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July 26, 2010

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otherbill

That SALT review is just astounding. The best part is that he loads it with howlers like "an onscreen career based on frivolous or fatuous treachery" and then dwarfs them all by proposing that we're all gonna recall two lines of dialogue from the second TOMB RAIDER flick.

LexG

Steven St. Croix used to be a dead ringer for Dane Cook.

Evelyn Roak

There does seem to be a real mob mentality going on these days. Yes, it has always been that way to a degree. Perhaps it is just twitter and the immediacy and casualness of certain corners of the internet world that accentuates these once more dormant elements but it is highlighted none the less. Frankly, it is off putting. Not in a I am not at the party way, but in a lowering of esteem sense. Too many empty proclamations that come across as making sure one is heard regardless of substance or the interest of ideas asserted. The ease of being heard has only heightened its consequence. Of course this has long been the desire of many a writer; nevertheless, acknowledgment seems to be emerging as an end itself.

The Jake Leg Kid

Armond White is a contrarian in the same sense that an old man who pisses himself in public because he just doesn't give a shit anymore is a contrarian. While some might regard White as a mere douchebag, albeit a spectacularly flaming example of the species, I'm completely convinced that the man is authentically mentally ill. As such, White's weekly NY PRESS-hosted battles with the voices in his head have become far too depressing to read. Some day I fully expect an outre publisher - Feral House, perhaps? - to collect White's reviews in book form and market them as an outsider art-style chronicle of a lunatic's losing battle with schizophrenia to White's much-hated hipsters.

John M

Glenn, I think Hale kinda deserves any and all shit he gets for that review--and it seems to me, you fly off the rails pretty fast when a critic, especially a youngish critic, blasts a movie you love, no? To each his own and all that, but Hale really seems to miss the tone of the movie entirely, almost willfully.

I'm in the tank, happily. I saw it as SXSW, surrounded my films that got much bigger hype (Cold Weather zzzzzz), and was happy to finally see a movie by an actual adult. It is a ragged-looking movie--it's under control visually, but rarely does it pull its own visual ideas off. But the script, performances, and attention to detail are anything but ragged--it's a remarkably, uncannily layered portrait of simmering people. From Hale: "aggressively inconsequential"? Sounds like Truffaut's entire filmography, if you want to see it that way. Calling the film "mumblecore" is, as usual, useless and lazy. Hale's review just reads like a crabby little fart.

And if a bad notice in the Times strikes some as more offensive, it's because it is more offensive. More people read it. More damage is done. Doesn't matter how respected or known Mike Hale is...it's the New York Times, so attention is paid. Meaning: if you write for the Times, at least show up for work.

Anyway, I do hope you check it out. Very worthwhile.

EOTW

I'M NOT THERE was my favorite film in the year it was released. Of course, I am a lifelong Dylan fan, so all of the "winks" wer clear to me and it felt like such a vision. Few films have felt like they were speaking directly to me.

Glenn Kenny

@ John M.: I will check it out at the first viable opportunity (I tend to avoid pubs these days, gastro or no). Your account of it is one of the more engaging descriptions/defenses of it I've read. As for Hale deserving "any and all shit," I disagree. He may deserve some shit—and your arguments are of a higher caliber than the non-arguments that I cited. But I insist that "Can I have Mike Hale's job? Because he sucks" is utterly lame. And for ostensible professional Karina Longworth to "join in" on the "fun" by re-tweeting it or whatever it's called is just...well, typical of Karina Longworth.

I "fly off the rails pretty fast when a critic, especially a youngish critic" blasts a movie I love? Um, I think I resemble that remark. Not the flying off the rails part—although I do believe I've been holding myself in check in that respect better than I have previously—but the "especially a youngish critic." I don't have anything against youngish critics. I have a problem with stupid, presumptuous, unctuous, know-something-ish pseud critics, is all. If they happen to by "youngish," well, that's just the way the cookie crumbles. (Hell, Armond White is, I believe, at least a few years my senior.) The assertion "If Werner Herzog directed 'American Beauty,' the resulting product might look something like any given Todd Solondz movie" would be just as meaningless and unsupportable had it been written by the 94-year-old Stanley Kauffmann as it is coming from its actual author, the young-and-let-him-tell-you-all-about -the-future-of-film-criticism-and-his-place-in-it Eric Kohn. But then, you see, Stanley Kauffmann did not, and most likely would not, make the assertion. Like I said, that's just the way the cookie crumbles.

