Not craw! Klaw!"), for they would be woefully outmoded.

Walter's passionate ire is heartwarming and nostalgic, and not without a touch of dementia. Should we send him the hotline number of Alcoholics Anonymous? Surely there's some potion greasing the wheels of that loose cannon.

I pity anyone seriously invested in film criticism nowadays. When Kael and Sarris were making it chic, at least they were dipping into a vast well that included new releases by Kurosawa, Antonioni, Buñuel, Bergman, Polanski, Truffaut... But today, what is there to jazz the critic or the public?

With occasional (and rare) exceptions, most contemporary filmmakers have revealed themselves to be preoccupied with recreating the (better) work of their predecessors.

Walter's heated delivery feels shaded by adolescent idealism. I don't know his age, but if he's behaving like this at fifty, call the men with the nets.

The Wrong Box said...

Borderline Personality Disorder:

http://www.nimh.nih.gov/publicat/bpd.cfm

(Note that psychologists generally believe that every personality disorder corresponds with a not-quite-as-serious personality "style," so calling someone a "borderline personality" is not the same as saying they have BPD.)

Anonymous said...

He's Mexican?

That Little Round-Headed Boy said...

You know, Dennis, I refrained from getting too much into this over at the House Next Door for the same reasons that I think are underlying your lengthy intervention here. What I loved about discovering your site and many others here was their maturity, deep enthusiasm for film and their ability to have a civilized disagreement. So, the bottom line: Chaw might want to think about how he's coming off. My guess is some of this was chest-thumping and showing off for the fun of it. He's a writer with an ego, and he ain't the only one around here. But if the response he gets makes him think a little and apply it to his writing, you've done your job.

Dennis Cozzalio said...

Sal: The interesting thing is, the experience of the inteview made have made me read Walter Chaw's writing even more carefully, but I will still read him because I think he's generally very good at what he does. So I don't think my opinion of him as a writer has much changed. What was disconcerting to me was all this bile floating to the surface in the interview, which I think he must have an easier time tempering within his reviews (though I did look back at his review of Million Dollar Baby again last night, and I don't know if I'm just overly sensitive about this movie or what, but it did seem snottier than I recall.) I still think Walter Chaw is a good, smart writer worth reading-- the interview has just made me want to look a little closer at his writing from now on.

Flickhead: Chaw's passion is definitely one of the things I value most in him as a writer. I'd rather read someone who's got something invested in what he saying than a bunch of milquetoast copy written by someone who's too timid to take any chances. But I read a lot of film blogs, like yours, or Zach Campbell's, or Michael Smith's, or Matt Seitz's, or several others, and I get that passion without the curdled condescension that seems to often accompany writers like Chaw. I can do without name-calling and, to use Filmbrain's term, adolescent pissing contests when I want to read a serious consideration of a film. If I want to read a bunch of goofballs whipping it out over Mission: Impossible 3, I'll head to Ain't-It-Cool-News. But I don't!

TLRHB: Yeah, that's why I kinda of stayed away too. I thought about dropping a line or two, but then it kind of mushroomed into what you see here. I felt my feelings were well enough represented by you, Filmbrain, and Sean Burns anyway. Like I said above, call me an old fogey (I'm 45), but at this point in my life I'd rather have a civil conversation with people I respect than sit around tossing molotov cocktails in order to show off my way with a pithy turn of phrase and an opinion that goes against the grain.

Robert said...

I've lobbed a few stones at Mr. Chaw on occasion; however I've always left my name and contact address, for responses, which I've gotten.

I generally like his work, but there has been the occasional review where I've had to wonder if we've even seen the same films (case in point; the recent remake of TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE). One can pick up the pungent stench of a bitter wind over some of the recent reviews and posts, and I do feel bad for him, to expend a lot of time and energy on a form that, when one really gets down to it, is pretty much subjective and is generally at mercy of whatever the moviegoer's mood is.

I appreciate film criticism, esp. good criticism - but the older I get, I generally have shifted towards the "I like what I like, damn the reasons why" method of film appreciation, and I would imagine that would have to really stick in a critic's craw. (no GET SMART pun intended).

CINEBEATS said...

It was interesting to read your thoughts (and everyone elses) about film criticism.

My own current philosophy is to just stick to writing about things I like and want to share with others. I don't really have the time & energy to rant much about the films I dislike. I'd rather spend that time & energy writing about the ones that excite me and remind me why I love movies.

And really... who wants to read another negative review pointing out the obvious reasons why something like The Dukes of Hazard movie sucks? I know I don't, but I might be in the minority.

girish said...

Dennis: I really cannot imagine any higher praise than this!
My hearty and warm congratulations!!

