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July 28, 2010

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Tony Dayoub

My two cents: rather than rail against these twits (in the original non-Twitter context of the word), who don't deserve a bit more of ink than they already provide for themselves, I think you should turn your aggression to championing some of the writers you do like reading.

I'm not saying you don't already. But the ratio is a bit lopsided in the wrong direction. There are at least two favorite film writers I got turned on to by reading your blog. And you have a strong and loyal audience who listen to what you say.

Instead of being the contemptuous crank, you could be the kingmaker.

Ed Hulse

At the risk of pissing off an old friend for whom I have enormous respect, Glenn, let me say that reading this blog becomes more difficult with each passing day. I'd rather you talk more about movies and less about people who review movies. If you and your commenters so despise Armond White, Karina Longworth, John Nolte, or whomever, why bring them up every other day? If their opinions are so worthless (and I'm not saying they are or aren't), why give them currency by parsing them and linking to them?

It was almost comical, a few days ago, when in one of your comments to the Ellen Page post, you asserted "I don't want to encourage incivility here." Unfortunately (to my way of thinking, anyway), incivility has become SCR's stock in trade. Some of your commenters seem to enjoy plunging and wallowing in it, like Uncle Scrooge in his swimming pool of greenbacks.

If I cared what Armond White had to say about movies, I'd go read his stuff. I come here for YOUR take, not White's or Longworth's or Nolte's or anybody's else's.

I thought maybe I'd be the first to comment on this topic, but I now see Tony D. has beaten me to it, and more elegantly to boot.

Glenn Kenny

@ Ed: No, you're not pissing me off, and I appreciate the honesty. When I was reading your thoughts, I flashed to that old R. Crumb caption balloon we used to quote to each other: "A bitter, twisted dude!"

cmasonwells

As someone who knows dozens of young (and informed and passionate and thoughtful) NYC cinephiles, I can proudly say Eric Kohn speaks for none of us. No one I know ever actually reads him, except for the humor value of lines like, "The history of moviegoing in New York City is exceptional and, according to many people, quintessential as well." And after I tweeted that corker the other day, I received a directed message from a critic -- and personal friend of Kohn's -- who admitted "The quality of his writing is unfortunate." So why can't this critic say that publicly? Or to his face? This whole insider/buddy-buddy/circle-jerk critic scenester nonsense is really upsetting.

cmasonwells

Pardon, *direct message.* That's twitterspeak.

Tom Russell

"Some of your commenters seem to enjoy plunging and wallowing in it, like Uncle Scrooge in his swimming pool of greenbacks."

Actually, if I know my Barks-- and I think I do!-- that's a swimming pool of gold coins.

Not trying to be incivil or snarky here, but this actually matters: the whole point of Scrooge diving into his money like a porpoise, burrowing through it like a gopher, and letting the coins hit him in the head is that his love for the stuff keeps him unharmed, whereas if others attempted to do the same, they would sustain grevious injuries. The whole point of the money bin and its place in the Duck mythos would be lost if it was filled with greenbacks.

Chris O.

Here's an activity to distract you from Tweets, focus on something else and serve as something pragmatic for your readers. Barnes & Noble's Criterion sale ends this weekend. If you could suggest five must-haves (in terms of transfer, extras, etc.), what would they be? For example, I know I'm going to get "Days Of Heaven," but I'm torn between "Bigger Than Life," "Playtime" and "Stagecoach." I also wonder how often I would really revisit Brakhage, but the Blu Ray set is only $40. What does a consumer with meager earnings do? (Not to hijack your thread, it's partly hypothetical. Hmmm... maybe I should've posted under the Image of the Day?)

George Harrison

"Kohn? You mean that posh fellow who gets everything wrong?"

"Excuse me?"

"Oh, yeah. The lads frequently sit around the telly and watch him for a giggle. One time, we actually sat down and wrote these letters saying how gear he was and all that rubbish."

"He's a trendsetter. It's his profession."

"He's a drag. A well known drag. We turn the sound down on him and say rude things."

joel_gordon

Comments about another critic's work, even uncivil comments, are always welcome. The more personal stuff may be excessive, but sometimes bad critical work reveals unpleasant character flaws. When Todd McCarthy blames what he sees as decades of inferior Godard films on Anna Karina's miscarriage, then how can you avoid attacking the critic along with the criticism? As for anger management, you might want to get a kitten. Kittens cure any ailment.

Annie Caldash

While it is no doubt important to highlight writers that are doing good work, it is just as vital to discuss problematic writers and more importantly their writing.

