During my tenure at the news â€“ seven years that I keep hoping will
disappear down an Ambien hole and never disturb my troubled sleep again
â€“ Jami and I suffered unbelievable interference from the editorial
higher-ups, all of whom seemed to believe that they were vastly more
capable of registering the â€œpopulistâ€ perspective on a given film (in
DN speak, â€œpopulistâ€ is a term of art meaning â€œbarely sentientâ€) than
the people theyâ€™d somehow (and clearly, mistakenly) hired as experts on
the subject. I recall one managing editor flying off the handle because
Jami had failed to recognize the cultural and aesthetic importance of
â€œSudden Death,â€ a 1995 Jean-Claude Van Damme film about terrorists
taking hostages during an NHL game (if only we had listened then!).
â€œItâ€™s the greatest movie Iâ€™ve ever seen,â€ the editor announced,
betraying not a hint of irony. One editor-in-chief became notorious in
our small department for rejecting any review of a Disney film that
suggested something less than complete enthusiasm, on the ground that
the DN was a family newspaper and Disney â€“ an indisputable fact â€“ made
family movies. Hence, no possible grounds for criticism.
Awesome! We’re not particularly a fan of Ms. Bernard’s work, but we loathe this trend of moving away from staff critics â€” a key part of the pleasure of reading reviews is coming back to someone’s writing again and again.
JK: How would you respond to the perception of you as a â€œbomb-throwerâ€, or a guy who employs hyperbole to get a rise out of people?
WC: Is that the perception of me? I think thatâ€™s the easy way out of assessing what it is that I actually write about in my work. Maybe I donâ€™t succeedâ€”I certainly donâ€™t for those folks. Let me say that in my mind the â€œguys who employ hyperbole to get a rise out of peopleâ€ are the Earl Dittmans and Jeffrey Lyons and Larry fucking Kings of the world who call every neo-Stanley Kramer piece of leaden dreck that floats down the bilge the â€œbest film of the yearâ€ or â€œa masterpieceâ€ or â€œthe first great. . . of the yearâ€. When I look at what I write (and I seldom have to, thank god), I hope that what Iâ€™m seeing there is a real, throbbing outrage at films that are out to do harm and, on the other side, a real live joy at films that feed me. Stuff thatâ€™s just out to make money off of easy stereotypes and nakedly shilling to robotically-demarcated demographics of imaginary people â€“ and looping back around, here, offering up all this feckless garbage to the blind eyes of the vast majority of the critics in lofty positions that I (if no one else) hope are manning the gatesâ€”makes me exhausted.
This is older, but we missed it the first go-round: at RockCritics.com, Aaron Aradillas interviews Entertainment Weekly‘s Lisa Schwarzbaum:
[W]hat I don’t get is this:
years after Kael’s death, why are we still talking about Kael vs.
Sarris as if choosing a team color is Topic A? As if, indeed, any
serious movie critic must declare a team in order to play? Why does the
mention of Kael, in particular–and the declaration for or against on
the part of an army of male critics (it’s predominantly men who get het
up about the subject)–still generate so much ink? I’m being a little
provocative here for the sake of, oh, I don’t know, pantsing the
keepers of the flame, but I’m also serious: The humorless orthodoxies
of the competing teams baffle me.
+ Another One Bites the Dust (DaveKehr.com)
+ Keep up, or get out of the way: an interview with film critic Walter Chaw (The House Next Door)
+ Entertaining Weekly (RockCritics.com)
+ Tribeca Jury Duty (New York)