Monthly Archives: March 2006


I regard criticism as an art, and if in this country and in this age it is practiced with honesty, it is no more remunerative than the work of an avant-garde film artist. My dear anonymous letter writers, if you think it is so easy to be a critic, so difficult to be a poet or a painter or a film experimenter, may I suggest you try both? You may discover why there are so few critics, so many poets.

Pauline Kael, KPFA Broadcast, 1963

There aren’t many critics who could get away with a statement like that. They generally lack the cachet: criticism isn’t held in high esteem because it is seen as a by-product of art, rather than an expressive pursuit in itself. There is some justice in this, as even the best critics are there to serve the appreciation of the medium they are talking about, making it difficult to justify the consideration of their criticism as a piece of creative work with its own worth. As a result, critics are held in contempt by many, and writing about or discussing the quality of a critic’s work in any depth can be seen as a self-defeating exercise. What could be more of a redundant exercise than criticising critics, and thus putting yourself a level even further down in the hierarchy? To the extent they are thought about at all, then, critics tend to be seen as the bottom feeders of the artistic establishment. The general quality of film criticism has done little to change this perception: many media outlets take the view that basically anyone can review a movie, meaning that even the professional film reviewing sector has a very poor base standard. While the public’s interest in cinema ensures an audience for film criticism, most readers undoubtedly feel that if they were given the job they could write as good or better reviews themselves, and frequently they would be right. Against such a background, only a very assured and confident film critic could try to argue that criticism is an art in itself, rather than a subsidary pursuit. Yet if anyone could ever make such a claim, it was Pauline Kael.

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Get this to the Boys in Marketing

This is old news, around on the net for ages, but Ain’t it Cool just ran a link to a pseudo-trailer for Samuel L. Jackson’s upcoming thriller, and I just had to mention it, because this film may have the best title ever. (Even better than Werner Herzog’s Even Dwarves Started Small).

The concept of the film is that an assassin lets loose hundreds of snakes on a plane to kill a witness in a trial, causing the usual disaster movie thriller havoc. The title?

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Some quick, unstructured thoughts on the Oscars and the broadcast (somewhat belatedly – stupid day job)…

– I was barracking for Brokeback and am disappointed that it didn’t win. However, I can’t really comment on the justice of the surprise decision, as Crash was the only one of the nominees I hadn’t seen. I didn’t think there was any point: while I made a point of seeing Capote last weekend, I wasn’t that fussed about getting a DVD of Crash out, as I assumed it wasn’t a real chance. Quite apart from anything else, when was the last time a film from that early in the year won the award? The main impression I had of it going into the awards was one of puzzlement that its makers thought it was okay to name their film Crash only nine years after David Cronenberg’s film of the same title.

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