There's a lot of bad writing out there these days (from both young and old). And even though I know that many people (or people whose opinions I care about) don't actually take those writers very seriously, they are part of a shrinking population that can actually make their living off of film writing and therefore I find the lack of quality in their work all the more disturbing. Not to mention the self-importance of various people (http://www.formspring.me/KarinaLongworth ??!!). It's enough to make me lose my lunch.

Already this week my blood has boiled multiple times from reading about film on various websites. I think the most productive solution is to comment on the specific writing and point out why it's problematic. The comments on this post provide a great example: http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/movies/2010/07/de-gustibus.html

DUH

I am one of the readers of this blog who neither lives in New York nor aspires to write about movies for a living but simply enjoys reading your work (especially when you write about movies, ahem). Obviously, I can understand that this kind of stuff matters to those who actually are trying to make a living in New York by writing about film, but every time I read posts like these, I think, "Really? Who on earth gets worked up over a tweet from Karina Longworth?" I can see the dynamics of professional status anxiety and so forth, but to me, this kind of thing reads like a comic novel of manners where people fuss over protocol that has no relationship to my world (which is, I'm sure, just as parochial as yours, etc).

Jesse M

It's important to point out that bad writing is subliminally infectious, and excessive writing about bad writing is in itself bad writing. I don't think it's entirely wrong of you to comment on the state of the writing scene from time to time, and that scene may be looking bleak at the moment. However, I agree with other commentators... and with your own sentiments, expressed at the beginning of the post... that you should try to build a rhetorical resistance and a disciplined ignorance to these bad reviewers. And open yourself up to good writing, and reflect that openness to your readers.

Paul

You need to get that tv fixed pronto, so you can start with the movie-watching-followed-by-thinking-followed-by-writing. That's what it's about right?

bill

As someone who -- just yesterday! -- brought the level of discourse around these parts down a notch, all I can say is that I don't wallow in it. But sometimes I just can't help it. I'm easily baited, I suppose.

At the same time, I have to admit that I enjoy it when Glenn takes bad writers to task for writing badly. I hate that so much of the writing that gets elevated, and remunerated (though you'll have to take my word for it that I'm not jealous), is so very bad. There's no pleasure to be had in reading most of it, and it's beyond me why it gets a pass. So what I'm saying is, I like it what that writing gets called out. I think that's a necessary thing, and I enjoy the way Glenn tackles it.

Even so! This is a movie site, and maybe I can offer some advice that would both get things back on that track, and improve your mood, Glenn. This might sound simple, or even a little dumb, but maybe you could watch and write about more horror films. I know you're a major fan of the genre already, and I think you could, as they say, "blow it out the box" if you dove into that arena more often. As for the rest, I only suggest old (30s - 70s) horror films as a mood amplifier because I've found that it works for me.

Owain Wilson

Living as I do in sunny Swansea in the United Kingdom, and preferring to read the majority of my film reviews in the British press, I have no idea who all these reviled film writers are and have no intention of finding out, so I share Mr. Dayoub and Mr. Hulse's sentiments at the top of the thread.

I'm here not only to enjoy Glenn's writing in general, which I have done since the days of Premiere magazine, but to enthusiastically learn about a corner of cinema I know relatively little about from a man who knows a damn sight more than most and sure knows how to write about it.

Given that this is Glenn's blog to do with as he pleases it feels a bit strange to tell what he should be writing about, but I do agree that very recently there has been a little less of that fantastic film writing and criticism that brings me here every day than there used to be.

Owain Wilson

"...feels a bit strange to tell HIM what he should be writing about ..." is what it should say.

I don't know, I proof read these things endlessly before I post them.

Michael Adams

As someone first drawn to film criticism by the Kael-Sarris feud and who enjoyed Siskel-Ebert best when they hated each other, I say the more comments about cineaste infighting the better.

K

Kohn's writing is simplistic at best and nonsensical at worst -- and his lack of humility is blood-boiling, I agree. Ultimately, though, isn't it less effective to attack such a delusional, narcissistic kid than it is to write to the editors that keep him gainfully employed?

joel_gordon

As a non-critic, I also have to agree with DUH on drawing the line at petty inside-baseball critic feuds. If a critic's written work reveals something noxious about the person, then I enjoy reading your take-down. But I've never quite understood the Longworth hate. It's obviously the result of private dealings with her or her friends rather than something reflected in her work, which has been inoffensive at worst. I also thought she wrote one of the better Inglorious Basterds reviews. On the other hand, I assumed that all these attack posts were due to the poor quality of this summer's movies, and you needed SOMETHING to write about. It's kept me reading...

