Saturday, January 08, 2005

Wankfest: Explained

I realize what it was that really bothered me about the Slate Movie Club: The cheap psychoanalysis.

The thing soared when people waxed rhapsodic about the movies they loved, or even about the moments they loved in the movies they could barely stand. There was even some pleasure to be had when the critics tried to take apart what didn’t work and figure out why not. What really bugged me, though, was when someone hated a film, and then proceeded to either analyze the director (this happened a lot with Lars von Trier and “Dogville” and Alexandre Payne and “Sideways”) and address his misanthropy (because, of course, there could be no other explanation for making a movie that a critic doesn’t like than utter hatred and contempt for all of mankind) or to analyze the critics who DID like a movie and to pronounce them all brain dead and accuse them of slowly killing cinema (OK, that was mostly the doing of Armond White, aforementioned ass).

If you want to denounce “Before Sunset” as being dull and give a list of movies that did the same thing before it and did it better, fine. Always glad to have a list of movies to see that I haven’t seen already. But to skip an analysis of the film’s faults and missteps and to instead rail against critics who liked it and their “destructive effect of praising offal like Before Sunset” without explaining what, exactly, that destructive effect is is just a lot of posturing.

I think the problem lies in White’s insistence that he reads reviews for “information.” You can look up titles on IMDB for information. You’re supposed to read reviews for interpretation and opinion. And that’s where he’s going wrong, by thinking that what he’s writing is pure information and not his opinion. Anyone who disagrees isn’t seeing clearly, is in the thrall of some sort of interest-group’s “agenda” (he’s got something about Almodovar and gays), and is incapable of questioning his or her own preconceived notions.

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