Monday, May 21, 2007

And I used to like Richard Schickel!

Just in case you haven't already heard about this, in "Not Everybody's a Critic" Richard Schickel declares how "useless" bloggers are to the world of film/literary criticism (I guess it wasn't his first time doing so either). I'd like to respond to this but because I a) have a day job that I need to get to, b) am being kept rather busy in my spare time watching movies/writing about them for my upcoming "31 Days of Spielberg" project and c) am not a "real" critic (although Matt Zoeller Seitz, who I do consider a "real" critic, recently called me one), so whatever I have to say on the matter won't make any difference anyway, I'll just leave it to others to express their reactions.

-Warner Todd Huston at Newsbusters
-Ron over at Gallycat.
-Jason Comerford at One Letter at a Time.
-Josh Gettlin of the L.A. Times.
-Moviezz over at his blog.
-Alan Vanneman at Bright Lights After Dark.
-Ted Pigeon's open letter to Schickel at Cinematic Art.
-Chuck Tyron at Newcritic.


cineboy said...

It seems to me that a rather simple explanation might be that the traditional critic has been backed into a corner and feels her/his very livelihood threatened. (Although that critic will likely vehemently deny such a reality.) So what one gets is the snarling rant of fear, complete with the worst kind of diatribes and cheap shots, rather than a reasoned argument with solid examples and good logic. We see this kind of thing throughout history during periods of change. The old guard puffing their chest and telling old stories and decrying the new generation that doesn't know anything. Alas, some will adapt and change, some will become more entrenched, and some will just bitterly fade away. I suppose the same kinds of things were heard when typewriters were first introduced, or cameras, or movies, or television, or automobiles, or the telephone, or anything than changed the way people interacted and communicated. Each of these technologies brought with them a new language and way of engaging in the world. Some embraced the change and some didn't. This does not mean that change will not destroy good things as it brings in the new, but the so-called new "elites" are blogging too. Solution: Richard Schickel should start blogging and show us democratically-minded philistines how to do it right. Or he should adapt his product, because that's what it is after all, so it continues to find a market willing to pay for his elite-minded perspective.

Damian said...

That was more or less my analysis of the situation, Tuck. Well said.

Paul Martin said...

Schickel's comments are boring. Most mainstream media film reviewers contribute little to the world of film criticism but are really consumer guides who don't have the time for anything but new releases.

Sure there's crap out there, both with blogs and MSM. My observation is that it is among the unpaid and passionate cinephiles who are writing without any chance of remuneration that most of the interesting stuff is to be found.

Moviezzz said...

What is funny, Schickel provides commentary for the upcoming RIO BRAVO DVD. He also directed the documentary on it.

Should bloggers now NOT review the set because they are not qualified? Leave it only to those print journalists that matter?

I read a great review of it today on a website. Guess that shouldn't be trusted.

Jason Comerford said...

Thanks for the plug.

I have a fundamental disagreement with the notion that you need to have a certain level of exposure to the arts, in whatever form, to contribute a valid opinion about a piece of art. But one's reaction to a piece of art is always one's own. My belief is that criticism is a thorough and complete examination of a personal reaction. You don't need a bunch of classes and degrees and magazine articles to your credit and book titles to your credit to have a valid opinion about something that you experience -- you just have to be able to think about what you're seeing and to say what you feel. That has always been my contention. Anyone can get into the heavy stuff -- it just takes a little bit of effort, and, sadly, most people are not conditioned to think about the things they read/see/hear. (I guarantee you that if everyone in this country were to take a course in basic film editing techniques, they'd look at the nightly news a whole lot differently. But I digress.)

But what I think Schickel is reacting to, mostly, is the overwhelming glut of crappy writing out there. And it's true -- lots of blogs have a lot of shitty writing. Including mine. But if the Internet is now the public forum par excellence, then maybe us bloggers need to step up to the plate and take greater responsibility for the things that we dash off. If we're the future, let's earn that mantle. Be able to justify everything -- every factual error, every comma splice, everything. Without the peer-to-peer system that an editor brings to the table, most bloggers are pissing into the wind because they have no one to guide them. Let's think a bit further ahead and start learning how to guide ourselves. Look at a posting before you hit "Publish" and go, is this the best that I can do? Is it really? This ain't set in stone -- this is the Internet, after all -- but can I see myself in 10 years holding my head up and going, yeah, I stand by that?

Ted Pigeon said...

Great points, Jason. I most definitely am not on a the "Go Blogs!" bandwagon just because I strongly criticez Schickel. I actually think he is right on target in many ways. The only place he misteps is in his focused attack on blog writing, which he seems to think is all bad. While I would agree with him that much of blog writing is inconsequential and without worth, some of it isgood, some of it very good. But I think the nature of the medium of internet age writing and countless other aspects contributing to electronic communities does not lend itself to strong, intelligent criticism, but rather cheap opinions.

I see Schickel's point in that regard. I think many of these things are intrinsic to the medium itself, as an alternative to peer-reviewed journals and other forms of publishing. But there can exist disorganizations among these organizations. If one can recgonize the weaknesses of this medium, and there are many, she or he can bring the strengths of the published writing medium to this medium and combine them with its strengths, the biggest being the level of interaction and heightened environment for discourse. The most successfull bloggers are ones who have background in writing for publication, and they have shown that a unique combination of these very different media sensibilities can mesh well together under the right circumstances and result in a truly progressive form of criticism.

Damian said...

Wow. This is great, fellas. Thanks for keeping the conversation going here on my blog. I wasn't sure if this post was going to receive any responses (since there wasn't much "meat" to it) but here there's a whole discussion going on. It does my heart good.

I just now realized that I would love to hear what Andy Horbal has to say about all this. He's probably done more thinking film criticism than anyone else I know and I'm sure he'd have some input.


Thanks for sharing this post Jason. I recently read similar comments at Alliance of Women Film Journalists from a bunch of female film critics that deeply bothered me. In particular Maitland McDonagh who I used to respect a lot and now... not so much.

It seems there is a rising wave of anti-blogger attitudes coming from established older critics who feel threatened by bloggers. I wrote a very long response which I posted on my own blog and later removed, because I thought it was a bit negative. In other words, I lost my nerve. Maybe I should reconsider posting it again.

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