Stephen Whitty

It's easy (and convenient) for others to paint these as generational clashes, Glenn, but I can't say yours have ever struck me as such.

And for what it's worth -- I haven't seen the film, or the review -- Mike, whom I used to work with (and is actually a good fellow, although that's besides the point of this discussion) is probably in his late 40s these days.

Stephen Whitty

@John M

And by "others," I realized as I posted that, I should hasten to add I don't mean YOU.

I mean other writers at other sites who often seem to cast critical feuds as young-vs-old, web-vs-print, unpaid-vs-professional, kids-on-the-lawn-vs-old-man-with-kids-on-his-lawn.

As opposed to this blog, which tends to see the fights as simply people-who-make-their-case-vs.-people-who-don't-make-their-case.

Tom Russell

Let me echo Mr. Whitty's sentiments: it does, in the end, come down to case-making, and-- maintaining as I do a rather active presence on twitter-- I've made the acquaintance of a few critics, mostly youngish, who bristle quite a bit when their ability to make their cases are challenged, or when you ask them to support their arguments with, well, arguments. If they do try to make their case, and they're of the Brilliant Contrarian bent, they inevitably obfuscate the matter with the sort of dense impenetrable nonsense babble that you'll find in Armond White's reviews. When that happens, I generally don't further it any farther, as my grandmother is fond of saying.

Sometimes, I think the babble is because there's simply no there there, that they aren't nearly as smart as they think they are, and in those cases our acquaintanceship doesn't last particularly long or go particularly deep, as they really think they are some brilliant new voice, et cetera, and those prone to a certain unpleasant smarminess.

But in other cases, I think they're bluffing: pulling as much impressive-sounding bullpuckey out of their hat and piling it up as high and haphazard as they can in a desperate, teetering bid to sound intelligent. They know-- or at least fear-- that they're not as smart as they seem on the surface. Such folk are desperately afraid of being found out, their intellectual jenga blocks crashing about their heads for all to see. The sad part is, underneath this desperation, there's often a real intelligence at work-- one that might flourish if they weren't trying too hard and if their internal bullshit detector was more finely-calibrated. I know that there are times when I've caught myself trying too hard to sound smart or clever-- being someone who barely graduated from High School, it's safe to say I have a complex about that-- and I've stopped myself before I let my mouth overload my ass; I know there are times when I haven't caught myself, and if that happens in these parts, I hope the good folks here will call me on it.

The people in that second group I feel a certain and not-surprising empathy for, but there's also some hope there, because I think it is actually something that's age-specific, or, at the very least, it's something that's more common in youth and that can be outgrown as one matures-- unlike that first group. The only great thing about that kind of almost crippling self-doubt is that you're never not looking inward, never not questioning or rethinking; that first group, on the other hand, never stops looking at themselves long enough to question their conception of their own brilliance, let alone to stop spewing the vapid bullshit that comes with it-- and yes, looking inside oneself and looking at oneself really are two very different things.

Russ H

I also groaned at the arm's length engagement of Hale's review and, like John, found Audrey to be if not an out-and-out great movie, a good movie worthy of specific critique. I found Ross' writing and editing (a reverbing chorus of routine: the sound of a razor, a roommate, an internet date, a volleyball spike) to be sharp and deliberately organized. Outside of a beautifully written and preformed couplet of scenes to end the movie, the individual moments can be slippery and off-putting, though as the film begins to tumble upon itself--revisiting places, characters, and later memories-- you begin to feel the film invading a main character who Hale correctly describes as "dull and closed off," though it's hardly the indictment he intends. It's a sturdy, careful examination.

