Posts Tagged criticism

Jamie S. Rich on Film Criticism

Many folks that I have met in the comic industry are multi-tasking, multi-talented people. Case in point: writer/critic Jamie S. Rich. When Jamie S. Rich is not writing graphic novels (his and Joëlle Jones’ You Have Killed Me made my top books for 2009 at Robot 6), his critical analysis can frequently be read at DVD Talk or at his own blog, Confessions of A Pop Fan. I recently email interviewed him to get some of the thinking behind his critical analysis.

Tim O’Shea: In a recent post, on the topic of best of 2009 movie lists you wrote: “in case you’re not sick of best-of lists yet (I’ve avoided most, and it’s still like a lot of white noise to me)”. What annoyed you about from a most of the best of movie lists from 2009?

Jamie S. Rich: It’s nothing about any specific choices, it’s just that there is so many lists out there now, the chorus has gotten too large. There is no definitive voice, no standards. I mean, there are now lists just to keep up with the lists, a conglomeration of top 10s and top 15s and the like. What with the end of the decade countdowns also going on, I am just at a loss to see what purpose it serves anymore. I’m not a big fan of crowdsourcing, because I think that it eventually kills the formation of legitimate opinions. Even before that was a term, you could see how certain lines of thinking took root and critics and fans alike would start parroting one another. It’s something I wrote about when I reviewed the most recent DVD release of The Godfather trilogy. People don’t bother to watch the third one and react to it in their own way, they already have the common thinking to draw on. It’s like, right now, I can log on to Facebook, and I’ll see ten updates in my friends list about Avatar, and all say the same thing. “Looked great, but the story was boring,” like this is some new opinion of great value. Okay, sure, and…?

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Film Criticism: Museum of the Moving Image

In wandering the Internet, I discovered Moving Image Source, the website for the Museum of the Moving Image. The site is ” devoted to the history of film, television, and digital media. It features original articles by leading critics, authors, and scholars; a calendar that highlights major retrospectives, festivals, and gallery exhibitions at venues around the world; and a regularly updated guide to online research resources.”

Any site that interviews Carter Burwell is a great resource to me. Check it out.

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Film Criticism: Jonathan Rosenbaum

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.

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