Thursday, August 16, 2007

THE SLIFR FORUM: CRITICS ON CRITICS

CRITICS ON CRITICS:
David Hudson and Green Cine Daily have provided a link to the latest salvo launched in the aftermath of Jonathan Rosenbaum’s controversial New York Times op-ed piece regarding the relevance of Ingmar Bergman to modern film audiences. It’s Entertainment Weekly’s Owen Gleiberman on “The Moment I ‘Got’ Ingmar Bergman.” And if you’re behind on the whole tempest, a good place to catch up is Jim Emerson’s Scanners. Jim has thoughts on Rosenbaum’s initial column, Roger Ebert’s comeback, some further conversation on Bergman, Antonioni and Camile Paglia, further responses to Rosenbaum from Zach Campbell, critic David Bordwell’s very valuable two cents, and a ton of great comments throughout all these links, in what amounts to the kind of serious consideration of Bergman, Antonioni and other old masters that a lot of us haven’t heard or seen since our college days.

Also, under the “Critics on Critics” banner comes a pithy little bit courtesy of blogger/critic Phil Nugent, who takes Slate critic Dana Stevens to task for her apparently contrary views of Dreamgirls over an eight-month span. Stevens comments were derived from her original Dreamgirls review and then from the opening paragraph of her enthusiastic piece about Hairspray. Is this a classic case of left hand-right hand ignorance, or even specious contradiction, as Phil implies? Or did Dreamgirls simply seem, for Stevens, even less dreamy eight months down the road than it did in the glow of its prestige Christmas release?

CRITICS ON THEIR AUDIENCE
The Passionate Moviegoer’s Joe Baltake highlights San Francisco Chronicle film critic Mick La Salle’s sharp response to one of those letters from an irate viewer who lashes out with a very familiar argument: “Those who can, write. Those who can't, criticize.” To which La Salle responds:

“I know. But please, spare some pity for the others, those poor individuals who can neither write nor criticize. What do they do? I think they criticize critics. Yes, that's what they do, but we should resist all impulse to disparage them. We don't want to be people who criticize the people who criticize critics." Toosh!

For some good old-fashioned critickin’, get thee to Joe Baltake’s site right away.

WRITERS ON CRITICS
Finally, this one courtesy of loyal SLIFR reader Blaaagh, who last week sent along an e-mail which contained a piece written by San Francisco Chronicle scribe Jon Carroll. The columnist, on July 17, 2007, mused about science fiction writer Ursula Le Guin’s spirited response to a review of Michael Chabon’s The Yiddish Policeman’s Union by Slate reviewer Ruth Franklin, in which Franklin stated “Michael Chabon has spent considerable energy trying to drag the decaying corpse of genre fiction out of the shallow grave where writers of serious literature abandoned it."

Here’s Carroll:

“I am pretty sure that Michael Chabon would agree with Le Guin's point. He too is irritated by the pigeonholing of genre fiction. A writer is not responsible for his reviewers or his fans, although a writer becomes justly disconsolate when the reviewers stop reviewing and the fans stop fanning… Ruth Franklin is in general a sensible reviewer, and one sentence does not a career make, no matter how much it ticks somebody off.”

However, he cannot resist taking delight in Le Guin’s literary retort, found on her Web site, and neither can I:

“Something woke her in the night. Was it steps she heard, coming up the stairs -- somebody in wet training shoes, climbing the stairs very slowly ... but who? And why wet shoes? It hadn't rained. There, again, the heavy, soggy sound. But it hadn't rained for weeks, it was only sultry, the air close, with a cloying hint of mildew or rot, sweet rot, like very old finiocchiona, or perhaps liverwurst gone green.

There, again -- the slow, squelching, sucking steps, and the foul smell was stronger. Something was climbing her stairs, coming closer to her door. As she heard the click of heel bones that had broken through rotting flesh, she knew what it was. But it was dead, dead! God damn that Chabon, dragging it out of the grave where she and the other serious writers had buried it to save serious literature from its polluting touch, the horror of its blank, pustular face, the lifeless, meaningless glare of its decaying eyes!

What did the fool think he was doing?”


Read the rest of Ursula Le Guin’s ”The Return of the Genre Zombie” here. (Thanks, Blaaagh!)

