Critics – A Nearly Extinct but Vicious Species

Who knew there was more drama to be had on the internet that didn’t necessarily involve Oscar blogs? Well, AJ Schnack has dug one up. Give you a dolla if you can figure out who swirls in the eye of this latest shitstorm. The Caped Crusader knows how to drive up traffic on his blog by generated controversy. As far as I can tell, Patrick Goldstein criticized Manohla Dargis for her pan of the Weinstein Co’s The Reader.¬† Then Spoutblog’s Karina Longworth got into the dogfight and finally, Schnack gave the play-by-play and practiced diplomacy in a Rodney King-esque “can’t we all just get along?”

Dargis is a controversial figure, much more so than Kenneth Turan. She didn’t like Slumdog Millionaire — there is no pleasing a critic, seriously. Those of us sheep grumble now and again but Dargis’ readers know, by now I think, to take her reviews with a grain of salt — meaning, her reviews tend to be more about her and less about the subject, I’ve always thought, which is why her reviews are interesting to read. It’s the Manohla Dargis show — and it’s a fascinating, entertaining one. It always feels a bit like going down the rabbit hole.

For more mindless rambling on this topic, click the jump link.

Dargis ascended because her writing, on its own, was that good.¬†¬† The trouble with critics who savage movies, in my opinion, is that they aren’t always right about it. Years later, they might revisit the same film and find their opinion has changed. Intelligence must be tempered with a bit of humility as age settles in. Maybe, maybe not. I’ve always wondered if, when Dargis praises a terrible film or dismembers a good one, whether she is absolutely certain of her opinion – or if she’s just another wrestler, in the fight for sport and blood. I have to think she is in it for the art of criticism.

Goldstein is right when he says what studios fear is her persuasiveness, or her power. Dargis can’t be bought off, she can’t be charmed at a lunch and she isn’t starstruck (oh maybe just a little by Clint Eastwood). It’s gotten her all the way to the New York Times. All she is doing is telling the truth, her own impression of what she saw.

I might add, though, that in this competitive climate everyone is out for themselves. The Weinstein/Rudin story probably did more damage to The Reader than Dargis’ review — a good film can survive one critics’ impression, even if it’s Dargis at the Times. And Golstein is the one who brought that story to light. He’s therefore shaming Dargis for exactly what he himself did in the name of “telling the truth.”

I like Schnack’s final paragraph on the matter:

In an age when film critics are underpaid, being bought out, termed out and forced out, I say let’s raise a glass for the good writers who love movies, whether we agree or disagree with their judgments. The democratization of film writing has reduced the power that critics once held – which is likely one of the key reasons (along with newspaper cutbacks) for the perilous state of film criticism. But the ability of so many voices – whether in the NY Times or on our humble blog – to join the conversation encourages us to engage, to expand, confront and continue the conversation for any film that’s worth a damn.

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