Film Criticism

A subforum to discuss film culture and criticism both old and new, as well as memorializing public figures we've lost.
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ando
Bringing Out El Duende
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Re: Film Criticism

#1151 Post by ando » Thu Jan 14, 2021 1:01 pm

Maltic wrote:
Wed Jan 13, 2021 2:52 am
"Tarantino hinted at the places she took readers but that should have been the starting point."

As I recall, Tarantino talks about Kael's ability to find "plot holes" and ridicule a film on that basis, which would seem to make her a precursor not to Hoberman, but to Everything That's Wrong With and other such fan channels on youtube...
If you wan't to call that a well reasoned deduction, why not?

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Maltic
Joined: Sat Oct 10, 2020 1:36 am

Re: Film Criticism

#1152 Post by Maltic » Thu Jan 14, 2021 2:10 pm

ando wrote:
Thu Jan 14, 2021 1:01 pm
Maltic wrote:
Wed Jan 13, 2021 2:52 am
"Tarantino hinted at the places she took readers but that should have been the starting point."

As I recall, Tarantino talks about Kael's ability to find "plot holes" and ridicule a film on that basis, which would seem to make her a precursor not to Hoberman, but to Everything That's Wrong With and other such fan channels on youtube...
If you wan't to call that a well reasoned deduction, why not?

Well, there isn't a lot to go on, admittedly. I've twice heard QT describe very briefly what he likes about Kael (in this documentary and on a podcast), and that was what it came down to for him, it seemed.

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Black Hat
Joined: Thu Nov 24, 2011 5:34 pm
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Re: Film Criticism

#1153 Post by Black Hat » Sun Jan 17, 2021 4:00 am

Kael being polarizing undoubtedly made her a phenomenon of her time, but it's the same thing that's cost her a bit of her legacy. I mean she's not around anymore to respond right? While I'm admittedly a Kael fan, big surprise there, the Kael shade especially with the post Paulette generation has really lost the plot. I'm not sure if it's out of bitterness, jealousy or what but the bottom line is she's an extremely entertaining, engaging and fun writer which, before you get to anybody's opinions, should be the standard.

Somewhat tangentially the generation of critics which came up in the 90s include a lot of Manny Farber acolytes who have successfully managed to give him an after life prominence (at the expense of Kael) that isn't all that deserved. I've read Farber, or at least tried, quite a bit and while his essays are at times good, his film writing is just a long rambling tedious bore. His writing vibe is like a Bill Belichick presser except most of the time you don't get the sense he cared all that much about movies or even liked the art form. In fact it's my understanding that he didn't and yet so many prominent critics have cited him as a major influence which I find completely nuts. At least Kael gave a shit.

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Red Screamer
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Re: Film Criticism

#1154 Post by Red Screamer » Sun Jan 17, 2021 3:13 pm

I'll take the bait and say that Farber is an exceptionally perceptive and funny critic with a barreling prose style Kael could never touch. I was cracking up recently at his review of Mildred Pierce, though I'm more of a fan of the film than he is:
Director Curtiz can produce scenes as phony as the one in the police room, in which an attempt to dramatize ordinary noises makes the unfolding of a newspaper sound like a decrepit garage door being opened; and shots as vulgar as the one of a seduction, which moves from an embrace to a mirrored wall, where there is the embrace again. No one else today, save possibly Victor Fleming, could direct a scene to rival dime-store art like the one at the end of this movie, in which Mildred leaves the police station, passes some charwomen arranged as though in a Millet painting, joins with her first husband in a movement suitable to a coronation, and then walks with him toward the outside world, which is composed and painted with dazzling cheapness.
In The Rhapsodes, David Bordwell argues that Farber was the first American critic with a strong pictorial sensibility. Throughout his film writing, Farber nails down particular visual styles in precise, vivid terms without resorting to cliche. This later review of The End of Summer, for example, has one of the best descriptions of Ozu's color style that I know. Check out the Bordwell if you're really curious (in which you'll find Farber's love of film traced, from B crime movies to the avant-grade and so on), but I don't think your portrait of the critic holds much weight.

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Black Hat
Joined: Thu Nov 24, 2011 5:34 pm
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Re: Film Criticism

#1155 Post by Black Hat » Sun Jan 17, 2021 7:35 pm

Indeed. Bordwell, tho older than the 90s crew, was one of the critics I was referring to regarding Kael erasure. It wasn't my intent to make this a dick measuring contest between the two. This was really what my critique was about more than anything. As I said I like a few of Farber's essays, his film criticism like the one you quoted from doesn't do much for me as I find much of it to be pedantic and largely pointless, but I understand why that wouldn't bother people. The larger issue I have with him is how he garnered all this respect despite not really liking the art form and on some level I think that's messed up.