And, for what it's worth, Brody has just responded via his blog. An interesting sample:

"Mike Hale brings to “Audrey the Trainwreck” a set of prejudices regarding the director Frank V. Ross’s supposed sympathies or lack thereof and, in general, regarding the notion of sympathetic and unsympathetic characters, that has little to do with the artistic merit of a film, but that may be useful to commercial producers; I’d say it reflects a peculiarly Hollywood-centric view of the cinema, except that the best of Hollywood’s filmmakers manage to work their way around such prejudices as well."

Read more http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/movies/2010/07/de-gustibus.html#entry-more#ixzz0upWSYgAP

Glenn Kenny

@ Russ: One of the many things I like about Richard is that he's ever ready, willing, and absolutely able to rise to critical challenges; to get into the ring, so to speak. His response is interesting and worthwhile; I am a little troubled/confused by his term "prosperous insiders." But I suppose I ought to address these issues in response to Richard himself...

SJ

I see Glenn is a fan of Steve Brule.

Hauser Tann

"I don't have anything against youngish critics."

So there isn't the slightest tinge of ageism when you use an expression such as Twitterific Kidcrits...?

brad

I have also come to believe that Armond White is legitimately mentally ill, at the very least a severe case of borderline personality disorder with associated delusions of grandeur and paranoid tendencies. Saying things like:

"Salt will probably be taken seriously—unlike the credible and poetic historical satire Jonah Hex."

could never possible emanate from a sane mind. It's pure, unadulterated insanity. There is no possible way he can really believe that, and if he thinks he does, he needs medication. It's no longer funny...it is sad and pathetic watching him spiral ever deeper into the depths of narcissistic insanity.

brad

oh, and I challenge White to write a review, good or bad, without taking a shot at something he doesn't like. He can't do it. it's all he has. he doesn't review...he trolls. every single review he writes now doesn't tell us a thing about the movie he's supposedly discussing, it's just an excuse to pigeonhole random shots at things other people like that he thinks is stupid and proves every other critic that isn't him is a "shill." what a buffoon.

Glenn Kenny

@ Hauser Tann: I believe you mean "Twitterific Kidcritz™."

I also believe that the operative phrase here is "Fuck 'em if they can't take a joke."

"Ageism?" Really? You're kidding, right? If not, I wanna get the number of the wambulance you're calling...

John M

Glenn, thanks for the reply. I know you don't have it out for young critics, specifically, but the young-vs-old issue does seem to rear its head here from time to time. Understandably, in this climate. Seeing a movie you really respected get passed on with a wave of a hand always feels like a violation, and there's a line between different strokes and hey-asshole-watch-a-little-more-carefully-next-time. The violation feels even sharper when the movie is low-budget and relatively hard to market.

Regarding Twitter, seriously, does anything good come out of that fucking hot mess of cross-currents? I hate reading it--don't want to join in, but can't follow the threads, and most of it's just echoing. I'm sure it's fun and all, but I've yet to see how it enhances the world of film criticism or pop criticism or discussion or morals or....

Since I'm getting all Andy Rooney, I'll say I'm also skeptical of this movie-pub concept, but if it gets people interested--which is a real damn chore these days--I say, fine. But the place sounds a little gimmicky--car seats? I'd still love to see an Alamo Draft House style house in NYC.

And yeah, I overstated the shit-taking that Hale deserves. After all, he appears to have been working under some pretty major space limitations. There just seemed to be so much shorthand there--no attempt to engage with the film whatsoever. As I said, I'm bunching the bedsheets up to my chest, cuz I feel violated.

Glenn Kenny

@ John M.: Well, as you see, there can tend to be some misunderstanding, with respect to this issue, as to whether I'm being jocular or not. Obviously (or at least I thought), "Twitterific Kidcritz™" was a joke. But also obviously it had something to do with the real world, the way that younger critics (or film reviewers) were quicker to embrace the cited format. Of course Ebert's made them all look like pikers since then. If I seem sensitive to the idea that I dislike younger film critics, it's because I feel that when I could, back in the day, I did a lot to encourage them, that is, I gave more than a couple some paying work. I think Christopher Kelly, Peter Debruge would tell you that. Even Aaron Hillis, with whom I do not currently enjoy the rosiest of relations, might allow that that was the case.

