I derive great joy from films. Almost as much as I do from music. In film, the gratification is less immediate and harder to reach than when I listen to an engaging film. While I am a longtime friend of veteran film and theater critic Curt Holman–his friendship unfortunately does not grant me his same amazing level of film knowledge. And yet, there is a great deal that can be learned from critics like Holman (and a good critic typically has a great deal of wit, for example, my current favorite Holman line is in his review for 2012–“Director Roland Emmerich remains the John Holmes of disaster porn.” [that’s right, always wanting to inform his audience, Holman provides a link to John Holmes’ Wikipedia entry…]).
But as much as I enjoy Holman’s writing (along with the criticism of Roger Ebert and Mick LaSalle), I often think that I could learn more about film (and thereby get more satisfaction from films) by reading a greater variety of critical analysis. In my quest to broaden my film knowledge, I recently added former veteran Chicago Reader film critic, Jonathan Rosenbaum, to my RSS reader. Rosenbaum, a critic since the late 1960s, has filled his website with a staggering amount of his writings from over the years. How staggering? According to him:
I’ve published over 8,000 items since the late 60s. And according to my former technical adviser and helper Benjamin Coy, over 5,500 of these appeared in the Chicago Reader. Thanks in part to Ben’s diligent work, there are now (as of November 25, 2009) 7,722 separate items or “posts” on this web site (not counting items which have been prepared but not yet published) , which most likely include virtually all of my articles and capsule reviews from the Reader, approximately 160 Notes (some of which are republished texts), 49 other “featured texts” that haven’t appeared in the Reader, and, I would guess, many other posts that are either unwitting duplications or else mystery texts that haven’t yet been identified (unless that estimate of “over 5,500” was unduly conservative).
On a regular basis, Rosenbaum pulls from his archive of writing to revisit a review–maybe from the 1980s, maybe from the 1990s or more recently. A recent post revisited his 2001 review of Citizen Sarris, American Film Critic: Essays in Honor of Andrew Sarris, which ended with this broad perspective on cinema and the general study of it:
I don’t doubt that things are still growing and still possible for various crazed cinephiles today, so I’m not trying to pull any rank here. The point is that, cinema-is-dead theorists to the contrary, film history never even comes close to repeating itself, for better and for worse. And the prime lesson to be learned from Citizen Sarris, American Film Critic isn’t how much things were changed forever by one book called The American Cinema, because ultimately there is no forever in film criticism. The point is how much they’re still changing because of it, because with or without forever, ripples can last for centuries.
Rosenbaum has a wealth of experience that thanks to the Internet, is free to read, at his website. If you want to broaden your scope of film knowledge, you’d do well to visit the site. You won’t agree with everything, of course, but either way you’ll learn something.