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PostPosted: Thu Oct 11, 2007 10:45 am 
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Cold Bishop wrote:
domino harvey wrote:
I'll go one further: I think he's made exactly one good film, War of the Worlds.

Well, at risk of turning this into something that belongs in a Spielberg thread, I completely skipped out on that after the word-of-mouth I heard. Should I reconsider?

Well, it appears you and I share an appreciation for Spielberg's more recent films (though The Terminal might be his worst film), rather than his early stuff, so I would whole-heartedly endorse War of the Worlds. The entire terrorism/invasion/occupation angel is kind of muddled, but it's still fascinating and the film is well worth watching at least once. Just remember to treat Dakota Fanning's endless shrieking as if it was part of the alien audio, otherwise she's really tough to take.


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PostPosted: Fri Oct 12, 2007 12:08 pm 
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Insight into the pesky question of the queen bee and her drones may be gleaned from this interview with David Edelstein.


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PostPosted: Sat Oct 13, 2007 7:14 am 

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MattXFLexicon wrote:
While I agree she was very intelligent and a wonderful technical writer, I felt she was vastly overrated as a critic. Her death hasn't changed my opinion of her work and I had no desire to sanctify her. Especially considering her talent as a writer, tragically, I felt she squandered her talents by never attempting to write fiction or write and sell her own screenplay.

I don't get that at all. She did try writing some fiction (radio and stage plays, I believe) earlier in her life and didn't feel it was her platform as a writer. Criticising her for not being what you thought she should have been is ludicrous. Instead, she used other people's fictional work as a springboard for her own form of self-examination.

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Anyway, please feel free to fire away. There's a number of examples over why I felt she was off base more often than not.

I frequently find her judgements utterly mystifying. However, "she didn't like what I liked" is a worthless damnation, against any critic, however many ways it's coded (such as Woody Allen's "she has everything a great critic needs except judgement" or Rosenbaum's "she only saw things once and relied too much on gut instinct"). I don't see what's wrong about starting at one's immediate, most personal sensations towards a film or not wanting to go back and reassess films you didn't like or were lukewarm over because there's so much else to see in the meantime.


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PostPosted: Sat Oct 13, 2007 4:41 pm 
Narshty wrote:
I don't see what's wrong about starting at one's immediate, most personal sensations towards a film or not wanting to go back and reassess films you didn't like or were lukewarm over because there's so much else to see in the meantime.

That is absurd. I was averse to many of my favorite films (or any kind of art) the first time I encountered them. Maybe I'm slower than most, but I've found that revisiting difficult, perplexing or "simplistic" films is essential not only to understanding the works, but myself as well. Kael's reluctance to watch films twice is arrogant and adolescent, however astute her initial judgments of the films were.

One of my biggest problems with her approach is how she seems to view film as an "event" or experience, rather than an artifact.


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PostPosted: Sun Oct 14, 2007 5:20 am 
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One of my biggest problems with her approach is how she seems to view film as an "event" or experience, rather than an artifact.


Interesting. It seems odd to me not to view a film as an event or experience. Or rather, as artifacts, I don't think films are terribly interesting (they're just strips of plastic); it's only when we bring our own perspective and context to the experience of a film that it becomes either interesting or engaging, especially for contemporary films.


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PostPosted: Sun Oct 14, 2007 7:42 am 

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you gotta be kidding me wrote:
That is absurd. I was averse to many of my favorite films (or any kind of art) the first time I encountered them. Maybe I'm slower than most, but I've found that revisiting difficult, perplexing or "simplistic" films is essential not only to understanding the works, but myself as well.

To that I'd ask sincerely, who can honestly be bothered, with the best intentions in the world, to rewatch films they didn't much like to begin with two or three times in the hope they'll uncover a masterpiece? There are certain movies I wasn't thrilled to bits about the first time I watched them, but they had some mysterious spark that made me want to see them again. Rewatching movies again and again is not something that does a great deal for me. I can't think of any movie I've sat through more than about five times in total. You can easily wear a favourite film out, especially once you know it from start to finish and it lacks the surprise of any lovely moments you might have forgotten in the interim.

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Kael's reluctance to watch films twice is arrogant and adolescent, however astute her initial judgments of the films were.

