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May 30, 2015


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other mike

i want to apologise to glenn. there was a time when i felt he was a grumpy old man, who was always snarking at people because he wasnt a nice person. i always felt no one was good enough for him, he had impossibly hight standards etc. well, time has passed and now i understand. as i’ve gotten older, and been bombarded with a lot of liberal/academic handwringing over every single thing ( not the big things, about which i c/s the handwringing), i too am sick of these other people. and i join glenn in the clowning of them. gebus. can any single event or thing go by without a twitter calvacade of protest? yeeesh.

other mike

“this director is racist, that director has too much privelage, you cant understand because you are a white male, only “insert group” are allowed to speak on this”

ps, im not a white male so this isnt one of those “poor me” laments, its just that this kind of discourse or the automatic deployment of it, has basically crowded out a lot of other interesting things to talk about with regard to art . its the new default, at least on the internets.

long story short, im for more diverse voices, but against attempts to shut out “white male” voices or reduce their points of view to “whiteness”, even when i disagree with them.


I used to like reading movie reviews where the movie was being reviewed. Everyone flipped out over Mad Max Fury Road- real stunts! No cgi! Feminist action movie! ... Wasn't a particularly good film though. Personally, I admired it a lot more than I was engaged by it. Movie finished. Shrugged. Went about my day.

Robert Hunt

Back in the early 70s, I took a "Film Appreciation" class where one of the axioms drummed into the students was that the auteur theory meant that "the best directors were the ones who wrote their own scripts". Anyone who has read their Sarris or even just skimmed his pantheon knows that that's completely wrong, but it's also an early sign of the misapplication of the term "auteur" that has since become common. Today any director who is willing to record a DVD commentary is assumed to have auteur status (and those who play directly to fanboy culture are also acclaimed as "visionaries" on top of it). A director like Crowe, who writes his own films and has never been a director-for-hire, is one of many who stretch the limits of Sarris' categories (although I suspect that "Strained Seriousness" and "Less Than Meets the Eye" could cover most of them): filmmakers with total artistic freedom but nothing much to say or noticeable talent for saying it.


Well, I happily got taught my Thomas Schatz and a steady diet of '30's cinema early on in my film education, so I know the problems with the 'strong' form of the auteur theory. But the 'weak' form of the theory is, of course, highly useful in choosing what to view, as I think we all know.

I'll venture the controversial theory that Cameron Crowe was NEVER all that. Sure, his initial screenplay got turned into something interesting. And his first film is reasonably good. But the rest of his oeuvre? Meh, and double-meh. Even his "early, funny ones" that folks totally swooned over left me kinda cold. They're not awful, but they seemed waaaaaay overpraised to me at the time. And he ran out of gas a long time ago, as sometimes happens to self-decribing auteurist folks like him.

So, now he's just theoretically deluded and without any artistic or commercial touch. It's happened to better filmmakers than him.


“What’s going on with Jane Campion?” was a big question for some with Holy Smoke (not for me—I loved it) and more so with In The Cut (yeah, that was bad)."

Jeebus. Did ANYONE actually dislike Holy Smoke? If so, what the hell was wrong with them?

And while I know that In The Cut is a compromised and misguided mess, I actually thought it was still pretty OK. I even watched it a second time a few years later, and still thought that. (That the 'weak' form of the auteur theory in action; even a misguided mess can come out pretty OK with a gifted director.)


Ummm... what? I share Glenn's bafflement. There's nothing in the auteur theory, in principle, that prevents it from being applied to non-white-non-male directors. Now, it's true that it had its roots in a mostly male film-buff culture (and yet you have people like Agnes Varda), and it's also true that, since the vast majority of film directors are white males, by the law of probability there are going to be more white male auteurs, but those are just the preexisting conditions of the industry, not anything inherent in the theory. As Glenn points out, there's nothing in the auteurist framework that prevents it from being applied to, say, Hou Hsiao-Hsien. Or (gay white male) Pedro Almodovar. Or Catherine Breillat. There's been plenty of auteurist debate about all of them.


"Ummm... what? I share Glenn's bafflement."

Someone on the internet was wrong.


Glenn Kenny said: "The political sensitivities of young critics these days are so finely tuned that it’s hard to know sometimes whether a protest is part of an attempt to create a new critical paradigm centered around diversity, or just some kind of high-functioning troll activity ..."

Yeah, I've noticed this for a couple of years now. I assume a lot of these young critics majored in feminism and gender studies, and they bring them into their "criticism." Almost everything they write ends up being about gender or racial issues.

Chris Rock has said he's stopped performing at college campuses because the students are so ultra-sensitive. Any joke that's racially or sexually edgy is met with silence or boos. I guess nobody would bankroll BLAZING SADDLES or MASH these days.


ALOHA doesn't look very appealing, but at least it's not 2 hours of CGI destruction. Sad to think those are my choices at the multiplex.

Or I could stay home and watch WILD RIVER again.


My take is that there are some critics who, while well-intentioned, are confusing social criticism with aesthetic criticism. I think there's probably several reasons for this, but one of the main ones is that social criticism is just a whole lot easier than serious aesthetic criticism. It doesn't take any particular facility of insight to notice that the majority of films are about white men, and mostly made by white men. Publicly decrying these trends is important, and it has a positive effect that's pretty visible (the increase in large, successful movies with female leads, for example.)

But doing good critical work on art - even on entertainment - is tough work. It rarely comes naturally, and it takes time, which is one thing that seems to be increasingly scarce, particularly when you're knee-deep in the Twitterverse.

As for the merits of autuerism, of whatever stripe, that's a different ball of wax. I'd be curious to see a really earnest discussion of it.