What does get up my nose, and was the source of more than one verbal scuffle with Nathan Lee, is the notion that youth is a positive value in and of itself for a critic, and the implication that older critics need to get out of the way to make room for younger ones. "And do what?" is one obvious question this brings up. I should like to stick around long enough to see some of those who've agitated in that direction reach a Certain Age themselves, and poll them about their feelings at that point. I wonder if they'll have the courage of their feisty, righteous convictions.

And of course there are, I admit, quite a few folks I'd like to see JUST LEAVE. But that's another story, and one that is probably no use to tell...

John M

"...the notion that youth is a positive value in and of itself for a critic, and the implication that older critics need to get out of the way to make room for younger ones..."

A young critic's way of rationalizing his/her own careerist impulses, is what that sounds like. Age, and the wisdom that comes along with it--what could be more crucial to a rounded discussion of the arts? Unfortunately, only some critics--Hoberman, Ebert (mostly), Brody, yourself, a few others--remember or even care to sharpen their tools with any kind of regularity. So "old critic" comes to equal "Rex Reed."

Who really needs to be euthanized, professionally. Really, that guy's an angry, horrible fuckhead, who still, at the age of 126, has no idea how to read a film.

Evelyn Roak

It is unfortunate that in defending the intimation of veering towards building a straw man Richard Brody decides the best defense is to jump in whole-hog in said straw man construction . He goes back to the well of his Cyrus defense, the broadly painted caricatures of those who appreciate classical Hollywood and the opposing critics capable of breaking from these oppressive strictures to see the “simplicity, vulnerability, directness, and immediacy” of films like Cyrus (the odd implication that a Hollywood film can‘t do such a thing. Does he not see these qualities in his praise of Funny People? An assessment I agree with, by the way). Simply, if either of these critics exist, and that is a large if, they are hardly worth ones time. He has constructed two broad characterizations and set up a 12 round main event, between two imaginary fighters, where there need not be one. It comes across as projecting upon the disagreeing critic an ideology that they don’t subscribe to for the sake of having a larger target. Frankly, it seems disingenuous and Ray Carney-esque. There is always the off chance that they may in good faith dislike a movie you liked. Crime of all crimes.

(I have posted this comment, slightly adjusted at Richard Brody's New Yorker blog)

haice

Who would have thought the day would come when amusing crap like HANNIE CAULDER would be referred to be a "lost treasure"in a DVD review in a major entertainment magazine?

Glenn Kenny

Well, you know, they really don't make 'em like they used to...

Andrew Wyatt

Glenn:

Don't despair. Your voice is needed more than ever in Times Like These. We here in the hinterlands of Flyover Country need your erudition and your low tolerance for bullshit. Hell, if I was King of the World, I'd pay you a generous stipend (plus a new plasma screen!) just to bang out two to three posts a day on whatever the hell tickles your fancy. You know, after I cured cancer and all that.

jim emerson

Glenn, you settled the issue definitively long ago when you wrote:

"Here's a challenge. Tell me what this sentence, from White's review of the new version of "The Taking of Pelham 123," means: "Audiences who enjoyed the original 1974 'Pelham 123' took its grungy dangerousness as a realistic confirmation of their own citizens' distrust." Now here's the rub: I don't want to know what you think it means, what you infer it means when you put it through your own personal White decoder ring, no; I want to know what the words in the sentence as they are actually written actually mean. As, you know, an actual copy editor would understand them. Because an actual copy editor would tell you that the sentence is gibberish...."

That's it. AW ceases to exist. There's nothing more to say. That paragraph still gives me great joy, because it does to what's-his-name what Martin Short's portrayal of Howie Mandel in SCTV's "Maudlin of the Night" did to HM. It makes him irrelevant. That AW could continue to perform in public makes him all the more pathetic. You have said what needed to be said -- and all that needed to be said -- about AW.

LexG

Maybe we'd get some COOL NEW CRITICS if someone would hire ME.

I don't know what the fuck it takes. I got Poland and Wells in my corner, both HUGE fans and promoters of my writing, Poland tried giving me a column, Wells offered to help me, I got like 60-80 film critics at any time following me on Twitter... How the fuck do you guys get PAID for this shit ever though?