Or the sign of a woman who, in her middle to late age, was aware enough of her own tastes to realise there was more to life than hammering away at the same movies that did little for her the first time around.

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One of my biggest problems with her approach is how she seems to view film as an "event" or experience, rather than an artifact.

But movies are events and experiences, especially when they're brand new, which is how Kael reviewed them - they don't exist in any kind of meaningful form unless they're being projected in some way (including video and digital mediums). You have to have that step of physical interaction to get anything from it at all.


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PostPosted: Sun Oct 14, 2007 8:26 am 
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I sort of agree with you gotta be kidding me's remark about revisiting films. I recently had a kind of epiphany experience with Jubilee after having watched it a number of times without getting much out of it at all. Who knows, maybe I will watch it again in the future and wonder why I got so much out of it that one time I saw it, and go back to considering it a poor film again; or maybe that is the start of discovering more and more from the film on repeated viewings, and liking it more and more.

That is one of the most fascinating things about films - that they don't change at all once their images and soundtracks, editing patterns and performances are recorded, but it is more that we the audience change over time and find films we once loved becoming unmemorable and films we hated suddenly become interesting. The best films seem to allow for that shift in their audience by revealing their facets over repeated viewings, or giving space for the viewer to project themselves and their feelings into the world of the film (even more mainstream films start to serve as small time capsules of their period as they get older, giving insights into the culture, dress, concerns of the time they were made etc).

One of the things I'm trying to use this forum for (and what I think people keep blogs for) is to keep a record of what I felt about a film at a particular time, and see if my reaction to it changes - I mostly want to post about the times I really loved a film, and what I most liked about it, to try to capture that feeling that I may lose in the future, so that if I do end up wondering why the hell I liked a particular film years from now I'll be able to read comments and see if I still agree with my past self's responses!

I can understand though about the "life's too short" argument about watching films repeatedly, especially when there are so many new films released each week to have new experiences with, but I really think just seeing a film once and only once shortchanges a viewer from having a more personal interaction with a piece of work than just seeing it once for the plot can do.

To use a rather simplistic analogy about films I'm not fond of(!), Spielberg and Lucas have revisited their films with a modern eye. However while Lucas tried to reject the original version of his films and replace them with new versions with all the changes he'd wanted to do or thought of doing over the intervening period, Spielberg changed his film (E.T.) but also included the original film in its original form in its DVD release because that was the original version produced by Spielberg of that age, with all the choices he made then to have guards carrying guns instead of walkie talkies, and technical limitations he may have had to face that he didn't twenty years later.

The same kinds of attitude could be applied to film criticism - if you change your mind about a film it doesn't override what you first thought about it, it just modifies your reaction with a different perspective. It doesn't mean you should completely disregard your original reaction, as that was your valid response at the time. What is fascinating is trying to understand what has changed, what you have got out of the film on this latest viewing, or alternatively why the film no longer seems to work for you. That is something I'd like to see more film critics doing, evaluating their writing and opinions rather than making a set in stone judgement and feeling the need to always have to defend it to keep the appearance of some sort of critical and emotional detachment from the works they are evaluating, even when they might privately have changed their minds about a films merits since their inital comments!

I think people are right to keep records of their reactions to a film, whether negative or positive, and their reasons for coming to their conclusions, but should also always be prepared to see a film later and have a completely different response. Who knows, I may even end up finding something interesting about Air Force Once if I see it again - it is extremely unlikely, but never say never! :)


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PostPosted: Sun Oct 14, 2007 11:54 am 
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My memory is faulty but didn't Kael revisit Bonnie and Clyde and change her previous negative review to a positive one? Or am I thinking of someone else?

In the 60s and 70s I was a Sarris disciple but I still went to the library every week to catch Kaels New Yorker reviews. I'm not nearly as opinionated on movies as most of you guys, and I always enjoy reading someone as articulate and perceptive as Kael explain her likes and dislikes. That she was a curmongendly contrarian made it more entertaining.

Her rave for Casualties of War was her most perplexing for me.


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PostPosted: Sun Oct 14, 2007 2:37 pm 
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you gotta be kidding me wrote:
Kael's reluctance to watch films twice is arrogant and adolescent, however astute her initial judgments of the films were.

