This shit made me think of Pauline Kael’s line “In the arts, the critic is the only independent source of information. The rest is advertising.” When Thomas Doherty published his article “The Death of Film Criticism” a few months back, people came spilling out of the movie blogosphere’s woodwork to point out how deeply dopey it was in light of all the talented film crit available in different media today. (Now, professional movie reviewing can be seen suffering, but that’s a distinction which Doherty never makes.) The ensuing pile-on was to be expected, partly because bloggers like to flail away at things, but mainly because Doherty’s argument was insane—not only is film criticism not doing badly, it’s healthier than it’s ever been. It didn’t help either that Doherty made his case out of both corners of his mouth: read it closely and you’ll see he never says that film criticism is done for—the jury’s still out, I guess—but that other people say so, and here’s a little (though not much) evidence to back them up, with a closing line to the effect of “It’d be a shame if it’s true, wahh.” Obviously he wrote it that way to cover himself from the shitstorm that he knew must arrive, which only makes me wonder why someone who can anticipate both the content and the venom of the rebuttals headed his way would continue plodding ahead with his thesis. Of course he’s getting paid, but presumably he would’ve gotten paid just as well for writing something that isn’t demonstrably false and which wouldn’t generate personal attacks against himself and his descendants lo unto the seventh generation, all of which leads me to the conclusion that Thomas Doherty is both a fool and a masochist.
Anyway, Glenn Kenny (who, incidentally, thinks Shutter Island rates being mentioned in the same breath with Vertigo, and, I’m sorry, that too is simply incorrect) and a host of other bloggers, instead of just dismissing Doherty’s article with a “Hmph! What a conspicuously fallible argument the man makes!,” instead chose to go full-monty ape-shit about it. More to the point, none of them turned the discourse towards what still seems a very logical progression of such a conversation, to wit, how all the movie love that’s out there can be translated into getting better movies made. One way, I’d suggest, would be not to supply free merchandising ad copy for the studios in the New York Times, and another would be to not gas up empty garbage like Shutter Island. In fact, Scorsese is sort of ground-zero for what I’m talking about. In My Voyage to Italy and his DVD commentaries, the man talks the talk like no man alive: he understands exactly how movies work and what makes them special, and his taste is nearly impeccable. And yet if you shove a camera into his hands, he comes back with a 130-minute episode of The Twilight Zone.
I did find one good thing thanks to Shutter Island, though: