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February 09, 2013


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David Ehrenstein

I don't understand why you're bringing this up. Something that happened to you perchance?


I like the Keats quotation and think it wise. As is your advice on the author/artist's appropriate recourse/action upon receiving a bad review. I would say, however, that the critic is in the same boat. He/she is a writer as well and when he puts his stuff out there it's just as open to criticism as any novelist. Of course you know that. Just ask @wellshwood, eh.

Paul Duane

I've felt the need, once, to write to a critic to correct a factual error in his (postive but ehh lukewarm) review of my work. Even that left me feeling I'd been sucked into an unwholesome relationship with criticism. There's a terrific interview Harry Crews did with Charles Bronson where Crews moans about a bad review of one of his books, and Bronson, in effect, says more or less what Johnson said, but a little more tersely.

Don R. Lewis

I think it ties into this article:

where a filmmaker took issue with a "critic" trashing his film.

I like what you pasted up there, Glenn. Never thought of it that way or at least, as spelled out as elegantly as that. However, does it still apply to *today's* "critics?" I mean, what background or podium do these crits come from that makes them an expert? A self constructed one. Gone are the gatekeepers that allowed access to tastemakers.

I guess I can see both sides. I like that Reeder defended himself and his film and although I've grown to have much more respect for Drew McWeeny than I did, I still think it's weak sauce to further draw attention to the fact he hated Reeders film by creating an article as a rebuttal and disguising it as a fireside chat.

Bloggers and "critics" these days are free to spew whatever they want whether or not they've earned that right, aside from being born with an opinion. I think Drew's earned the right but why should filmmakers sit back and take it if they don't have to? After all, a bad review these days means a punch to the pocketbook if your film hasn't sold. It becomes even tougher to be o.k. with someone trashing your art.


Nostalgia for the 70s when an artist responded to a critic with public displays like Sylvia Miles dumping a plate of food on John Simon's head or Ken Russell smacking Alexander Walker across the face with a rolled up newspaper or Norman Mailer creating show worthy confrontations as part of his artistic process.

Jeff McMahon

I made a film school short a few years ago and, for reasons that I don't understand, somebody decided to plant several negative 'reviews' of it on IMDB, which certainly annoyed me. But I think there's a line that can be drawn between authentic criticism and blatantly dishonest smear tactics. It sucks but it helps to clarify whether the creator's goal is the work itself or careerism.

That Fuzzy Bastard

I just don't see why an artist is obligated to be silent. Responding to critics is perhaps a waste of time, but no more a waste than watching TV or anything else, and at best, it might garner some useful publicity for the art (since audiences love seeing things that are "controversial"). If a critic is making major mistakes of fact, then they certainly invite a response. If a criticism impugns the artist's character, as is very common in these your-art-is-your-politics-times, then they might as well get a response (though of course, the idea that an artist must have deep moral intelligence is simply wrong---Picasso was no sort of moral man). Overall, this quote simply says "Artists should not respond to critics because Paul Fussell finds it undignified, to which the appropriate response is "Fuck your dignity, WASP, your class is dead."

Now, one could certainly argue that making something new is a better response than attacking critics, and you'd be right. But attacking critics seems, at this moment, like a more effective form of touring publicity, like doing phoners and panels but vastly more likely to get some traction in the wider media.


Very good food for thought, this piece. Like everyone who puts it out there I have received positive and negative reviews for my work. The only review I really ever took umbrage to was one in which the reviewer compared our film to the movie he thought should be made instead of the film that he was supposed to review. What sucked is that this review was from one of the most widely read outlets.

As a rejoinder to the above, I was recently speaking to a ‘big-name’ film critic I respect immensely and who said that they didn’t review a particular recent film because they found it problematic even though they thought well of the filmmaker’s talent and liked their other work. A curious account of advocacy through abstinence or silence, as if the critic didn’t want to contribute to the negative review column. (Rotten Tomatoes?) Does this happen often?

Jeff McMahon

It seems to me that one of the primary problems with a creator responding to a critic is the old truism that an artist is NOT a good critic of his or her own work. A creator could go ahead and correct somebody on a factual error but if you start to get into 'What I intended in scene x', you've already lost the game because once it's on the screen, intentions aren't worth that much.

Also I suppose the rules are different when you're a zero-budget filmmaker doing your own publicity vs. someone with a studio's marketing resources. In the latter case there's really no excuse for the filmmaker to jump into the fray aside from thin skin/egotism.


Look, just because Steven Soderbergh rags on you for not liking The Good German by saying "I find it hard to read any critics now because they are just so easily fooled", it doesn't seem enough of a reason to throw him under the bus like this.


I mean, sure, you personally may have forced him into retirement, but he's given us some wonderful films, and this seems a bit like kicking a dog when he's down to me...

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