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So, what are you thinking about as you read these pieces and consider these questions, these writers and their thoughts? The SLIFR Forum is open! And by the way, don't get me wrong-- I think Anton Ego is a hero.

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23 comments:

Jonathan Lapper said...

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Well, I love writing about critics and critical reactions myself and have several times here and here for instance (sorry for the shameless links).

I think it's invigorating as long as it doesn't get mean spirited. It provides one with an understanding of one's own as well as others viewpoints. Even writing about Rosenbaum's reaction to Bergman I was careful to point out that I didn't feel Rosenbaum shouldn't have the opinion about Bergman that he did, only that he didn't argue it well. Despite his poor arguments (even beyond the original NYT piece but even in his follow up comments on Jim Emerson's Scanners) I still love reading Rosenbaum and consider him my number one choice to turn to for an understanding of lesser known foreign films.

As for responding to viewers I have not had that pleasure/chore since I do not review current releases on a national scale. I'm assuming that the attacks on everyone from Ebert to Rosenbaum to A.O. Scott get tiresome after a while and they probably learn to ignore it after a while, rather than respond. Life's too short.

Thanks for the multiple jumping points. I've got some reading to do and then perhaps I'll be back for some more.

Jonathan

bill said...

Over at Ebert's site, he posted a letter (or e-mail, I guess) from Bernard Tavernier, where Tavernier goes after Rosenbaum.

http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070810/LETTERS/70810001

(Sorry...don't know how to add links here.)

Rosenbaum must feel like he's being piled on at this stage, but he was sort of asking for it.

Jonathan Lapper said...

HTML codes can be tricky. Here you go Bill -

Tavernier goes after Rosenbaum

bill said...

Thanks! Also, I of course meant "Bertrand", not "Bernard".

I'm sleepy...

Dennis Cozzalio said...

Yeah, it's hard to think that Rosenbaum isn't getting the dogpile he basically asked for.

And of course, Gleiberman takes the opportunity to try and slaughter a few sacred cows in his own piece:

"What's truly notable about Rosenbaum's dismissal, however, is the battle line he's really drawing: between Bergman the middlebrow, an art filmmaker who actually deigned to tell his stories fluidly (how vulgar!), and Rosenbaum's heroes, such as the arid, oblique Bresson, with his dessicated zombie acting and general lack of forward motion.

Specious as it is, this argument represents what has become a vanguard attitude in the way that foreign films are now routinely celebrated — not for their expression, but for their benumbed lack of expression. You see it in the canonization of directors like Hou Hsiao-hsien and Abbas Kiarostami, the spiritual heirs to Bresson: filmmakers who fetishize their refusal to dramatize, who create art that is meandering and oblique, at times to the point of madness."


Gleiberman says in the "Youthful Befuddlement" stage of his journey to "get" Bergman:

"I had almost no idea what any of it meant. It all seemed so adult, so beyond me — a world I was vaguely curious to enter but could only stare at, thinking that it must be important."

Sounds like Gleiberman is in another, similar state of befuddlement over this current crop of canonized directors. As distasteful as Rosenbaum's lamely argued provocations were, so are Gleiberman's attempts to chastize critical thinkers who have embraced filmmakers he finds maddening and, dare I say, boring. His enlightening piece about his own journey to understand Bergman is smudged by his own cries of "I don't get it!" regarding a filmmaker like Robert Bresson, who's not exactly high on the trendy chart right now, unless we're counting number of Criterion DVD releases. Nor is he one who has just recently come into favor. (Just ask Paul Schrader). I wonder if Gleiberman thinks appreciations of both Bergman and Bresson, or Bergman and Hou, could not honestly coexist within the same critic. If so, I bet there are plenty of us out there (myself included) who would disagree.

bill said...

I obviously don't know if Glieberman believes that, but if he does he's not alone, or at least he's not alone in writing as though he believes it.

Glieberman, apparently without realizing it, is doing the same thing that Rosenbaum did, but he's also doing what critics and, really, everybody else who watches movies has always done: sneering at the taste/work of others as a way of buttressing your own beliefs, tastes and attitudes.