One of my biggest problems with her approach is how she seems to view film as an "event" or experience, rather than an artifact.

Did you know that if you replace "Kael's" with "Bunuel's" and "her" with "his," your description would also apply to Bunuel's approach to the viewing of films? I'm not sure what that means or proves, but it struck me as interesting. (Of course, Bunuel wasn't a professional critic who got paid to watch movies.)


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PostPosted: Sun Oct 14, 2007 4:55 pm 
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Narshty wrote:
Quote:
Kael's reluctance to watch films twice is arrogant and adolescent, however astute her initial judgments of the films were.

Or the sign of a woman who, in her middle to late age, was aware enough of her own tastes to realise there was more to life than hammering away at the same movies that did little for her the first time around.

There was an interesting piece in a recent (the latest?) Cineaste that suggests that in at least one case Kael was reluctant to view a film to which she gave a negative review (Salt of the Earth) even once. If true, this goes way beyond arrogance.


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PostPosted: Sun Oct 14, 2007 5:08 pm 

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zedz wrote:
There was an interesting piece in a recent (the latest?) Cineaste that suggests that in at least one case Kael was reluctant to view a film to which she gave a negative review (Salt of the Earth) even once. If true, this goes way beyond arrogance.

I'm not sure what this means - she didn't want to see a movie she'd already reviewed and disliked?


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PostPosted: Sun Oct 14, 2007 5:28 pm 
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zedz wrote:
There was an interesting piece in a recent (the latest?) Cineaste that suggests that in at least one case Kael was reluctant to view a film to which she gave a negative review (Salt of the Earth) even once. If true, this goes way beyond arrogance.

Anything having to do with Salt of the Earth surely has to count as an exceptional example. Any movie that was vilified as the work of Communists on the floor of the U.S. Congress before it had even finished production was bound not to get a fair shake by most critics in the 1950s. Not one of Kael's finer moments, but she certainly wasn't the only one to mouth off about Salt of the Earth before she'd seen it.


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PostPosted: Sun Oct 14, 2007 7:01 pm 
Kael was out of her gourd in this regard. Understanding art involves accumulation - of knowledge, experience, etc. - it's a continual process. Any artist (or critic) who claims to finally have it "figured out" is some kind of fool.

Suppose you're priveleged enough to view Les Demoiselles d'Avignon in person at the age of 25. Love it or hate it, should you never view it again, either in person or even in the form of a reproduction? I'm not terribly impressed with Magnificent Ambersons (at least in its current, truncated form) but at least I've watched it three or four times over as many years to reconsider it.

I can forgive an artist (like the example given of Bunuel) not revisiting their own or even others' works because, however much craft and intellect is involved in making art, there is also a large amount of intuition (for lack of a better word... subconscious? etc.) involved as well.

It's not Kael's conclusions that bother me, it's her means of arriving at those conclusions. I don't care what she (or any other critic) likes or dislikes - I read criticism to gain various viewpoints about the work. But when her method is so... anti-analytical as to be childish, well I can't trust her.


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PostPosted: Sun Oct 14, 2007 7:09 pm 

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Joseph Morgenstern at Newsweek was the critic who panned Bonnie and Clyde and then reversed himself with a positive review the next week. There also was a negative review in Time followed shortly by a positive review but I do not know if both reviews were by the same critic.


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PostPosted: Sun Oct 14, 2007 7:59 pm 
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Kael wasn't an academic. She was a weekly professional movie critic. Her job was to review new movies. She probably spent considerable time watching alot of crappy movies. I can't say I blame her for not wanting to go down to the New Yorker after a day at work and reevaluate a 20 year old movie projected with a 20 year old print. Plus she lived most of her life before home video, which has totally changed the way people watch movies.

I can't believe I'm defending Pauline Kael. I wonder if she watched Citizen Kane more than once?


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PostPosted: Sun Oct 14, 2007 10:01 pm 
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Narshty wrote:
zedz wrote:
There was an interesting piece in a recent (the latest?) Cineaste that suggests that in at least one case Kael was reluctant to view a film to which she gave a negative review (Salt of the Earth) even once. If true, this goes way beyond arrogance.

