Saturday, August 21, 2010

Oh, crap! Am I like that?

Many years ago, Christopher Hitchens was inexplicably invited to debate Charelton Heston on Nightline about "Operation Desert Storm", the first U.S. war with Iraq launched by George Bush, Sr.

Hitchens decided his course of attack. He wouldn't argue about what Heston thought; he would focus on what Heston knew.

He asked Heston to name the countries bordering Iraq. Heston named several countries including the Soviet Union, causing Hitchens to exclaim, "You think it's Iran, don't you!"

Anyone can work up an opinion but no one should care what it is unless you actually know something about it.

So anyway, I came across a guy's website. I had googled Wanda Coleman, a writer I met a couple of times. I came across the website which was a collection of "essays" by some guy. They were attacks on poets he didn't like. The essays weren't scholarly, but he thought they were. He attacked political opinions he didn't share as "political correctness", made mostly personal attacks on poets and their admirers. He offered no insight into their work or what he thought was wrong with it.

The internet is full of people like that.

Mr Cranky

Someone calling himself "Mr Cranky" ran a website where posted nothing but negative reviews. Some of them pretty funny. Everything he reviewed got a bad review.

But here's the thing---

A director told about an encounter he had with Pauline Kael. He had let Kael hang around while he made a movie, let her see how it was done. And she wrote an article attacking him.

He asked Kael what she was doing. She said she was trying to guide his career, telling him what she thought he should be doing.

He told Kael that she was trying to have the pleasure creativity without taking any of the risks.

Mr Cranky took this one step further. He was trying to have the joy of being a movie critic without the risk of making a bad judgment. All his reviews were bad--that was his whole routine--so he never had to state what he liked and what he disliked.

Real critics all write reviews that prove to be embarrassingly wrong. Roger Ebert attacked the soundtrack to The Graduate as "instantly forgettable" and for years he's had to defend his positive review of Cop and a Half.

TRUE critics

Maybe that's the test. You're not a true critic unless you can be embarrassed by your gross misjudgment.

That would exclude someone like Michael Medved. Some rich right-winger put up the money for him to host Sneak Previews, the movie review show on PBS. A show of the same name was originally hosted by Siskel & Ebert before they moved on to commercial television.

Medved's reviewed everything according to how closely they conformed to his right-wing ideology. Thus, Chuck Norris's Invasion, U.S.A., terrible even by Chuck Norris standards, got a rave review while he took part in demonstrations that were sometimes openly anti-Semitic against The Last Temptation of Christ.

Medved wanted more G-rated family films, but attacked Benji The Hunted because Benji stays in the woods to save some orphaned baby animals rather than running home to his master. Benji was disobedient!

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