Discussion of movies and ReelThoughts topics

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August 20, 2009: "Black and White" 
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Post Re: August 20, 2009: "Black and White"
KRoss wrote:
Just read Armond White's long article for the first time and all I have to say is....

Well boo-freakin'-hoo, Mr. White. So film criticism doesn't go so deeply philosophical as it once did, choosing instead to illustrate whether a particular movie is "worth reccommending" or not. Big deal. Maybe that's not what everyone wants. Stick to your style, by all means. It has its place, like anything else. But don't attack people as morons simply because their tastes in movies (or methods of movie-reviewing, in this case) aren't to your liking. This sort of talking-down to people by a movie critic is annoying at best and offensive at worst.

Lotta good this post does in this forum.....

Thu Aug 27, 2009 6:39 am
Post Re: August 20, 2009: "Black and White"
James Berardinelli wrote:
I don't accuse him of lying; I accuse him of not fact-checking his source. White does not claim to have been a party to these discussions; he writes things like "it has been reported" and so forth. He is essentially presenting secondhand information. Anytime a journalist does that, especially when the information borders on being libelous, it needs to be checked. How? Well, Ebert is alive and easy to reach. A simple e-mail to him asking for confirmation or denial would have been sufficient. That obviously didn't happen. So White printed an unconfirmed (and apparently inaccurate) rumor as being fact. So I don't think he lied, but I do think he used horrible journalistic judgment.

My post was more about you linking him with a negative article, and nothing else... after a relatively, supposedly, positive review of the man...

Thu Aug 27, 2009 6:41 am
Post Re: August 20, 2009: "Black and White"
First, Kael is not the end-all-be-all of critics. There are plenty of critics who feel that Kael got too much wrong, too often. Often missing things that should have been glaring.

Secondly, and more importantly, what is the purpose of movie 'criticism'? James and Roger have both written their philosophy behind it. Mr. White seems to have a different philosophy. I believe Roger said (and similar to James's) his philosophy was to inform about the quality of the movie, at times inform about movies that are under-recognized, offer his thoughts, and present enough so that people can make their own judgement.

But really is criticism written for an audience? And what does that audience want? I don't know what the 'audience' wants. But I know what I want. I want to either A) get a sense of if I'm likely to enjoy the movie (thus use my time/money wisely), or B) find assistance in understanding the movie (thus more of a post-view activitiy). There are times I'll enjoy a movie, go and read a few reviews, and end up agreeing with the critics enough to say 'yeah I guess it wasn't that good.' Its a weird opinion. I enjoyed my time watching it, but now I recognize that the second time around I wouldn't. I don't feel guilty for having enjoyed a movie.

I research a bit on film criticism theories. From Ebert to Kael to Schrader. I still can't figure it out to be honest. What is it that a critic should be evaluating? One of Schrader's criteria (if I recall correctly) was if the artist achieves what he intended to achieve. But Kael argued that you can't do this, because a film is not made by one person, we don't know necessarily what that person intended to achieve, and she believed that the movie would likely be boring if the single artist achieved his vision. She seems to almost believe that great movies happen by 'accident.' That there is a lot of randomness to a movie becoming great. Mr. White seems to feel its important to evaluate the morality of the film, and to evaluate it in a way that might appear in a journal, not in a short column in a newspaper (why isn't he writing for Sight & Sound?).

I am not Roger. I am not James. I am not Mr. White. I am not Ms. Kael. I don't watch movies from their life experience. What is an old-tired movie idea to them, could be new and refreshing to me. So I can't just predict I'll enjoy a movie based on their enjoyment. Instead, it seems more important that they offer enough about why they thought it was good so that I can figure out if I too would consider it to be good. If I had infinite time/resources, this wouldn't matter. But I can only see so many movies every year. And I have to narrow it down somehow. So I read and pay attention to critics not based on their opinion, but based on their ability to express and defend it within their writing.

And this is why I don't just read one critic. I read several and combine what I've read to make decisions both on if I want to see something, or my more finalized thoughts of the quality of the movie.

Sat Aug 29, 2009 3:40 pm
Post Re: August 20, 2009: "Black and White"
I feel that Mr. White conflates criticism and review. They are 2 different styles with 2 different functions. Review is utilitarian. It provides a service. If you can find a reviewer who either closely approximates or is directly opposed to your tastes, you can gain an idea of whether or not you might want to spend your time on a particular film.
Criticism is more ambitious. It sees cinema as an art form and attempts to place individual films in the artistic spectrum, relate them to other works of art, and mine their content for commentary on history, philosophy, social conditions, and other such.
This is nothing new, there are book reviewers and literary critics just as there are movie reviewers and film critics.
Ebert has practiced both review and criticism. From the 2 pieces of White's that I read he practices only criticism. I believe that White is foolish in his hope for a film criticism to affect the general public. The general public is never going to read criticism. The audience for criticism will always be small.

Sun Aug 30, 2009 6:56 pm
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