Someone Bordwell brought to my attention was Parker Tyler, I've found his writing to be extremely compelling.

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Red Screamer
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Re: Film Criticism

#1156 Post by Red Screamer » Sun Jan 17, 2021 9:15 pm

I don't see where you're getting that characterization from, tho. Farber wrote about movies in various modes for something like three decades when it wasn't particularly fashionable or profitable and later taught film as well. All evidence points to him being a voracious cinephile.

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Black Hat
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Re: Film Criticism

#1157 Post by Black Hat » Sun Jan 17, 2021 11:07 pm

I've heard critics who were both fans of his and friends speak of how films weren't his real passion, art was. Don't quote me on this but I think Rosenbaum did a series on his blog a few years ago about Farber's life where this was discussed and, at least to me, the lack of passion for cinema comes through in his writing. I'm also pretty sure this was mentioned in the introduction to the Library of America collection of his work. To reiterate I'm not dismissing Farber's contributions by any means, but I do think a group of today's critics, who happen to be very influential, have for whatever reason taken it upon themselves to rewrite history in his favor at the expense of Kael.

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Maltic
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Re: Film Criticism

#1158 Post by Maltic » Sun Jan 17, 2021 11:41 pm

Meanwhile, here's Dave Kehr's take on the two of them, back in 2001 :)

S: Was Manny Farber an influence at all?
D: No, he was an interesting writer and a great phrasemaker, but I don’t know what he’s talking about half the time. I came to him pretty late, when my sensibility was already formed. Farber was out of print for a long time, as dog-eared copies of Negative Space were passed around. Jonathan and Jim both love him, but he’s never had that much to say to me.
S: It’s difficult to be influenced by him, because when I’ve read people try to imitate him, it usually comes off terribly.
D: I know a few people who have tried to do it, and it’s pretty embarrassing. It’s such a distinctive voice, and it’s also a ’50s voice. Coming out of a 35-year-old guy in the 21st century, it’s silly.

S: Do you have as much “love” for Pauline Kael as most of the Sarris camp?
D: I used to see her once in a while. She was very entertaining and charismatic, with an amazing sense of humor. You could certainly see her charm. As a critic, I’ve rarely agreed with her judgment or her approach. In some ways, she did a lot of harm. Oddly, her influence has become all the more present after she retired, as her acolytes have spread all over. It’s the same voice: mildly amused, a little condescending, seeing “trashy” and “sexy” as the highest praise you can give. That’s the tone editors want. There’s nothing too intimidating about it. It’s kind of sarcastic, hip and glib.
S: She’s better as a prose stylist than a thinker.
D: She’s a damn good writer. Is she a thinker? I don’t know. She described acting styles better than anyone I’ve ever read. But I’ve never seen her dig any ideas out of a movie or dig into its structure beyond “I like this guy and I don’t like this guy.”

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Black Hat
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Re: Film Criticism

#1159 Post by Black Hat » Mon Jan 18, 2021 12:00 am

ha, no lies told. The point he makes about how she would write about acting is an excellent one. Acting is the one thing above everything else critics are pretty terrible at describing and besides her talents as a stylist is the one thing that places Kael over everyone else.

Who is S and Jim?

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Maltic
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Re: Film Criticism

#1160 Post by Maltic » Mon Jan 18, 2021 12:16 am

In fairness, I'm not sure she could've described acting styles "better than anyone" without having at least a few "ideas" about cinema. So, Kehr is being a little glib, himself.

S is Steve Erickson

https://www.sensesofcinema.com/2001/fea ... cles/kehr/

Jim is probably Hoberman

Revelator
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Re: Film Criticism

#1161 Post by Revelator » Wed Jan 20, 2021 2:46 am

Black Hat wrote:
Sun Jan 17, 2021 4:00 am
Kael being polarizing undoubtedly made her a phenomenon of her time, but it's the same thing that's cost her a bit of her legacy. I mean she's not around anymore to respond right? While I'm admittedly a Kael fan, big surprise there, the Kael shade especially with the post Paulette generation has really lost the plot. I'm not sure if it's out of bitterness, jealousy or what
The release of Mank occasioned a fresh round of this, with Raising Kane continually referred to by critics and journalists as as debunked, plagiaristic crap. To a considerable extent Kael brought this latest round of posthumous obloquy on herself fair and square, because she was completely wrong about Welles not being involved with the script, didn't credit Howard Suber for his research, and her own research was sloppy and one-sided.