I find Rosenbaum's statements about Bergman as ridiculous as anybody else, but I am a bit confused about why everyone is acting as though no critic has ever dismissed the work of a given filmmaker because they are not the same as this other filmmaker the critic particularly likes. I suppose the difference here is twofold: first, Rosenbaum went after a particularly revered filmmaker before his body was even cold (classy!); and second, when this sort of thing was done in the past, the filmmakers being dismissed were people like Spielberg or Lucas, popular artists who many in the critical establishment blamed for bringing an end to the "Golden Age" of the 1970s (or whatever. That's just an example). No one cared about that, because that's what critics are supposed to do. They're supposed to like "Satantango" and hate "The Empire Strikes Back"! Otherwise what the hell are we paying them for!? But to have one reject Ingmar Bergman in favor of Robert Bresson just seems weird. It's like saying cheeseburgers are no good because you can eat pizza instead. (And I'm not saying no critic has ever done what Rosenbaum did, but in the past those arguments tended to be so insular that very few people outside of the critical community even knew about it.)

But the attitude has always been there, and I don't think I have to tell anybody here that if you were to go to almost any other movie website message board, you'll see people posting messages saying that anybody who liked "Batman Begins" was never really a Batman fan in the first place, and obviously is too stupid to understand "Batman Returns", or that Takashi Miike's films are the only essential viewing when it comes to extreme Asian cinema (or maybe it's Extreme Asian Cinema), so don't even talk to me about Chan-Wook Park, you f***ing f***. And so on.

It's all the same, as far as I'm concerned. Professional critics, unless they are Armond White or Walter Chaw, just tend to be a little bit more genteel when expressing themselves. The Rosenbaum Kerfuffle(TM) might indicate a drift towards a more egalitarian form of film criticism, and of course there are pockets of it right here on the internet, but I doubt it will ever be the norm.

This was all completely off the top of my head, so feel free to shoot holes in it or punch me in the throat or what have you.

bill said...

Also, I know that there are professional critics who post here, and I hope I didn't insult anybody. I of course didn't mean you, ha ha.

But really, I shouldn't have used the blanket term "critics", but to constantly type "some" or even "many critics" seemed both wishy-washy and to involve just that much more effort, and, as I posted before, I'm sleepy.

cinebeats said...

Love your post Dennis!

I really think it's time that film canons and so-called "pantheons" start to be seriously re-examined in the wake of the VHS/LD/DVD age which is giving us all access to thousands of movies unseen by critics and filmmakers of previous generations.

I have no problem with critics seriously reconsidering the work of sacred cows like Bergman and Antonioni, but I thought Rosenbaum's argument was sloppy. I should also add that a lot of the attacks I've read on Rosenbaum have been sloppy as well, but I do love reading all this recent chatter.

Bombs are being tossed in all directions and I think it's a good thing. The recent fallout from the "Online Community Top 100" list has been fascinating to follow as well. Film criticism is suffering at the moment from the "pack" mentality (witness the recent attacks on Eli Roth for a good example), as well as being woefully unwilling to rethink the past based on our new access to films and the work of directors previous critics and film historians knew nothing about.

It may be time to burn down the old walls surrounding film criticism in order to rebuild them.

At my own blog there's currently some good talk about Japanese genre films and film canons, etc. and reading that Ursula Le Guin piece on genre fiction made giggle since it could be applied to film as well.

Alex said...

Tavernier is wrong, however, in his criticism of Rosenbaum. We shouldn't be mindlessly celebratory when we have real reservations about a topic. We can't be simply protective of people's feelings (not even Bergman's feelings - and he's dead anyway).

Sure, Bergman is probably good enough that people should just watch and make up their minds. But Tavernier's argument would prohibit us from taking to task things that need to be taken to task - remember, a lot more people are worshipping Big Momma 2 than are loving Bergman. And what will film-makers do when there are no critics willing to take them seriously, to criticize when the film-makers underperform?

That negative critical function is just as much part of what art relies on criticism for, as for the celebratory aspects.

And Bergman himself felt free to frequently make the most cutting and negative remarks about others - including telling Orson Welles that he should stick to Welles' day job of acting. So Bergman most assuredly did not agree with Tavernier here.

bill said...

Where does Travenier say we should be mindlessly celebratory? And who exactly "worships" "Big Momma's House 2"?

Plus, who's to say what "underperforming" is? "The Life Aquatic" got slammed by most critics. However, I love that film, so if Wes Anderson were to take those critics to heart, why should I be happy about that?

And being protective of people's feelings isn't the worst thing for a critic to be. I remember reading a review of "Thieves Like Us" written by Stanley Kauffman, where he refers to Shelley Duvall as a "bucktoothed beanpole". Boy, thank God somebody had the guts to say that.

That may be an unfair example to throw back at you, but I come across that sort of thing a lot.

Jonathan Lapper said...

And Welles returned the favor, ironically coupling the two directors together who would decades later die on the same day, "There's an awful lot of Bergman and Antonioni that I'd rather be dead than sit through."

And as for Big Momma's House 2 I'll not hear a word agai... sorry, I thought I could do that without laughing.

Now as far as filmmakers criticizing filmmakers goes the one thing I have always wanted to read is Welles thoughts on all the filmmakers and actors he didn't like that Bogdanovich didn't put in the book, "This is Orson Welles" compiled by Bogdanovich and edited by Jonathan Rosenbaum. P.B. teases you by telling you how entertaining the conversation was but then says Welles wouldn't have liked it being read. Rosenbaum said Welles would be fine with a posthumous publication because Welles clearly states in his letter to P.B. that the Pantheon is an open target. But even though everyone Welles talks about is dead now P.B. still won't release it. Aaaaarrrgggghhhhh!!!!!!

Alex said...

Shelley Duvall IS a bucktoothed beanpole.

Anyway, it's your function, if you feel that way, to defend The Life Aquatic vigorously. Let's imagine a movie that really isn't good, but the studio is marketing it with a lot of money. First, without some critics actually saying the movie is poor, consumers might misjudge the film. Certainly, a lot of people will do that anyway, and the situation immediately becomes murky when we admit that no film is easily determined to be bad. Nevertheless, the critic has some responsibility, insofar as she is able, to guide others (who are, of course, free to disregard her advice).

Second, without negative criticism, bad players in film will be rewarded unfairly and the bad players will drive out those who are trying their best. Even if Uwe Boll still continues to earn large amounts for "directing", at least the critical approbium he gets reminds him and others that he lacks......well, he lacks something. At least producers and actors aren't going to wander around and say that Boll=Ozu.

On IMDB, 15% of Big Momma's House 2 viewers gave it a 10 (best) rating. The thing's made over $70 million, so somebody's liking it.

bill said...

There will always be people who like movies like "Big Momma's House 2". Critics obviously haven't changed that one bit. Nor are critics the only thing standing in the way of anyone mistaking Uwe Boll for Ozu.

And otherwise, you seem to be saying the main function of critics is to make bad actors realize they are bad. It won't stop them from getting work in films, but at least they'll know that somebody out there hates them. Okay, swell.

Anyway, I'm not sure how we got here. I'm not saying critics shouldn't exist. I'm just saying that critics, now matter how some of them may protest this, are human beings, and Rosenbaum's op-ed about Bergman displayed a pretty typical human failing, especially among art lovers, whatever the medium. Also, sometimes critics are assholes. That was my other point.

And Jonathan, that section of "This Is Orson Welles" drove me nuts, too, but I had to respect where Welles was coming from (if I didn't, I'd be kind of a hypocrite).

Dennis Cozzalio said...

Jonathan, no, no, no, I distinctly recall that Big Momma’s House 2 got some of the best reviews of the season when it was released—Oh, wait, that was Big Momma’s House, not the sequel. Lawrence also copped the NYFCC award for Best Actor that year, did he not?

”What will film-makers do when there are no critics willing to take them seriously, to criticize when the film-makers underperform?”

I think the function of a critic as a filter between the the studio publicity machine and the audience is supremely important. It's even more important as a way of providing perpsective on a given work or filmmaker. But, Alex, I'm not sure that's exactly what you're talking about. The emphasis of my favored formula is one that is largely beneficial to the audience, who may not even know how to differentiate between honest criticism and cannily manipulated ad copy. Yours seems to imply that the filmmaker takes more from the work of a critic than most of the ones I've read are willing to admit.

