Army Archerd is calling it quits after 52 years of writing his "Just for Variety" column for, you guessed it, Variety. Archerd "hated the term ‘gossip columnist’ and bristled whenever anyone referred to him as one," but kind of is/was one, albeit of the extremely classy and industry-focused type.
In the July 23, 1985, column, he printed that Rock Hudson â€” despite
denials from the actor’s publicists and managers â€” was undergoing
treatment for AIDS. Global media picked up on the story; though the
disease was not new, this was the first time anyone put an identifiable
face linked to the disease. The New York Times stated that if it
weren’t for Archerd’s report, the actor’s death probably would have
been attributed to other maladies, and the realization of the scope of
AIDS would not have been publicized and realized until 1992, when Magic
Johnson revealed his condition.
Then the writer goes on to call Archerd "Hollywood’s first blogger." Well…yes, in that column-writing and blogging both involve writing regularly. Would it be so bad to just let him be as a well-known, respected columnist? We realize it’s de rigeur these days to name-check blogging whenever at all possible, but, please, not when it’s unnecessary. The kids do still understand what "columnist" means, we’re assuming, and don’t require it to be roughly translated ("Archerd S retiring 2rite hs memoirs, jst lk Dave Eggers"). And they’re not reading Variety anyway.
Meanwhile, our Armond White fixation may well now be replaced with a late-era Andrew Sarris fixation. In his latest column in the New York Observer, Sarris once again revisits his glory days of warring with Pauline Kael:
Part of my motivation in studying the present for clues to the future is to escape the spiritual paralysis of an unforgiving nostalgia for the past. AndrÃ© Bazin (1918-1958) once tried to exclude Hollywood directors from the purview of FranÃ§ois Truffaut’s La Politique des Auteurs by invoking "the genius of the system" as an alternative theory to explain the large number of Hollywood classics. I raised my very tentative and respectful objections to Bazinâ€”a film theorist I admired above all othersâ€”in my 1963 essay in Film Culture Magazine, entitled "Notes on the Auteur Theory in 1962." This piece of critical writing annoyed Pauline Kael sufficiently to write the much more widely read "Circles and Squares" in Film Quarterly Magazine, launching a 40-year war for which I was polemically unprepared. The trouble was that the cultural establishment seized on the Sarris-Kael imbroglio as a way to keep critical theory out of a "fun" field like movies. Hence, I was suddenly catapulted from obscurity to notoriety without passing "Go." Now, almost half a century later, I can refute Bazin’s "genius of the system" argument more succinctly simply by asking: If the "system" was responsible for the good films, then who or what was responsible for the much more numerous bad films?
Still so wounded! Were those years really so bad, Mr. Sarris? Yes, James Toback was mean to you, but those were some damn great and influential days of film criticism you participated in (honestly, there was a Film Culture Magazine and a Film Quarterly Magazine, and people actually read them!). Anyway, he goes on to declare he’s going to live forever (yes, we’re totally taking that out of context, enjoy it for what it is) and discuss contemporary directors that might make his "pantheon of English-language auteurs" with the tone of someone looking down from a great height (not condescending, more like…stratospherically removed).