Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Movie Clubs and Critiquing Criticism

This year's participants: Chicago Reader's Jonathan Rosenbaum Variety and L.A. Weekly's Scott Foundas, The New York Times' A.O. Scott, along with Slate's own David Edelstein.

I'm quite fond when people try to define what film criticism, even if I disagree with them completely, and so this quote — by Rosenbaum of Graham Greene — pleased me immensely:

"Film criticism, more than any other form of criticism except perhaps that of the novel, is a compromise. The critic, as much as the film, is supposed to entertain, and the great public is not interested in technicalities. The reader expects a series of dogmatic statements: he is satisfied ... with being told what is good and what is bad. If he finds himself often enough in agreement with the critic, he is content. It never occurs to him to ask why the critic thought this film good and that film bad, any more than it occurs to him to question his own taste...What I object to is the idea that it is the critic's business to assist films to fulfill a social function. The critic's business should be confined to the art."

Everyone on this blog is a critic, and I ask them: are we entertainers? Just for the sake of argument and going wildly off-topic, here's Roger Ebert's definition:

"The critic has to be the ideal viewer, not the ideal director or writer or actor. He has to be presumably the most interested and alert and involved person in the audience. And he has to be able to write about what he has experienced in such a way that the public and the artist can learn something about what happened by reading his piece.

And, if you're curious, here's mine, in handy mathematical formula form:

"Criticism = Evaluation + Interpretation"

Read: Slate's Movie Club


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