I suspect that there are a good number of filmmakers, most of them of the Michael Bay stripe, who look forward to the day when there are no more critics to criticize them when they underperform. I doubt that we’re headed in that direction, though, and from the way that Michael Bay reacts when he does get criticized, I think he secretly digs the scorn—it gives him the opportunity to selectively bully and stomp and trumpet his grosses at the same time.

A director like Wes Anderson, however, is someone who I would propose, at the risk of offending Bill (and many others), has listened a mite too closely to what critics have said about his work, particularly the responses to the first two movies, to the point where his movies have increasingly become hermetically sealed tributes to themselves and the elements that have often been cited as what constructs their maker’s oddball take on the world (and other films). That said, I have been meaning to give The Life Aquatic, a movie I found near insufferable, another shot before The Darjeeling Limited comes out. I am holding out for charm and emotion and meaning.

"Sometimes critics are assholes."

To be sure. I’ve always been turned off by remarks like Kauffman’s, or John Simon reviewing a Barbra Streisand picture by making nose jokes and decrying her physical ugliness. Never mind that I love Shelley Duvall as a performer; I just don’t see the value in making such a big point about the fact that you’re not attracted to an actor physically. Clearly neither Altman nor Duvall was under any illusion that she possessed any kind of glamour in that role, and the glimpse that we get from behind of Duvall’s naked torso in Thieves no doubt is somewhat startling, largely because hers is not the kind of body that usually gets displayed in a major (or a minor) motion picture. Kauffman could have implied her plainness, which was obviously an aspect of her character, without being so mean-spirited. My goodness, what brutal hay would Kauffman or Simon have made of the fascinating but none-too-conventionally attractive Rossy De Palma, an Almodovar regular? But having asked the question, I realize I don't much care!

bill said...

Well, okay, but (and I'm not offended, you miserable bastard) presumably if you hold that opinion of "The Life Aquatic" then you also believe that an artist allowing their work to be shaped by critical opinion is a bad thing, right?

As far as critics being the guiding light for audiences otherwise being steered by sudio hype: if a person is steered to a movie because of what the critics say, and they dislike that movie and regret spending their money on it, than haven't the critics functioned in much the same way as the studio marketing team, however pure the critics' intentions, at least as far as that viewer is concerned?

Plus, I often read (even moreso lately) people bemoaning the lack of longform, in-depth film criticism in magazines and newspapers, but surely that type of criticism is only relevant AFTER the viewer has seen the movie.

Critics don't matter to most people. They matter to us as people who eat movies up with a spoon, and who need them as a supplemental hit between bouts of actually watching films. And I don't want to insult any film critics around here, but most of you seem to see critics as a more essential element to the film world than I do.

For me, critics work best when they refer me to a film I've never heard of, or have heard of but knew little about. I don't know if you consider yourself a critic, Dennis, but in the past year, because of you, I've watched "Charley Varrick", "The Man Who Never Was", "The Emporer of the North Pole", "Plague of the Zombies", "Dead Meat" (which also led me to Sherman's "Dead and Buried") and many other genre films. I have varying opinions on these movies, but I'm glad I saw them all, so thanks very much for the head's up.

Dennis Cozzalio said...

Nah, I think an artist's work gets shaped by what it gets shaped by, whether he's alive to his own instincts, what's in the wind, how much stock she puts in her own reviews, and all that's fine. That's life, which should be the director's subject, whoever he is. If that attention gets weighted too heavily any one way, then I think you get something like what I believe is happening with Wes Anderson, where each new film seems an amplification of all the quirkiness and stylistic touchstones that he was praised for (some would say overpraised, but not me) with Rushmore-- Anderson too much believes his own hype, and I don't see him working without a net the way I hoped he would when I saw his first two movies. Someone like Altman probably cared more than he'd ever admit about what some critics might think of his work-- why else get an early version of Nashville to Pauline Kael?--and his style is every bit as signature as Anderson wants his to be. But Altman would also rattle his own foundations almost every time out, trying something new, making it his own, soaring triumphantly and flopping miserably, and hardly ever conceiving a movie to be "Altmanesque."