I want to GET PAID TO WATCH MOVIES, but it's got to be more than I'm making at my day job, so I can't do it full time for UNDER 70K, but it's important to me to become a writer for a brief period of time so I don't have to go to a DAY JOB anymore.

My day job is TRANSCRIBING MOVIES, which SUCKS DICK because stupid studios send their movies out for DVD prep like the week they come out or BEFORE, so every weekend I wanna see 4 movies but it's a mad dash to see them before I have to WORK ON THEM, piecemeal and out of order and in black and white, at my shitty post job.

If I could just be a full time critic, I'd see the movies for free, wouldn't work a dumb day job, and would have ALL DAY to focus on my acting career, because I WANT TO BE FAMOUS and writing is BORING AS FUCK and don't you guys all kinda just secretly wish you were Leo or Joseph Gordon-Levitt instead of just WRITING ABOUT THEM?

Either that or I need to sell a book of my rants, but I need a WINDFALL of like 75-100k so I can quit my transcription job and audition for REALITY SHOWS.

FAME IS GOD.

LexG

And I'm-a keep going, because it's on topic and I DON'T CARE:

You will NEVER convince me that a whole lot of you dudes are possessed of some writing genius that I can't muster. I got dudes on HE begging me to write a book, I got POLAND, I got WELLS, sterling endorsements from DOZENS of other guys... Yet I'm saddling subtitling porn and transcribing the 2014 TNT cut of Next Month's Blockbuster like THIS WEEK, because you gotta do that shit NOW and destroy the fuck out of the movie for the posthouse sadsacks who MIGHT have wanted to see it. Yeah, tell me why a December release has to have the DVD completed in FUCKING AUGUST, and I'll be eternally grateful.

But: I like ALL these dudes, so I'm only talking harmless smack, but you really gonna tell me Devin Faraci is some Hemingway-esque genius that he shouldn't be closed-captioning soap operas? Or Gilchrist, or JEN YAMATO, who seems like a sweetheart but is just some TWOP-y Twi-Hard, not exactly Sarris-level, or Kris Tapley, again, nice guy, but I REFUSE to believe any of them OR Poland, or, fuck, even Glenn is some EXALTED WARRIOR-POET, but there's no room for my GENIUS Gonzo film critic style and distinctive, well-liked prose.

And yet any time I try to parlay it, nobody really gives a shit and I get like 6 views so it's easier just to post on someone else's blog. HOW CAN I GET A LEGIT, 75K CRITIC GIG? I deserve it more than ANYONE IN AMERICA, I am a better writer than Ken Turan, better writer than Armond, better writer than AO Scott, better writer than Dargis.

I am a FUCKING GENIUS, and it is a NATIONAL DISGRACE that I'm stuck TAKING DICTATION for a living, when all you dicks get to go to JUNKETS and meet Dakota Fanning, when I'm funnier than ANYONE ON THE PLANET.

GET ME A JOB.

Glenn Kenny

@ LexG: Wow. Looks like you picked the wrong week/month/year/decade to aspire to be a paid film critic.

Relative quality of your prose aside, have you not noticed how things are working nowadays? Even the folks in relatively secure positions aren't feeling all that secure. And THEY aren't going to give up those positions until you pry them from their cold, dead hands. And once their hands are cold/dead, you think the corporate masters are going to be in a hurry to hire replacements at the same pay scale? No, I think not, baby puppy.

Seriously—La Longworth hasn't even been at her print job for a year, and already I see the chronic (albeit selective) over-sharer is whinging about how she'll never be able to pay back her student loans, boo-fricking hoo. And the LA Weekly position was considered a CHERRY GIG. Think about it.

DUH

@ LexG: I know you want to sound GONZO, but instead you sound like a character from _Miss Lonelyhearts_ if it was by Diablo Cody and ran serialized in Entertainment Weekly. I do not mean that as a compliment.

bgn

@ LexG: if you really really want to be a paid film critic for a major media source, my advice for you would be to get off the film criticism kick and become a political pundit. Once you become famous as a political pundit, you can write about anything you want on a regular basis--even film. Hey, it worked for John Podhoretz, Ross Douthat & Steve Sailer; why shouldn't it work for you?

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