"My take is that there are some critics who, while well-intentioned, are confusing social criticism with aesthetic criticism."

Exactly. It irritated me when Michael Medved (a conservative social and political commentator) was on TV posing as a film critic. I don't like it any more when people on the left do this. The Internet seems full of social critics posing as film/TV/pop culture critics.


What a piece of shit writing! I'm sorry that I started to read what you were trying to say. what are you saying? Worst part of what what you wrote, which is incomprehensible, is people will say you are smart!


My immediate reaction to Glenn's post was: Huh? But the responding comments helped put his ideas into perspective. I concur with Petey that Cameron Crowe has always been away overrated. For some reasons, critics fell head-over-heels in love with him and a sort of blind loyalty took over. This is evident by some of the reviews of "Aloha" in which it's plainly apparent that it pains the critic to say anything negative about Crowe or his film even though the critic makes it clear that the movie isn't very good. One scribe claims that he will always root for Crowe. Why? Because of love at first sight? George writes that "Aloha" doesn't look very appealing. No, it doesn't. The trailer for it is, at best, off-putting. At its worst, it makes the film look like a trainwreck. Of course, the studio may have planned it that way. But that's another story. And I'm getting off-point here. Back to my original observation and question: Critics just want to love Crowe. Why?


"Critics just want to love Crowe. Why?"

My theory: critics identify with Crowe's background as a rock journalist. Critics are pop culture writers (and fans), too, so they see Crowe as one of their own.

Or used to. They began moving away from him after the embarrassing ELIZABETHTOWN (although I felt worse for Kirsten Dunst, who was directed to give an overbearing performance, than I did for Crowe).

Terry McCarty

I've seen ALOHA and it's now the pick of the post-ALMOST FAMOUS progeny of Crowe's. As far as auteurism is concerned, Crowe's work of the last decade, for better or worse, could be compared to 60s Howard Hawks in terms of workplace families and repetition of familiar motifs.


I quite like IN THE CUT


"My theory: critics identify with Crowe's background as a rock journalist. Critics are pop culture writers (and fans), too, so they see Crowe as one of their own."

Yeah. That's been my working theory for a while too, with Almost Famous sealing the apotheosis of that identification.


"I quite like IN THE CUT"

I semi-defended the film upthread. But even you'd have to agree it's the least of Campion's work, no?

Matt M

There's a great academic book to be written on mediocre directors who've completely internalized the popular (mis)reading of auteur theory and the marketing machine that encourages them.


"There's a great academic book to be written on mediocre directors who've completely internalized the popular (mis)reading of auteur theory and the marketing machine that encourages them."

Interviews, conducted by Peter Bogdanovich, amirite?


Personal working theory of over-a-decade-now: HBO is the 21st century version of Schatz's The Genius of the System...


From what I've read, ALOHA takes place in a Hawaii that is 99 percent white ... except for Emma Stone, who plays the most unlikely Asian since Myrna Loy in THE MASK OF FU MANCHU.

Maybe Crowe needs to spend more time in the real world.


Glenn raises good points, as always.

I think you other guys should be more careful not to confuse lazy forms of aesthetic and social criticism with all forms of aesthetic and social criticism. And it might help to understand why what you're calling 'aesthetic criticism' is inseparable from social/political concerns. This has been true since, uh, the Enlightenment, when Western culture started to articulate robust theories about these things in direct, precise relation to matters of state, empire, industry and thus race, class, nation and gender. Aesthetic questions are not divorcable from ideology and never have been.

But yes, Tina Hassannia's point is a bit mystifying.

Don Lewis

I'm a big, big Crowe fan so, take the following with a grain of salt....

I think ALOHA and ELIZABETHTOWN are ok-good movies but I also know there's longer cuts of them that may be *better*. Glenn can probably speak to this as he saw ELIZABETHTOWN at Toronto but, wasn't it originally like 3 hours long? Not saying that automatically makes it a better, but it (I would hope) diminishes some of the weirdness about that film. All the Susan Sarandon stuff seems wildly truncated and, much like ALOHA, relationships are forged because that's what good looking lead actors do.

And again, granted, maybe Crowe should reel his shit in before cameras roll but isn't that what studios and producers are supposed to do? It seems to me with ELIZABETHTOWN and ALOHA they bought the farm without checking the foundations and then went back and tried to fix it by hiring some hack editor to "clean it up."

ALOHA is not nearly as awful as everyone says but again, there's simply things MISSING that I refuse to believe a writer of Crowe's caliber just let slip by. The whole John Krasinsky character is a total misfire because at no point in the first act is it explained he's "strong and silent." Without that vital info-that again, I just don't see HOW Crowe could simply have forgotten to add- the guy looks like some kind of mute or dude on the spectrum.

I also 100% agree with the sentiment that the auteur theory is misused and misunderstood by todays film "critics." I don't see how anyone can label Crowe and auteur based simply on the fact he loved other auteurs. That's just dumb and lazy, which is also the subheader for most young film critics today. Sure, JERRY MAGUIRE owed a TON and was a clear homage to Wilder/THE APARTMENT but very few other Crowe films are hat tips of that kind. I agree with Terry above that Crowe has far more in common with Hawkes and even more so with Hal Ashby but that's no good for booing about a guy who's letting young critics down.

Speaking of-- I think the anger and derisiveness towards Crowe comes from many, MANY young critics being heavily influenced by ALMOST FAMOUS and these newer films not having that impact. That's ironic since they all seemed to have missed the point about not being a rock stars friend if you're trying to be a journalist. But that's for another rant.

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