As far as the critic's function for an audience, presumably a critic is giving the reader an honest assessment of their own reading or reaction to any given film. (This is why I find the constant reiteration in print of qualifications like "In my opinion," or "It's just me speaking here, but--" annoying-- of course it's only one opinion, but it should be an opinion bolstered by good observation, good argument and good writing). If a viewer sees a movie on a writer's recommendation, then I might also presume that the reader is familiar enough with the critic's other reviews and general outlook on film to be able to say, "Agree or disagree, here's someone who's point of view has integrity-- I understand where this person is coming from" and decide based on that whether the review is question is convincing enough to pay to see it himself.

But if a viewer pays attention only to what the studio press department tells him about the movie (or to cannily rejiggered ad copy meant to look like independent assessment of the movie), then the viewer is relying on information generated by people who are paid to convince people that EVERYTHING a studio puts out is "the white-knuckle roller-coaster ride of the summer!" whether it's Transformers, the new Neil Jordan film, or a shrew-vs.-sweetheart romantic comedy starring Diane Keaton and Mandy Moore. So the difference is, one source cares about whether the thing makes money, the other cares about what it is.

I do consider myself a critic (after some resistance based not on the title but on whether or not I deserved it), although a critic in a rapidly changing environment for criticism and its distribution, so I'm exceedingly glad to hear that you were moved to check out some movies I was moved by. Believe me, that means more to me than whether we agree or disagree on them as movies, because it tells me I was able to communicate some of my passion for them to you and give you reason to think they might be worth checking out. Thanks, Bill, for being a vital part of why I love doing this. Your point of view, as is everyone's who checks in here, is invaluable... you miserable bastard! :)

cinebeats said...

Thanks for sharing that Link to Tavernier's letter, Jonathan.

I've got multiple feelings about lots of stuff that has been said and written lately, so I have a hard time taking a solid position but I did want to say a few things. Hopefully I won't put my foot in my mouth too much...

I agree with Alex in many regards and I think that it's important to be able to criticize respected filmmakers or scared cows in order to shed light on neglected ones even when the criticism is a bit ugly or harsh. The critics of Cahiers du cinéma like Godard and Truffaut understood this. Did I always agree with them? Of course not! I think it's a shame that some directors have been forgotten such as Duvivier who Tavernier mentions, and who I have recently wrote about in my own blog, but that is not the fault of Truffaut's criticism. Where were Duvivier's defenders then? Where are they now? There is always room for multiple opinions but the contrary voices have to be willing to speak up and forsake peer approval.

The problem with a lot of film criticism as I see it (and Jonathan above me has mentioned it as well) is that critics often seem to suffer from a pack mentality and don't like to do any thinking for themselves. That is the real danger to film criticism in my opinion. Laziness is also a problem. I come across tons of criticism that just repeats popular opinions and offers no depth or original insight.

I do have a problem with critics who make a point about talking pointlessly about an actress’s appearance. Many male critics do it all the damn time (okay, they used to do it more so I guess things are improving) and frankly it sometimes bugs the crap out of me. Rarely do you come across female critics discussing a male actors performance based on his appearance or the size of their dick, but I've come across plenty of critics who have no problem basing their opinion of an actress's performance on her looks and bust size.

My only solution to bad criticism is that writers should challenge it with other views and opinions, but everyone should be able to speak up and be heard. I respect other views even when I disagree with them, but I reserve the right to make my case for why I think their opinion stinks.

Alex said...

Though I should mention that Mick La Salle is in fact a mediocre critic and it's a real shame that San Francisco is burdened with his lackluster efforts.

Jonathan Lapper said...

Rarely do you come across female critics discussing a male actors performance based on his appearance or the size of their dick

It's getting risque on Sergio Leone. Put the kids to bed. I'm feeling sassy myself. Here's a quote from Ava Gardner, not a critic, but what a statement about Frank Sinatra,
“There’s only 10 pounds of Frank — but there’s 110 pounds of cock.”

Or as they might say in Spinal Tap, "This one goes to eleven."