Glenn Kenny

@ Joel: Trust me—or don't trust me, it's entirely up to you—the work really is a BIG part of it. As in: "In an interesting deviation from the usual slow-build of such improv-infused material, some of Cyrus' most sincere scenes are presented as music montages; the conversation stays constant, while visual cutaways fill the scene in with peripheral context. Disorienting but effective, it's an ambitious choice for the Duplasses...”

That sort of thing. Jargon knots that say nothing and pat themselves on the back at the same time. Which occur quite a bit more often than the "Inglourious Basterds" review you cite. Just saying.

joel_gordon

My point was that nothing in her work seemed to merit a personal attack rather than just an attack on her prose. While I frequently enjoy Armond White, and actually agree with his tastes, I think that he totally invites personal attacks because he dishes them first. I was just looking for insight on why Longworth was personally offensive to people. Generally, I find her as dull as, say, Ella Taylor or the other hacks at her paper. Even though I live in LA, I've read the Weekly quite a bit less since she replaced Foundas. As a sidebar, who were the characters in Amnesiascope that you claimed to know from the Weekly? I just read it--awesome, but not Zeroville-awesome--and was curious about which of those guys was actually based on real people.

Russ H

Beyond that, those "montages" are stupid, disruptive, and damning evidence of a roll-out-of-bed working method that requires significant stylistic "invention" in the edit room.

Glenn Kenny

@ Joel: Fair enough. Actually, BETTER than fair enough—acute enough and yet obvious enough, to make me ask myself if I'd be as agitated were it not for some personal dimension...and you're right, the short answer is "No" and the long answer does not flatter me. I did have a rather nasty flareup with Ella Taylor, who I don't know from Adam but who is well-liked by some friends of mine, over "A Serious Man" back when it came out, but it died down, and hasn't flared up since, and I haven't given her another thought. Hmm. Good thing I'm going to therapy in an hour...

I do not have "Amnesiascope" at hand but I can assure you that none of the MAJOR characters are based on Erickson's LA Weekly colleagues, but that there are brief affectionate nods therein to John Powers, Tom Carson, and Arion Berger. I don't need to say it but I'll say it anyway: THOSE were the days...

bill

"I do not have "Amnesiascope" at hand but I can assure you that none of the MAJOR characters are based on Erickson's LA Weekly colleagues, but that there are brief affectionate nods therein to John Powers, Tom Carson, and Arion Berger."

No kidding. I've never even heard of this book.

bill

Oh, and it's Erickson (hence Joel's ZEROVILLE reference)! Okay, I'll absolutely check it out now.

joel_gordon

Cool info. I wish John Powers still wrote about film, because his column was a good reason to pick up the Weekly at my local falafel place. Carson I never enjoyed reading, but he shows up here to comment, so I should just shut my mouth. Also, take or leave my advice about Longworth, but I still heartily recommend a kitten. Your anger will instantly sublimate when it curls up in your lap.

PaulJBis

I've wondered sometimes how I'd justify to a friend the many hours I spend on the net reading sites like this. My imaginary conversation starts with "yeah, he's an american movie critic, and he's really knowledgeable about a lot of stuff, from classic cinema to avant-garde to technical matters...", and then my friend starts scrolling, sees two or three posts like this on a row, and I have to add "...except that he has a tendence to get into fights with other american critics that none of us has heard about".

I should point out, however, that as unpleasant as these posts can be, they are also the ones that tend to attract the most comments (these and the ones about politics). I still remember how, a few months ago, an incredibly thought-provoking post about David Foster Wallace and his relationship to fame got a total of 3 comments, when the post inmediately below it, which featured yet another round of "conservatives" vs. "liberals" yelling at each other, got something like 35 or 36. Not sure what this says, not so much about the readership of this blog, but about human nature in general.

Tom Russell

Apropos that last bit, Paul, I will say for my part as a commentator that there are a lot of posts I'd like to comment on, but I don't, simply because what Glenn has said he's said so well that I've nothing meaningful to contribute save a, "Good post" or "Me too".

Mindful that, yes, this is Glenn's place where he can do whatever he damn well pleases, I would like to second Bill's suggestion for more horror film-related posts-- and more about cartoons as well.

LexG

Hey Glenn, when you were shooting GFE and Sasha was writhing around barefoot were you like LOOK AT HER FEET!!!!!!!!!!!!?

You got to be in the SAME ROOM with SASHA GREY.

YEP YEP. YEP YEP!!!!!!!!!!! I AM BOWING does she comment here?

Pete Apruzzese

--"This is not a solicitation for anger management tips, but if you do have any, by all means throw them in the comments section."--

I offer Ralph Kramden's advice:
"When you get angry say this:

Pins and needles
Needles and pins
A happy man is
the man who grins.

Then you smile and ask yourself, 'what am I mad about?' "

Hope this helps. :)

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