On the other hand, there are still great observations in that essay (as in everything she wrote), on Mankiewicz, Toland, 30s comedies, Broadway, Hearst's empire, Kane's theatricality, etc. And perhaps I'm alone in thinking so, but her tone toward Welles, while obviously disapproving in regard to credit, isn't vituperative--she viewed Welles as someone who could have revolutionized Hollywood the way she thought Griffith revolutionized early film, but who was derailed early on by the industry. And I don't think anyone would argue with assertions such as "[Citizen Kane’s] “bravura is, I think, the picture’s only true originality, and it wasn’t an intentional challenge to the concept of unobtrusive technique but was (mainly) the result of Welles’s discovery of—and his delight in—the fun of making movies.” Or “Though Mankiewicz provided the basic apparatus for it, that magical exuberance which fused the whole scandalous enterprise was Welles’s.”

Or “Citizen Kane is a film made by a very young man of enormous spirit; he took the Mankiewicz material and he played with it, he turned it into a magic show. It is Welles’s distinctive quality as a movie director—I think it is his genius—that he never hides his cleverness, that he makes it possible for us not only to enjoy what he does but to share his enjoyment in doing it…No other director in the history of movies has been so open in his delight, so eager to share with us the game of pretending.”

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Black Hat
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Re: Film Criticism

#1162 Post by Black Hat » Wed Jan 20, 2021 5:09 am

Ah! That's such a great point thank you. I've never read the Citizen Kane book so it might as well not exist in my world, but you're write up here has me inspired to change that.


Constable
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Re: Film Criticism

#1164 Post by Constable » Mon Jan 25, 2021 10:13 am

Are there any film critics, past or present, who've had a notably unorthodox view on films in the sense of which films they rate highly and which they don't. Specifically, I'd be most interested in ones that would take a negative view of art film or generally films typically held in high regard, but I'd be interested in any kind of divergence from the orthodox view (of course, not on the topic of an individual film, but someone whose general sensibility diverges from the norm).

I know Armond White is one such example. Are there any other?

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knives
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Re: Film Criticism

#1165 Post by knives » Mon Jan 25, 2021 10:26 am

Bosley Crowthers.

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bottlesofsmoke
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Re: Film Criticism

#1166 Post by bottlesofsmoke » Mon Jan 25, 2021 11:44 am

Maybe not what you’re looking for, but David Thomson hates almost all of Chaplin, Capra, Ford, Kubrick, Tarkovsky, and Fellini, and to a lesser extent Hitchcock, Lean, Wilder, Pasolini, post-Kane Welles, Wyler, Stevens, Scorsese, and Gilliam. And those are just the ones I can remember off the top of my head, it’s been a long time since I’ve read any of his stuff.

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Mr Sausage
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Re: Film Criticism

#1167 Post by Mr Sausage » Mon Jan 25, 2021 11:50 am

Ray Carney is, er, what’s a polite term for it? Eclectic? Idiosyncratic? Something like that.

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domino harvey
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Re: Film Criticism

#1168 Post by domino harvey » Mon Jan 25, 2021 12:00 pm

The Cahiers Young Turks. Of course, because they were so influential, many of the filmmakers they champion seem like establishment picks because they changed the establishment

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Big Ben
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Re: Film Criticism

#1169 Post by Big Ben » Mon Jan 25, 2021 12:37 pm

Mr Sausage wrote:
Mon Jan 25, 2021 11:50 am
Ray Carney is, er, what’s a polite term for it? Eclectic? Idiosyncratic? Something like that.
Seconded, although I would add elitist on occasion too. I think the part about Carney that rubbed me the wrong way was his persistent belief that art could only be one very specific thing. His recommended film lists had movies on them that were not readily accessible to the average person which certainly made things difficult if you wanted to watch certain things that Carney deemed "good". He also for whatever reason tries very hard to be the only authority on John Cassavetes and the discussions that arose from those attempts to muscle out others could get pretty unpleasant at times. His site is certainly something too.
Last edited by Big Ben on Mon Jan 25, 2021 1:05 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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dustybooks
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Re: Film Criticism

#1170 Post by dustybooks » Mon Jan 25, 2021 1:01 pm

If you're starved for new Carney content, don't forget he reviews stuff on Amazon occasionally. Here's what he has to say about Certain Women:
One of the greatest contemporary works of art, and in my personal view, Kelly Reichardt's finest work so far. But if you're used to (or fond of) popular entertainment and wary of new ways of thinking and feeling (as appears to describe more than a few of the reviewers on this page), "save your money" as one of them puts it; you're not ready, willing, or able to appreciate something this deeply, subtly, sensitively beautiful and insightful; stay with the kind of mainstream pop-culture presentation you're used to. You'll be happier and you'll make your friends and family happier. But if you are ready for an education in how to see and feel and think about complex inward spiritual and emotional experiences, this is the place for you to have a great adventure, the greatest of adventures, an adventure of consciousness.
My favorite way of convincing someone a film is great is to remind them how stupid and shallow they are if they don't like it.

