Friday, July 16, 2010

Reactions to Stephanie Zacharek's review of "Inception," at Movieline

I thought the review was well written, well argued, and made sense. Still I might go see the movie anyway just to see what all the hoo ha is about. But I have to say the tone of the comments is kind of creepy. The general message seems to be: How dare this reviewer not love a movie I adored or even dumber how dare this reviewer not love a movie other critics really liked--although that remains to be seen I think.

Diversity of taste makes life reasonably interesting or so some of us like to think, apparently not too many in this crowd though. As for the tired all refrain that SZ hates all movies other critics love--just to be ornery apparently-- read her review of "The Kids Are All Right." It's a rave, thank heaven, because being independent of mind seems to be the worst of all possible sins. (LAFLEMM, response to post, Stephanie Zacharek, “Review: Is ‘Inception’ this year’s masterpiece? Dream on,” Movieline, 14 July 2010)

To fans of this site, independence of mind isn't the worst all possible sins -- though it could well be a substantial one, if many people here JUST NEED for certain beloved films to get the near 100% scores on Rotten Tomatoes or some such: vastly greater, in my judgment, would be to be the new chief critic of a site and espouse views on films which near explicitly "argue" that something is substantially wrong in the majority of people who regularly come here. Not just that your aesthetic sense is shallow, ill-informed, misdirected, in need of correction and work, that is, but that something about your core-self, your constitution, is rotten, making you beyond reform and more like a (future) stain on the earth.

Stephanie assessed "Dark Knight" as a "grim, predigested banquet." But if you went for it, it isn't so much that your TASTES were different from hers, but that your soul was / is. You fell in love with, obsessed over, found deep meaning / comfort in, processed food: the essential 3 /10 here assessed the movie as much as your evolution as a human being. I'm sure Stephanie herself would say (at least in person) that you're just of different tastes, that her opinion is simply her own, that it just didn't move HER -- as if you'd just shown yourself to be a laid-back west-coast "gal" while her own affinity is with the east: but you can't read her criticisms of films like "Dark Knight" or the Star Wars saga (exempting "Star Wars" [to some extent] and "Empire" [entirely]) and not fairly judge, that though her sights are on the films, that looking back and a glance she hasn't caught sight of you and recognized you as flies on shit.

Some of us who admire Stephanie's work wondered how this would go for her at Movieline. Personally, I thought it would be a bit like hiring a psychiatrist for a patient, who is without any intent to soften her repeated diagnosis that "with this, again, you've proved yourself fucked, gone, lost in a land so foul I have no interest in retrieving you, or knowing any more about it ... that'll be two hundred dollars, please." Kind of like a troll, I suppose, but really more like settling into a site its worst possible nightmare.

- - - - -

Like 95 percent of the people commenting on this review, I haven't seen Inception yet. Regardless of reading this review or others, I was always indifferent toward it given that I thought the trailer looked poor and I'm not particularly fond of Chris Nolan's previous films.

What is most striking here is the utter vitriol directed at a critic who has eloquently and honestly delivered her assessment of this film - highlighting problems which have been evident in this inanely overrated director's previous films.

I can only conclude from the tone and content of these comments that some people are just terrified of being made to look stupid, and these comments taken together with those being slopped on to the end of negative reviews elsewhere (as was the case the TDK) prove beyond all doubt that stupidity is certainly not painful, but may be contagious.

Especially on the internet.

Pete, Ireland (Pete, response to post)

Pete, a critique of a film is not just an evaluation of that film but of the film-goers that are drawn to it. So if a reviewer analyzes a film and concludes that it is the equivalent of fat, slow-witted and flatulent, s/he has effectively said something very telling and damning about those who see it and think they've found their god. There were a good number of times while watching Siskel and Ebert where you'd see that after one of them had finished their obliterating a film, the other would pause for a moment out of feeling shaken, out of being horribly offended. Siskel would finish his review of, say, "Casino," and effectively say that if you like this film you're way too easily pleased, a bore and a nincompoop, turn it over to Roger, and Roger would be begin by boring his eyeballs into Gene a bit -- far too hurt and stunned just to role on to his take -- and then eventually stutter out the equivalent of "I ... am ... not .... a ... nincompoop!" (and Gene would finish by saying, "if you like this film, then you are, Roger. Sorry, but you are.")

They were often MORALLY disappointed in one another, but remained friends, not just because they respected one another's independent opinion, but because neither was habitually inclined to like films the other could only see as appealing to absolute moral retrogrades. If Siskel was still alive and indicated that he actually rather liked (say)"Observe and Report" (which might have been the case), be sure their friendship would have been severely tested and possibly even over. Ebert likely would have told him to see a psychiatrist / priest -- and not just as a jest -- and you know that a few centuries earlier, they would have been honor-bound to have a go at shooting one another.

In hiring Stephanie, it may be that what Movieline has done is the equivalent of sitting a therapist in the company of a patient, have her listen pleasantly and nod agreeably to the enthusiasms of said patient who assumes that for her to be in his home and in his company she is likely to be his friend, and then, after taking copious notes, turn her pad over to her patient to read while she absconds off elsewhere to chat with someone a bit more sane. The patient reads the notes, learns that in their love (of the like of) "Dark Knight" they have revealed such lack of sanity and groundedness that, rather than bored by it, they lose themselves in its "alleged darkness and moral complexity"; are mentally undemanding enough to be impressed with lazy film-making; are so inherently base / low but ridiculously upwardly-aspiring that they see "genius" in "pretentious poot, dumped onto the screen in a style that pretends to be fresh and energetic but is really only semicoherent," and then (quite rightly) reacts as if they've been shat on. They scramble for some kind of self-esteem-rescuing retort, but are hampered by their feeling punked, by their feeling betrayed, and by their foe being no longer on the field for feeling no sympathy with it. They stutter out some interneteeze cursives anyway, which in this case draws upon them a few more (momentarily descending) aristocrat's mocking jeers -- which the site then highlights, in cooperation and affinity (what wit!) -- leaving them doubly taken aback and humiliated.

If Movieline knows its audience to be composed of those likely drawn to Nolan's works, then since they could have found a chief critic "of independent opinion" who sees something worthy in his works (not Ebert, of course, but his like), in hiring Stephanie they have effectively put the snob before the philistines, inducing them to wish her the christian amidst the lions. It may not be so much that they fear independent opinion, but that they don't like being laughed at. Not fair to the fans, nor to Stephanie. Its audience may be different than I'm taking it for. Hope that's the case.

Link: REVIEW: Is Inception This Year's Masterpiece? Dream On (Movieline)

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