I'm not sure what this means - she didn't want to see a movie she'd already reviewed and disliked?

The evidence suggests that she wrote her negative review without seeing the movie at all, but only having read about it (the textual evidence she presents in her review comes from the published screenplay and is not present in the actual film).

If this is true, I don't think any amount of mass hysteria exonerates a critic from panning a film she hasn't seen.


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PostPosted: Mon Oct 15, 2007 2:40 am 
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you gotta be kidding me wrote:
Kael was out of her gourd in this regard. Understanding art involves accumulation - of knowledge, experience, etc. - it's a continual process. Any artist (or critic) who claims to finally have it "figured out" is some kind of fool.

Suppose you're priveleged enough to view Les Demoiselles d'Avignon in person at the age of 25. Love it or hate it, should you never view it again, either in person or even in the form of a reproduction? I'm not terribly impressed with Magnificent Ambersons (at least in its current, truncated form) but at least I've watched it three or four times over as many years to reconsider it.

I can forgive an artist (like the example given of Bunuel) not revisiting their own or even others' works because, however much craft and intellect is involved in making art, there is also a large amount of intuition (for lack of a better word... subconscious? etc.) involved as well.

It's not Kael's conclusions that bother me, it's her means of arriving at those conclusions. I don't care what she (or any other critic) likes or dislikes - I read criticism to gain various viewpoints about the work. But when her method is so... anti-analytical as to be childish, well I can't trust her.

One thing in particular I like about this post is that it seems to me to make a pretty strong case for thinking about film as an experience and, well, a series of events, rather than as an artifact.


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PostPosted: Mon Oct 15, 2007 4:05 pm 

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you gotta be kidding me wrote:
It's not Kael's conclusions that bother me, it's her means of arriving at those conclusions. I don't care what she (or any other critic) likes or dislikes - I read criticism to gain various viewpoints about the work. But when her method is so... anti-analytical as to be childish, well I can't trust her.

Have you actually read any Pauline Kael? To call her "anti-analytical" is so wrong as to be practically surreal.

I find the overwhelmingly negative attitude to Kael on this thread very odd. Is it a new required standard among True Cineastes to dismiss her work out of hand?


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PostPosted: Mon Oct 15, 2007 4:19 pm 
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Well, I certainly don't dismiss her work. She was one of the few to properly appreciate Herbert Ross's great adaptation of Pennies from Heaven back in '81. If for no other reason I will always respect her for that.


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PostPosted: Thu Oct 18, 2007 12:18 pm 
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i love pauline kael. who the hell is manny farber?


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PostPosted: Thu Oct 18, 2007 12:22 pm 
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chizbooga wrote:
i love pauline kael. who the hell is manny farber?

from the Wikipedia write up, he sounds atrocious:
Quote:
In his essay White Elephant Art vs. Termite Art, which originally appeared in Film Culture, he writes on the virtues of "termite art" and the excesses of "white elephant art." In an essay originally published in 1962, he eloquently champions the B film and under-appreciated auteurs, which he felt were able, termite-like, to burrow into a topic. Bloated, pretentious, white elephant art lacks the economy of expression found in the greatest works of termite art.


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PostPosted: Thu Oct 18, 2007 12:24 pm 
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chizbooga wrote:
i love pauline kael. who the hell is manny farber?

google meet chizbooga, chizbooga meet google.


Last edited by Michael Kerpan on Thu Oct 18, 2007 12:39 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Thu Oct 18, 2007 12:30 pm 
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well, i get the impression that wikipedia is heavily biased in kael's favor. she has an enormous and very sympathetic entry compared to sarris or john simon or anybody.

what constitutes 'white elephant art'?


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PostPosted: Thu Oct 18, 2007 12:38 pm 
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Manny Farber Q+A wrote:
At your peak of movie watching, how many did you see a day?

I was lucky. I think I see about as many movies now as then. I only saw about two or three movies at the most per week, ever. That allowed me to concentrate on one movie. Why'd you ask that?

Why would anyone bother with a film critic who only saw 2-3 movies a week?


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PostPosted: Thu Oct 18, 2007 1:00 pm 
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Americans don't have critics. For me, there are only two, James Agee and Manny Farber. The rest are reviewers. - Jean-Luc Godard


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