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December 21, 2009


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"So one of my New Year's resolutions is gonna be to ignore them. I'll try to engage in honorable argument with good-faith practitioners of the discipline when it's proper to, but what I want to concentrate on in the next year is becoming a better good faith practitioner of the discipline myself."

Probably wise. For everybody, and broadly speaking, too. I'm certainly not a critic (you are, though), but in general I think it would be a fine idea for me to avoid arguments, particularly on-line, whenever possible. We'll see how long that last, because I'm supposed to stop smoking some time next year, too.

I should have asked for that Farber book for Christmas. It's possible I still wouldn't have gotten it, because I asked for a lot of stuff and I have expensive tastes, but I might have. It's embarrassing to say this out loud, but this series has been my first exposure to Farber, and I like what I see. Very much.

Merry Christmas, and all that.

Tom Russell

As someone who used to argue quite a bit back in my old USENET days, I can say from personal experience that the less I start arguments/snoot-cock, the happier (and healthier) I am, and the more time I have for honorable argumentation/debate and to create other works of substance. Hope your resolution holds, if only because it might result in a happier and healthier Glenn.

Ben Sachs

Since Saturday, I've been at a loss for words in response to Robin Wood's passing. Few writers of any genre have inspired me more. I write criticism here and there, but it's hardly a vocation for me the way it was for him (and, of course, Farber). But his writing challenged me to truly look at everything I watch--unencumbered by notions of genre, cultural standing, etc. Ultimately, he demonstrated that the committed watching shaped by movies could teach us to better look at ourselves and the world we live in.

Glenn, I'm moved by your resolution here. As critics--even as viewers--we can all do better. I look forward to your "good-faith" practice of the form; I hope to produce some myself.

(Though as far as the cattiness goes, even Wood was inclined to take Pauline Kael to task now and then. I think he even went so far as to call her anti-feminist in "Vietnam to Reagan.")

Glenn Kenny

Thanks, Ben. Wood can also be found taking Roger Ebert and J. Hoberman to task, among others. One also recalls that Farber once referred to Susan Sontag and "Andy" Sarris as "brutal scorekeeper critics...an odd duo, hard and soft—a Simone de Beauvoir and a boneless Soupy Sales—whose special commodities include chutzpah, the ability to convert any perception into a wisecrack or a squashed metaphor, and the mobility of a Hollywood sex queen for being where the action is." Ouch. And Sarris and Sontag maintained admiration of Farber for all that—how could they not?

Ben Sachs

Personally, I wouldn't mind being compared to Soupy Sales. Have you read any of his liner notes for Motown in the 60s?

It's nice to learn that Sontag and Sarris wouldn't carry a grudge. I try to remind myself now and then that the most valuable criticism is born out of love--and I think all of the critics discussed here were of this persuasion, at least when they were at their best. (And am I incorrect, or did Bazin try never to write a negative review?)


Glenn, how would you compare Farber and Agee? Of that rough time period, I only really know Agee (and it's been a while), but what I've read of Farber here reminds me of him. I loved Agee's capsule reviews, and how precise and thorough they managed to be. His long form stuff was great, too, and both Farber and Agee seemed to have a healthy appreciation for the simple pleasures of film (I'm thinking, as I often have since reading it, of Farber's "good takeoffs and landings" line in his THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD piece).

Glenn Kenny

Agee and Farber were friends, although Farber had some serious differences with Agee's critical method, which he outlined in a 1958 piece called "Nearer My Agee To Thee." I'd say if you enjoy Agee you'll also get a lot out of Farber. They really go together in some ways, and are important parts of the film-crit continuum.

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