But back to criticism - I agree that judging anyone's performance by their looks is less than pointless unless their looks are a part of the role. When Paul Newman was cast as the portly General Leslie Groves in Fat Man and Little Boy I felt it was misguided casting and Newman's angular cut face looked ridiculous with the pillow under his shirt. There are plenty of other actors who would have been better suited. For instance Brian Dennehy played Groves to great effect in Day One. Pointing out Newman's looks here would be valid. Sometimes Hollywood just goes for looks and that can be annoying.

A part of the problem with actors and actresses that Hollywood runs into is their refusal to match up proper ages. They will gleefully put a seventy year old actor with a twenty year old actress. And a part of this comes from the fact that Hollywood dumps you when you're thirty, if you happen to be female that is. That's always bugged me. Actors have a very easy time getting feature film employment until their drooling into their colostony bag but actresses that I have loved, like Judy Davis, get relegated to Lifetime and Showtime once they pass puberty. I also love Sissy Spacek but her great roles are few and far between.

So this post of mine somehow morphed from criticism of looks to Hollywood casting practices. Sorry. I think actresses get a raw deal from critics and producers. Criticism and Hollywood production is still male dominated. I don't know how soon Hollywood will change but I think criticism will change much faster. For the longest time Pauline Kael seemed to be it as far as female critics go. Then Molly Haskel joined her and now there seem to be as many female film bloggers as male film bloggers out there, what with Cinebeats, Kim Morgan, the Siren and so on. So I think the criticism side will definitely change first and for the better.

cinebeats said...

Gee whiz... Thanks for pointing out the somewhat risque language and bad grammar in my post Jonathan.

I probably should have said his dick instead of their dick. I apologize Dennis!

My fellow film blogger buddy Jeremy runs a nice tribute blog that covers the acting career of the tlented and lovely Nastassja Kinski and I've been rather unnerved lately by a lot of the critical responses to her performances that he's shared there. So many critics focus on the size of her bust and lips while totally ignoring her acting skills. And it's not just male critics. Female critics reviewed Kinski's performances in a similar way. I can understand responding to her on-screen sensuality, but there's something off about the reviews.

It is really silly that older actresses can't get work, while their male counterparts are still getting roles that should belong to 30 year olds. Thankfully there are some older talented actresses who are still really lovely and finding interesting roles such as Julie Christie, Catherine Deneuve, Charlotte Rampling, etc. but it is a rare thing.

I think film making and film criticism is still a boys club, but things are changing. The web and creation of personal blogs can only help add to the diversity of voices chatting about film.

bill said...

Dennis - Thank you very much for operating probably the most welcoming and civilized movie site I've ever come across.

As someone who loves himself some movies, I've always felt like a bit of an outsider when it came to critics and criticism. As I indicated, they function for me differently from most people. But what hell...I obviously get something out of reading it, or else I wouldn't keep reading it. And I take your point about having a history with a critic, and feeling their writing has integrity, whether you agree with them or not. I just think that kind of relationship between reader and critic is rare. Most people -- and I say this without judgment of the "most people" in question -- simply don't care that much.

Also, where are you reading reviews where the critic says things like "This is just my opinion, but -- "?? I NEVER see that. I'm far more likely to come across phrases like "At this point, the audience feels that -- ". That's the sort of thing that drives ME nuts.

And you did get across your passion for those movies, and in some cases I started hunting for the titles as soon as I could. For the record, I agreed with you wholeheartedly (more or less) on about half of those. I wasn't crazy about "The Emporer of the North Pole", wishing it had been in more of the lean, mean "Prime Cut" mold, but, at the same time, there's a scene where Lee Marvin hits a guy in the head with a rooster. Being able to watch and appreciate something like that is not to be taken lightly.

Jonathan Lapper said...

I certainly wasn't trying to point out bad grammer I just liked the dick line. This site ain't rated NC-17 for nothing.

Speaking of bad grammer here's mine, "Actors have a very easy time getting feature film employment until their drooling into their colostony bag" That should be "they're" as in they are, not "their".

Dennis, when are going to start editing our comments for grammar?
I'm ont prefect you nkow.

Ryland Walker Knight said...

I think it's all rather silly so I enjoy when somebody can make points AND be funny. I also like Anton Ego a ton. I also read Limited INC this summer, which probably influenced that first sentence's assertion. I mean: I know it's hard to be serious. And I like that.