Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Nobody likes a cranky critic,people!

Today in the NY Times art section,we've got two examples of grumpy critics-first,in the book review section Michiko Katukani out and out spoils the plot of Scott Smith's new book,The Ruins,starting with the tagline of her review! While she acknowledges that Smith has talent,she stomps all over the book,gleefully giving away the big secret of the story like the Evil Drive-By Spoiler for the sixth Harry Potter book. Check it out for yourself(but only if you've already read the book or don't care):

Michiko is well known for her venomous reviews but to totally ruin(no pun intended)the story like that is terrible. The Ruins has been getting quite a bit of buzz,especially since it's been 13 years since Smith's last novel,A Simple Plan. You don't have to like the book just because everyone else does but there's no need to spoil it for those who might want to check it out for themselves! That's just evil,impolite and evvilll!!!

Also,in the movie section,film critic A.O.Scott has a big article about why films like "Pirates of the Carribean: Dead Man's Chest" and "The Da Vinci Code" are such a big hit with audiences,despite the massive amounts of critical disaproval. Let's let the man speak for himself:

"For the second time this summer, then, my colleagues and I must face a frequently — and not always politely — asked question: What is wrong with you people? I will, for now, suppress the impulse to turn the question on the moviegoing public, which persists in paying good money to see bad movies that I see free. I don’t for a minute believe that financial success contradicts negative critical judgment; $500 million from now, “Dead Man’s Chest” will still be, in my estimation, occasionally amusing, frequently tedious and entirely too long. But the discrepancy between what critics think and how the public behaves is of perennial interest because it throws into relief some basic questions about taste, economics and the nature of popular entertainment, as well as the more vexing issue of what, exactly, critics are for."

He does say later on in the article that this is not a new phenomeneon and goes back as far as the 1980s with such examples as Top Gun,Crocodile Dundee and Karate Kid II. The end paragraph here is what truly irks me:

"So why review them? Why not let the market do its work, let the audience have its fun and occupy ourselves with the arcana — the art — we critics ostensibly prefer? The obvious answer is that art, or at least the kind of pleasure, wonder and surprise we associate with art, often pops out of commerce, and we want to be around to celebrate when it does and to complain when it doesn’t. But the deeper answer is that our love of movies is sometimes expressed as a mistrust of the people who make and sell them, and even of the people who see them. We take entertainment very seriously, which is to say that we don’t go to the movies for fun. Or for money. We do it for you."

You do it for us-how very noble of you,indeed! Look,I get the frustration factor here-I don't get why Superman Returns is at fourth place on the box office list with crap like Little Man and You,Me and Dupree right before it. But,hey,maybe folks are superheroed out at the moment or due to all the recent news about certain parts of the world blowing each other up,people just want to chill out and have some laughs.

Or it could be as simple as really persistant advertising paying off-the point is,there's no way to know. The art world is more of a gamble than the stock market. Some things strike the right cord at the right time,while others don't or do so later on down the line. It's gone even farther back than the eighties;when It's A Wonderful Life first came out,it was a bomb both with critics and audiences alike. That movie recieved the acclaim it now has due to repeated televison viewings and folks rediscovering the story for themselves. While it would be nice to have everyone in accord,there's this thing called individual taste. There's an audience for everything. Just look at Ed Wood's career or the Rocky Horror Picture Show or even Fear Factor. Some things you're never going to talk everyone out of.

And is it such a shocker than Dead Man's Chest made major money here? Come on,it's a sequel to a movie that no one expected to do well in the first place! I have no doubt that it's too long and overdone;so was Curse of the Black Pearl and folks just ate up like free pancakes from IHOP. It's a critic proof movie just like DVC;no matter what anyone wrote or said,it was destined to rake in box office gold. A.O.,dude,just get over it. It's the nature of the beast. Also,you sound a tad condescending there and that's not a help to your argument.

A good way to cheer up is to read The Filthy Critic,a grouchy film reviewer who use his powers of strong language and wrath at bad movies for good rather than evil. Just click the title link to see his take on POTC:DMC and you'll see a shining example of how crankiness should be served up,with style.


PJS said...

UGH, these smug, self-appointed tastemakers... would-be dictators flabbergasted by divergent opinion.

This guy's quotes here remind me so much of Ellsworth Toohey in "The Fountainhead", although this guy is blatantly elitist and anti-populist.

This is the kind of self-referential, lives-in-a-bubble doofus who says things like "How could Bush possibly have won, I don't know a single person who voted for him".

(I'm paraphrasing another movie critic, Pauline Kael; I think she was talking about Nixon.)

lady t said...

Now Pauline Kael,there was a real critic! Even if you disagreed with everything she said,you still appreciated her p.o.v. and she showed respect for the audience.

Yeah,Ellsworth Toohey,most definately. I really liked The Fountainhead years ago but Atlas Shrugged got too preachy for my taste(never understood the whole "A is A" thing).

PJS said...

I basically agree with you about "Fountainhead" vs. "Shrugged". I'd ramble on further, but that just happens to be the topic of today's upcoming post. Sort of.