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domino harvey
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Re: Film Criticism

#1171 Post by domino harvey » Mon Jan 25, 2021 1:07 pm

One of my favorite things about Ray Carney (and it's a very short list) is that alongside all the Mumblecore-adjacent indies he champions, he is also a huge fan and author of a book on the King of Hollywood Schmaltz, Frank Capra. I mean, I like a lot of Capra too, but cognitive dissonance much?

EDIT Also, don't forget our classic thread

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hearthesilence
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Re: Film Criticism

#1172 Post by hearthesilence » Mon Jan 25, 2021 1:43 pm

dustybooks wrote:
Mon Jan 25, 2021 1:01 pm
If you're starved for new Carney content, don't forget he reviews stuff on Amazon occasionally. Here's what he has to say about Certain Women:
One of the greatest contemporary works of art, and in my personal view, Kelly Reichardt's finest work so far. But if you're used to (or fond of) popular entertainment and wary of new ways of thinking and feeling (as appears to describe more than a few of the reviewers on this page), "save your money" as one of them puts it; you're not ready, willing, or able to appreciate something this deeply, subtly, sensitively beautiful and insightful; stay with the kind of mainstream pop-culture presentation you're used to. You'll be happier and you'll make your friends and family happier. But if you are ready for an education in how to see and feel and think about complex inward spiritual and emotional experiences, this is the place for you to have a great adventure, the greatest of adventures, an adventure of consciousness.
My favorite way of convincing someone a film is great is to remind them how stupid and shallow they are if they don't like it.
Isn't that always the best approach with everything?

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mizo
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Re: Film Criticism

#1173 Post by mizo » Mon Jan 25, 2021 3:36 pm

domino harvey wrote:
Mon Jan 25, 2021 1:07 pm
One of my favorite things about Ray Carney (and it's a very short list) is that alongside all the Mumblecore-adjacent indies he champions, he is also a huge fan and author of a book on the King of Hollywood Schmaltz, Frank Capra. I mean, I like a lot of Capra too, but cognitive dissonance much?
He loves Capra because Cassavetes loved Capra. I think he even calls him a Hollywood director with an indie spirit, or something like that.

Having seen him up close trying to analyze films, I really think Carney would probably have an appreciation for a lot of Hollywood cinema, if he weren't so damn dogmatic about "indie good, Hollywood bad." It's a position that I always feel like he came to in reverse - like he just has a personal preference for films that are scrappy and improvisatory, but rather than admit it's a preference, he's reverse-engineered a whole (flimsy) critical apparatus that argues those films are real cinema and everything with a style that doesn't match his own tastes is simplistic garbage. When he's praising the films he likes, it's often pretty easy to imagine those same words being applied to films he attacks. He probably would praise them, if he could take off those ideological blinders

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Sternhalma Weinstein
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Re: Film Criticism

#1174 Post by Sternhalma Weinstein » Mon Jan 25, 2021 9:34 pm

domino harvey wrote:
Mon Jan 25, 2021 1:07 pm
One of my favorite things about Ray Carney (and it's a very short list) is that alongside all the Mumblecore-adjacent indies he champions, he is also a huge fan and author of a book on the King of Hollywood Schmaltz, Frank Capra. I mean, I like a lot of Capra too, but cognitive dissonance much?

EDIT Also, don't forget our classic thread
What is his general take on Capra? I think Capra's work is rich enough to sustain a variety of interpretations, but what I've read from Carney seems reductive at best.

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Randall Maysin
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Re: Film Criticism

#1175 Post by Randall Maysin » Tue Jan 26, 2021 5:36 am

Constable wrote:
Mon Jan 25, 2021 10:13 am
a notably unorthodox view on films in the sense of which films they rate highly and which they don't
You probably know them already, but Pauline Kael and John Simon detested all sorts of canonized films. Their most dramatic divergence from established thinking I can think of offhand is that they both dumped on Fellinis 8 1/2, and also never, or barely ever, gave a John Cassavetes movie a good review (both of which I love them for doing).....I think the two of them had a lot more in common than either might admit. There are tons of other examples too. If youre not very famiiar with them, be warned that theyre both not always the....nicest....film critics in the world.
Last edited by Randall Maysin on Tue Jan 26, 2021 12:36 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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