Friday, April 25, 2008

The State of Film Criticism

What: Panel discussion on the State of Film Criticism
Where: Tent City at the Maryland Film Festival (across from the Charles theater)
When: Sunday May 4th, 2008 in the Panel Tent
Who: Michael Sragow (Baltimore Sun), Chris Kaltenbach (Baltimore Sun), Lee Gardner (City Paper). Moderator: Mike White

Which brings us to "Why" -- Apparently there's something in the air at the moment as this discussion seems to key in well with a recent event at New York's Moving Image Institute which began an interesting dialog about this subject which I hope to follow up on during this panel discussion.

Check out some of the coverage of the event over at Shooting Down Pictures and SpoutBlog:

Compare the above to some of the speaking points I have jotted down (some may be cryptic but they make sense to me):

  • DIY criticism (blogs, imdb, amazon, forums, epinions, etc.)
  • Salon versus AICN
  • Magazines as collectibles (Lost, Dr Who, Star Trek, etc.)
  • Distribution systems suck. Are Magazines/journals on their last legs?
  • Books (tie ins, biographies, film guides, scripts, a few actual attempts at re-viewing. Intentional hyphen.)
  • Cheapening the "Brand" (continuity mistakes and Easter eggs, Top ten lists)
  • Criticism versus reviews versus theory versus semantic masturbation
  • Confusion of film reviews versus film criticism. Thumbs aren't theories.

Now that I know who the folks on the panel are, I'm going to have to do a little research. I've had the pleasure of listening to Kaltenbach in the past when he's introduced Sunday Movies at the Charles and I don't think he views himself as "Critical Royalty," but I'll be curious to ask him and the others about their attitudes when it comes to plebeian film reviewers.

I'm pretty sure that I fit into that category though I feel that I'm more in a grey area between the bloggers and the floggers, that I was in my little zine ghetto for so long that I missed the populist revolution while still in the mindset of "Kill Yr Idols" where I rejected many of the pillars of the film criticism pantheon while trying to hoe my own row. That's not to say that my bookshelves aren't littered with works by Gerald Peary, Molly Haskell, Andrew Sarris, etc. (three of the speakers at the MII event). There are writers whose works I enjoy, those who I respect, and even those who fit into both categories. I just never felt beholden to the Paulene Kaels of the world (though I'll hand it to the gal for also disliking SHOAH).

It's ironic that only now, after all these years, I finally have started to set my sights on trying to fit in with the misfits. I made a list of the few magazines who are still kicking and whose work I respect. I dropped them all a copy of Cashiers du Cinemart #15 and a cover letter asking about lending my pen to their pages. So far, the return tally has been exactly one. I'm hoping to hear from more of these fine rags soon though I have the fear that, like with CineAction and that I'll be too lowbrow for one publication but too highbrow for another. I need to find me a few good "midbrow" magazines who'll love my assbackwards awkward style.

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