Brief thoughts on a Sabbath night:
I don’t really understand – and don’t really like, and certainly don’t respect – anyone who doesn’t think that No Country For Old Men is a great film. I feel badly for people who don’t like Tarantino; worse for people who don’t seem to understand Malick or Nagisa or Kim Ki-Duk; but I’m sympathetic that there are opposing viewpoints, y’know. See – the basis for this critical debasement is the dangerous idea that there are no absolutes in the liberal arts. It’s what’s made it all such a fucking mess, it’s arguably what’s caused Nathan Lee over at the NY Post and David Ansen at Newsweek to lose their positions (everyone else is next save St. Ebert) recently, this democratization of opinion. Everyone has one. Like an asshole. Get it? The irony of it is that you make any kind of consideration a matter of “well, everyone’s entitled to their opinion” and suddenly nobody needs yours.
By making this thing of ours accessible to a wide, wider, widest audience; my colleagues have politicked themselves out of a job and, before long, out of an entire frickin’ profession. I met David Ansen once – we sat on a panel together at the Vail Film Festival talking about, primarily, the state of modern film criticism (Godfrey Cheshire moderated – he having lost his job a long time ago) – and he struck me as a smart, moral, well-versed critic: a film-lover who’d given a good deal of thought to what was happening at newspapers and magazines. Now, about two years later, he’s taken a buyout offered him and from what I understand, will close out the end of the year before another major outlet, his, closes for good to film criticism.
So the thesis is this: that allowing for people to disagree about the quality of No Country For Old Men is symptomatic of why there’s a dearth of good criticism in the
Criticism without knowledge is a zero sum game. Everyone’s an asshole who does it.
There are absolutes in the liberal arts. There are things that are absolutely black and white. Find your place of gray within that or find yourself keeping company with that idiot couple behind you in the theater that wishes the Coens’ had given Chigurgh a backstory.
Lots of frustrations otherwise in the trenches these days – difficult anniversaries and just when I’m getting back in the saddle for the first time in what feels like a couple of years, the whole clan comes down with some kind of flu that sends my two-year-old to the emergency room for an IV. Missing a lot of screenings as a consequence; here’s hoping karma hangs on a pendulum.
Working now on a series with the Denver Public Library on classic westerns and a series with Gilpin County on dystopias (I’ll finally get to lecture on Planet of the Apes; timely for the passing of Heston); hoping to get a major writing project off the ground as well covering the films of Val Lewton. Gearing up for a career retrospective of a favorite director ‘round these parts as his latest film is poised to hit the home video shelves (it never made it here theatrically) – and still waiting on a few of the big arthouse pics to have their cup of coffee in the Mile High City. The only solace to me being out of the game this season so far is that this season traditionally sucks; all the more so for backwaters like this one in a time for the profession when I don’t actually know but one or two of my colleagues anymore when I get out to screenings. Who knew that seven years makes you a senior critic?
Been thinking a lot on two topics lately in the quiet hours: the best instrumental scores; and the best movie posters in terms of provocation, implication, and/or artistry…
A couple of picks for score just in the last decade or so? Clint Mansell gets a couple of nods for his work with Darren Aronofsky: The Fountain and Requiem for a Dream (with Kronos Quartet). I love Alexandre Desplat’s work on Birth, Jonny Greenwood’s on There Will Be Blood, Jon Brion’s on Punch-Drunk Love. My fave all time? David Shire’s piano rags on The Conversation. Yours?
Also – been haunted of late by this poster for the first of Lynch's two late-Hitchcock identity shrines: