Various and sundry have asked for my reaction to a flailingly querulous I-hate-to-call-it-an-essay at a website called The New Inquiry. Said, no-I-won't-call-it-an-essay because it's more a...prose thing, yes, said prose-thing, entitled "Towards A New Film Criticism," authored by the evocatively-named Willie Osterweil, kicks things off by bringing up Big Macs ('cause they're mass produced, you see), then turns his nose up at what he believes is auteurist-based criticism, arguing, or rather stating, that there are no "auteurs" in Hollywood, and that what's taken for a personal artistic signature in the case of someone like Tarantino is really nothing more than a compendium of branding tics. Warming to his topic, he insists:
For mainstream entertainment films, the director must be considered little more than a manager. “But, but, but,” one might protest. “There’s internal consistency to the films of some of the biggest-budget directors—Paul Greengrass, Zach Snyder, Christopher Nolan —these guys have a definable style!” They certainly do, because cinema has been structured around maintaining and capitalizing on the myth of the artist-director.
You see what he's doing there, with the talking straw man and all. The only actual critic he quotes is David Edelstein, whom he characterizes as "levelheaded (if mediocre)," and I hope someone's checked to make sure that this devastating attack hasn't sent poor David to the bathtub with a straight razor. For the rest of the piece he reverts to the royal we:
Film criticism must dismiss the concept of auteurs and understand the film as a mass-produced object. Just like a cheap beer on a hot day or a fast food burger on a long road trip, entertainment cinema can be truly satisfying, but do we discuss a Big Mac the same way we talk about a three-star meal? Do we enjoy a Bud by the same criteria of a perfectly crafted Belgian beer? So why do we talk about Thor the same way we talk about Carlos?
Short answer is, we don't. Long answer is, well, why the fuck should I go to the trouble of digging up examples of how we don't if you can't dig up examples of how we do?
Later Little Willie starts rewriting Gang Of Four lyrics, and badly:
Feel lonely? Don’t worry, someday your eyes will meet those of your perfect mate.Wait for the end of your loneliness, don’t change your behavior or your expectations, but make sure you look good, always, so your love can recognize you in one glance. Feel powerless? You might be a wizard, or a superhero, or friends with a secret agent: At the very least, there’s one coming to rescue you.Don’t worry, individuals will always have the power to overcome and appear when they’re needed, so don’t unite or organize. Think being poor sucks? But even this fat slob succeeded by being in the right place at the right time! Keep working. Opportunity comes for everyone.
Just imagine the italicized parts as the bits that Andy Gill speaks after Jon King sings the plain text. Still doesn't work, right? (As it happens, Mr. Osterwiel himself has a band, "provocatively" named Vulture Shit, that could have just as well been named, say, Gang Of Why The Hell Did We Bother.) Anyway, for some reason this dogshit has excited some commenters on the interwebs, including, I regret to say, the otherwise, what's the word, oh yes, levelheaded, Kevin B. Lee, who was moved to interview Mr. Osterweil, whose responses are, in the parlance of what he (Osterweil) calls "The Current," comedy gold. "I think theory is too bogged down in questions of definition and accuracy, and I think people who write it should take more risks." Suck on that for a minute; and now consider that the pronouncement comes immediately after he pulls, directly from his ass, a description of how the filmmakers he approves of get their pictures made. Also, it's Potter Stewart, not "The Supreme Court." In any event, the best part is at the end, when Osterwiel tells Lee that "I am for the end of all professions, because I am for the end of capitalism." You can tell Willie is only a little past the legal drinking age, because it's clearly never occurred to him that there's a correspondence between the "perfectly crafted Belgian beer" his dick is so hard for and, erm, capitalism. Just in case The Man is looking for a way to really hit Little Willie where it hurts.