Peter Nellhaus said...

Congratulations on being cited by Vue Weekly.

That Little Round-Headed Boy said...

Hey Dennis, add my congrats, that was quite a nice write up you got in Vue Weekly. Especially next to that big ad for the Sex, Love and Lust Issue!

Roscoe said...

I read the interview a few days ago when Dennis posted it, I read it and found Walter Chaw to be of sound mind, and I looked forward to reading some of his reviews. I like the fact that he's passionately opinionated and will speak for the real danger formulized, demographic driven blabber.

I dont know too much about the validity of the pot shots he took, and because of the lack on knowledge on my part, so I won't comment on that. However, if SLIFR is launching an attack on arrogance, ego and pretentiousness, I cannot follow. Ego and Arrogance seems to serve Walter Chaw well, and he shouldn't have to feel guilty about it. Arrogance is not the chosen route for everyone, but to hold back those who it does help is an attempt to lower the standards for those who operate there.

I dont really have a problem with anyone , I just generally dislike attack's on man's ego. Everyone here seems to think Chaw is good at what he does, don't let his personal attitude towards people, specific or non-specific, change that. It's man's ego that prods him to be great.

Dennis Cozzalio said...

Girish, Peter, TLRHB: I got home very late last night from the drive-in and didn't see these comments until quite early this morning. This article was, to say the least, very much unexpected. I was flabbergasted when I read David Hudson's link and then the article itself. It's exceedingly strange to read things like this about oneself, and I don't know any other way to react but to say thanks to you guys for your words and for pointing it out to me. Best movie critic on my block/side of the street/in my house, maybe. North America? Well, I don't think Matt Zoller Seitz, David Edelstein, Charles Taylor, Stephanie Zacharek, Manohla Dargis Walter Chaw or Jonathan Rosenbaum have anything to worry about. But you'd better watch your ass, Richard Roeper!

Dennis Cozzalio said...

Roscoe: As I said to Flickhead above, I like the fact that Chaw is passionately opinonated too. I hope that my comments really didn't suggest otherwise. What I objected to was the form those opinions took in the interview itself. I felt that he came across as rude and intolerant of the opinions of others and, yes, unnecessarily arrogant. It seemed to me that he spent too much of the interview talking about the insufficiencies of other writers, especially his Internet brethren, by whom he seems fairly threatened. If he was going to go down that road, I'd have appreciated him pointing out some of the other writers he's aware of who do good work in the Online Film Critcis Circle, or elsewhere on the Net, instead of suggesting that he's in the slim 1% of those writers who deserve serious consideration, by fellow writers, reader and the studio heads who set up his screenings.

As for your comments about his ego, of course Chaw has a big one, as does most everyone who decides to his/her observations about any art have value and attempts to write about them with applied intelligence. But in this context (I'm not talking about Chaw's writing here) I don't agree that Chaw's ego and arrogance have served him well. Maybe they have in getting him the work he has, and the inroads to other areas of experience he states that the job of film critic has provided him. But if Chaw's own standards (as applied in his example of Pauline Kael) are to be at all trusted, then the way a professional treats people, in print, in person, in an interview situation, does carry some importance. I'm not saying that because Walter Chaw came off like an ego-driven, arrogant jerk during some portions of that interview, then it follows that his writing is no good. Quite the opposite. I wouldn't even say that because of what I found distasteful in that interview that Walter Chaw obviously is an ego-driven, arrogant jerk outside of the interview situation. How could I know that? And how do I know that there weren't unknown factors going on that influenced the emphasis and tone he put on certain subjects that he addressed? Maybe in person his manner and composure indicated an entirely different read on his comments (ever had the tone or intent of an e-mail misinterpreted?).

I appreciate and respect your comments, Roscoe, especially since they go against the grain of the general tone of my response and those of others. Although I think you're wrong to take my response to the Chaw interview as the launching of a crusade against arrogance, ego and pretentiousness, I do reserve the right to talk about these things if I feel they adversely affects the text of a film or my experience with it, or if they get in the way of anyone, myself included, leaving themselves open to the wisdom and good writing available within the work of any given film critic.

Dennis Cozzalio said...

K: Back in the '80s, when I first started writing reviews for the only paid gig I ever had doing so, I used to think that writing bad reviews was easy and more fun, and that writing good reviews, being able to cogently express what moved me or otherwise led me to believe what I'd seen had value, was much harder. But with about another 20 years of life under my belt since then, I've come to agree with your point of view: writing reviews of bad films can be fun and cathartic, but it can also be a dead-end-- how worked up, after all, do you really need to get over Cannonball Run II? (I remember working up a righteous fury over it for my newspaper the weekend it came out.) It's much more fun now, more challenging, more worth my time, and yes, easier, to try to capture what it is that makes a film expand in my head and spur on my imagination and thought processes, even if it's a film that might not obviously require a lot of thought and experience to appreciate.

