February 3, 2005
A New Introduction:
In the last issue of The Paris Review, an interview with Tobias Wolff contained the following exchange:
INTERVIEWER: Have you written reviews?
WOLFF: Years ago, a few. But it's not an efficient use of my time. A really good critic has a distinct voice. I didn't....The other thing is, the older I get, the more I'm aware of how hard it is to write a book, for anybody, and I really didn't like giving ungrateful reviews.
I felt an immediate tinge of recognition when I read that, especially since I, lately, have once again been weighing my own love-hate feelings towards my own critical writings, which are generally far from being appropriately critical. I give mediocre films too much credit and very good films a hyperbolic amount of praise, and my reason for this is stated in that quote above: I don't like being - find it almost impossible to be - ungrateful.
In some cases, sentimentality becomes a problem, too. I was watching The Sound Of Music the other day, and found myself quite unwilling to even consider its flaws; in such cases, I'd actually rather remain in the dark.
So, I came close to closing the door on my reviews altogether not long ago, but ultimately didn't for two reasons: one being that the status of film critic affords me certain luxuries, and the other being that, while I don't ultimately want to do this forever, I do want to be able to think critically and academically about film, when and if I want to; and I want to be able to express those thoughts in refined and lucid prose, when and if I want to. If nothing else, it's an endeavor of personal betterment, more than anything else (one which people are free to read, of course).
In addition, I still just love writing about movies (that may be part of my problem - I also love praising them).
In the past year (beginning, I remember, with my review of Dogville) I've made a definite attempt to increase the quality of thought that I put into the writing, and the quality of writing has increased accordingly (conversely, the number of pieces I've written has gone down). Continuing in this trend, I've now done away with the last vestiges of that longstanding, clunky HTML code that marked this site's inception; from this point on, my reviews will be located here.
I have a few coding kinks to work out, but it's nonetheless fully functionable, fully searchable. The title is perhaps temporary; it's simply the first cliche that leaped to mind, and suggestions are welcome. Thus far, I've archived (and made minor corrections to) all reviews written throughout 2004, with a few leftovers from 2003 included as well. I'll likely add a few more, but beyond that, consider this a clean - and henceforth gramatically, syntactically, stylistically and (hopefully) idealogically improved - slate.
A final note: I understand that film reviews and film criticism are two entirely different, although not exclusive, concepts; while I hope to lean further towards the latter with my future writing, I'll continue to generally identify these efforts with the former. In my mind, it allows me a slight window of opportunity for excessively praising Episode III in three months (speaking of which, have you read the opening crawl? It's awesome!!!).
A second final note: it's odd how a simply having a nice font and page layout make the writing seem substantially better.
Posted by David Lowery at February 3, 2005 5:20 PM
A-men to that last post. I often find myself giving up criticism on a month-to-month basis, but always continue doing it as it provides me with free dvds, screenings, and what have you.
Again, it does take out time out of scriptwriting and preparing my own films, but I take pride in the fact that it's keeping me on my toes in regards to what I find worthwhile in films.
So, I say to you, as I tell myself every month: keep up with criticism, but only at your own pace. It's quite good, and I"m sure visitors to this website enjoy this section just as much as I do.
Posted by: Aaron at February 4, 2005 3:26 PM
Thank you, and likewise. BTW, your last post on your site made me very much want to read the novel Frenzy was based on...I'm a sucker for that sort of morbid detail.
Posted by: Ghostboy at February 5, 2005 1:33 AM
Well I can tell you this. (In fact I already did probably.) After seeing The Life Aquatic I went searching for a film review that resonated with my experience. I did not find it. I think what I was looking for was indeed an open-minded and open-hearted critique. (Not the alt-weekly variety, which is usually too cool to openly admit to liking anything.) So, imagine my relief reading your take.
I haven't seen "I ♥ Huckabees" yet, but I'll definitely, uhh, return to Returning the Gaze when I do.
I've been wanting to do a videoblog review of The Life Aquatic with with egregious spoilers taken from a certain bit.torrent file.
Posted by: Chuck Olsen at February 5, 2005 7:26 AM