Could this mean the return of the Movie Club?
Jim Emerson let on about it a couple of weeks ago, but now it’s my turn to trumpet the return of David Edelstein to Internet-based film criticism with his New York magazine-anchored blog The Projectionist. Edelstein’s regular gig is available on-line, but this is his first real shot at the blogging format, and it sounds like he’s game:
“In my nine and a half years at the online magazine Slate, I got thousands of e-mails from readers. That last one I got here was two months ago. It’s not, I’m convinced, that I’m that much less read. It’s that the distance, literal and existential, between a glossy weekly print mag and cyberspace is vast. I send e-mails to bloggers and online writers often but can’t remember the last time I mailed someone at a glossy, even when I’ve read an article online. My fingers aren’t poised over the keyboard in the same way.
And who knows where this might lead? Movies connect with us on an unconscious level, and blogging is a pipeline to the id. I might even write open letters to filmmakers begging for nude pictures of actresses. As Larry Craig might say, I plan to take a wide stance.”
The film critic appears to be ready and willing, and if he is, his page could be great fun and a great read (two things that don’t always go hand in hand). I’ve been a big fan of Edelstein’s writing since his young punk days at the Village Voice and was thrilled to reconnect with him at Slate a few years ago. He tried “blogging” at Slate before he left for New York, but it wasn’t really blogging as you and I know it— instead, his posts were curiously static, made up only of occasional updates within existing articles, except, of course, when the end of the year came and the critical summit known as the Slate Movie Club got underway. (My favorite year was the one when Mr. E. invited Armond White, whom he diplomatically described as “pugnacious,” to participate, and White agreed.) It also offered no improvement over the only option for interactivity at Slate, the dreaded Fray, which often so quickly devolved into the typical monosyllabic name-calling of any other Neanderthal message board (at least when the topic was movies).
Edelstein’s site looks like a much more open attempt to engage in the spirit of film blogging as it has evolved over the last couple of years—so far the pieces have been informal, engaging and good enough to leave you wanting more. The Projectionist does not, as yet, allow for reader comments—and given some of the comments and e-mail Edelstein has received over the years, I wouldn’t blame him for being a little reticent to jump into that arena just yet. (He once told of a particularly incensed Fray poster who wished on him and his family a cruel death because Edelstein correctly observed that The Mummy Returns was a piece of shit.) I sincerely hope that one day he does open up The Projectionist for comments—he can always, as many do, hold them for posting until he can get a look and approve them for publication—and that if he does, he can engender the kind of tone and quality of response that has been a hallmark of Scanners and Matt Zoller Seitz’s The House Next Door (and, dare I say, this humble site).
And if you haven’t checked out The Projectionist yet, now is an excellent time to do so. Up yesterday are a tantalizing few paragraphs in which Edelstein expands the debate on Brian De Palma’s new Iraq-centered film Redacted, a debate which was begun in earnest in posts like Jim’s Toronto dispatch, which articulated reservations about the film while recognizing its power and importance. Edelstein may have reservations, but they are bracketed by the value he places on De Palma’s rage and urgency and his appreciation for the fine line he sees De Palma walking in order to articulate that rage in a time of what Edelstein terms “our moral lethargy” about the war in Iraq:
“If there’s any justice, the first public screening of Brian De Palma’s Redacted (October 10) at the New York Film Festival will be incendiary. I hope that it makes people livid, that it’s furiously debated. I’m still recovering from it, and I averted my eyes for the last minute, when De Palma shows actual footage of “collateral damage” — bloody corpses of Iraqi civilians, including children and babies. What preceded that epilogue was devastating enough: a dramatization of the events before, during, and after the rape and murder of a 14-year-old Iraqi girl — along with the killing of her family — by American soldiers.”
And here’s Edelstein on the oft repeated charges of De Palma’s misogyny:
“De Palma has always been attracted to material in which women are the victims of male sexual rage. But… his films grapple with the issue in ways that turn the criticism on its head. Simply put: Who better to explore sexual violence onscreen than someone who understands the Male Gaze — and its cinematic legacy — so intimately? Anyone who sees the suffering faces of the victims in Casualties of War and Redacted — or the haunted eyes of Mia Kirschner, already a ghost, in the film-within-a-film in The Black Dahlia — knows that De Palma not only despairs over what he’s showing us but implicates his own medium, his own Male Gaze.”
There’s much more in this new post on Redacted, and this isn’t even an official review yet. It’s a post that makes me hopeful about how David Edelstein will participate in what many of us have come to feel is an online community of bloggers, amateur and professional critics as well as everyday smart fans. The Projectionist is a good reminder of just how sharp Edelstein can be off the cuff, even on those occasions (and there have been plenty) when I’ve thought he was off the mark. And I hope he eventually takes the time to engage with his readers, and that his readers keep him honest with the kind of challenging, informed and interesting commentary that can make the difference between and good film blog and a great one. David Edelstein, welcome to the community!
Friday, September 28, 2007
Could this mean the return of the Movie Club?