And just for the record, just so everything's out in the open, I liked The Dukes of Hazzard, and, yes, I had fun writing about it. I'll skip, for now, thinking about whether I think anyone would want to read that! :)

Thom McGregor said...

Excuse me, but may I make an attack on man's ego? I've always wanted to, and he sure deserves it sometimes.

Filmbrain said...

Dennis --

First off, congrats on the Vue article. It's great to see an online critic get that kind of (well-deserved) recognition.

I can only hope that Walter Chaw has read this excellent reaction/response to his recent interview. In reading the piece, I realized that I'm confused as to exactly who Chaw is writing for. A well-written smackdown of Failure to Launch might be a fun read, but is he merely preaching to the choir? Will people not see the film based on his review? Are the people who would consider seeing a film like that readers of Film Freak Central in the first place?

I admire the honesty in the piece vis a vis your immediate reaction to the interview. Neither snarky nor fueled by emotion, it's a well thought out, reasoned response to Chaw and some of his gripes.

Dennis Cozzalio said...

Thanks, Filmbrain. I value your thoughts on this matter greatly. I'm a bit dazed by the attention from the Vue Weekly, but it is nice to get such a supportive write-up and know that there are others who appreciate the work that I/we do.

As for Film Freak Central, I just wonder if Chaw's brand of chest-puffery, as practiced by him and many others, hasn't done more to turn people off of wanting to read real, honest film criticism than just about anything else. It seems to me a critic can be smart, authoritative and knowledgeable without having to denigrate anything and everyone in his path in order to make himself look like king of the intellectual hill. I look to your site and the many others linked on my sidebar as irrefutable proof of this.

I have no idea if Walter Chaw has read the piece or not-- if he has, he hasn't left any indication of it here. But, curiously, a friend of mine pointed out to me last night that Chaw started out-- started out his review of X Men 3 by labeling Brett Ratner "a homophobic, misogynistic, misanthropic moron." So much for levelheaded discourse.

Dennis Cozzalio said...

And I should say, when he's not going off on one of these rants against commercial juggernauts like The Da Vinci Code, X Men 3 and Poseidon, Chaw is still a perceptive critic whom I enjoy reading. I'm just tired of the ranting. He's just taking advantage of an opportunity to vent without restraint against films which are probably the least affected, positively or negatively, by a film review. I'm sure Chaw imagines himself as the lone voice of reason against a tide of puff pieces and studio-generated publicity, and he's not wrong to feel that he (and, yes, others) are swimming against a pretty strong tide in the face of these kinds of pictures. But the kind of tune-out Chaw generates with such a hostile attitude is no kind of trade-off, in my view.

Benaiah said...

By the way, I thought X-Men was pretty sweet. I thought that Chaw didn't really add anything to the discussion, he slams the movie on lines that just don't matter (believability of superpowers and fight scenes) among other things, and seems to find bigotry in nearly every movie, even ones that overtly try to avoid it. You have to try pretty hard to say that a movie which is a thinly vieled metaphor for the persecution of homosexuals is homophobic. There are some lows, Halle Berry pretty much the whole time, but for what it was I was very entertained.

jim treacher said...

And Hostel is homophobic because at the end, the creepy Dutch businessman who paid to torture and kill someone was himself murdered in a public toilet. Not because he tortured and killed the guy's friend, but because he was a faggot. Right, Walter?

A.J. Muller said...

I've tried to read many (by which I mean more than twenty) of Chaw's reviews. The problem is that I'm usually more pissed off than he always is by the time I'm done. I am in no way saying he's not intelligent or without a cogent point of view. What I AM saying is that he's a contrary, pretentious douchebag. This is merely my opinion, of course, but I hold this particular one very strongly. Simply because you have an excellent vocabulary at your demand and are proficient in its use does not make you insightful or even interesting.

Chaw reminds me of Armond White in that he seems to only want to rip apart whatever everybody else seems to like. I don't care that he enjoyed Batman Begins; using the phrase "my uninspired eyes" in his review for Inception, while remarkably stupid, must make him feel like he's standing apart from all the rest. Sadly, all he's done is paint himself as an obnoxious asshole.

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I am part of those critics against the new movie versions..
I hate them... Poseidon is a waste of money, time and film..
and it's just the begining...
King Kong is the next one.. it was THE classic of classics and now destroyed for me!!