Sunday, June 22, 2008

A Film Critic's Book About Film Critics

So it sounds like an interesting book. Exile Cinema: Filmmakers at Work Beyond Hollywood. It's by former Village Voice film critic, Michael Atkinson. Here's the article about the book. Mr. Atkinson apparently writes about the decline of the status of film critics who work in print. Many of them are losing their positions with newspapers and magazines. Many of them are going online to write for blogs. So the book is about the slowly disappearing art of film criticism and how important the critical dialog really is to the art of film. I completely agree with this point of view. There have been film critics like the young Francois Truffaut writing for Cahiers du Cinema who could tell you things about movies that you would never ever have thought of. Good critics make you want to leap out of your chair and make a movie yourself. They imbue film with a sense of magic and history that excites minds and draws new talent into the art. Without these people and their writing you are left with fat-assed Jack Nicholson watching Lakers games and making stupid movies about being old. Good critics exist partly to tell short fat men to for god's sake get the hell off the fucking basketball court!

We need good critics. But we don't need theaters and candy concessions. Film is not a communal experience. Never has been. If it were, you would see Johnny Depp standing up near the front row dressed as a pirate to act out his part and you would clap every time he took a bow. And this would be called 'theatre.' Film is a solitary art form best enjoyed with a very sharp widescreen television or projected from a 16mm projector. Theaters show films on expensive dirty torn smudged screens. They project with dim bulbs in order to save money. They earn most of their profits by selling candy and hot dogs out in the lobby. Movie theaters as an industry don't really exist. They are candy stores that happen to show films in order to keep your ass in there instead of going home to read a book. Look this up if you don't believe me. Theaters do not make profits on the films. They make it on the candy. This should tell you something. It should tell you not to go to the theater. Stay home and watch movies on a well-calibrated widescreen television. This is the best way ever invented to see a movie. Nothing else comes close.

Once you do this, you will then be able to run wild through the great library of films available on DVD. You will be able to enjoy films without the presence of 2,000 nitwits eating their candy, farting, and checking their email. Don't believe any critic or filmmaker who tells you that you should experience a movie in the presence of an audience. That person is trying to sell you some candy and thinks that we all need to be told when to laugh.

By the way, one of my favorite critics online is a guy named Walter Chaw from Film Freak Central. He gets it and he says it and he's absolutely merciless. Look here at his review of Iron man. And here's his review of the well-trained university theatre actor Edward Norton doing his turn as The Incredible Hulk. And here is his rave for There Will be Blood.

So I'm not so sure I'd do a hell of a lot of worrying about print media critics dying off. I think the online writing's better. Frankly, when I read the critics in the Los Angeles Times newspaper I immediately get an image of them all slithering around in an orgy at Jack's house. They're such film lovers!

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