Criticism
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Spoilers, Screenerbrags and Squabbles: How Film Critics Use Twitter

Venn diagram review of "LA RELIGIEUSE" and "VIC+FLO ONT VU UN OURS" #Berlinale twitter.com/szacharek/stat…

— Stephanie Zacharek (@szacharek) February 10, 2013

This year, the Tribeca Film Festival hosted a conversation between Will Leitch and Dana Stevens on how social media—and Twitter specifically—has affected the work of film criticism. On the subject of sharing thoughts after screenings, Leitch emphasized that he has always set aside time for reflection after a film instead of rushing into forming an opinion, while Stevens jokingly remarked that, for professional critics, pre-tweeting before a review feels like "stealing from yourself."

In light of [...]

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What Makes A Great Critic?

"The great artist is he who goes a step beyond the demand, and, by supplying works of a higher beauty and a higher interest than have yet been perceived, succeeds, after a brief struggle with its strangeness, in adding this fresh extension of sense to the heritage of the race."—George Bernard Shaw, The Sanity of Art

I saw Pauline Kael speak once, "in conversation" with Jean-Luc Godard, many years ago at Berkeley. The place was mobbed and the event was a mess, with the so-called conversation quickly devolving into a shouting match (about Technicolor film stock, as I recall). But it was so great watching Kael yell at Godard, [...]

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Critics Who Explain Things

There was, you know, a time when arguing about arguing actually felt vital. Really! To wit: In 1975, Susan Sontag wrote an essay on Leni Riefenstahl for The New York Review of Books. It was not her first comment on the director of the Triumph of the Will. She had, earlier, written of Riefenstahl's work in more admiring terms in Against Interpretation: "The Nazi propaganda is there. But something else is there, too, which we reject at our loss." But this time she'd been asked to review a book of Riefenstahl's photography of the Nuba tribes in Sudan, and the bland indifference of the jacket copy provoked her.

It [...]

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Michael Kimmelman Hazed

"An effective architecture critic is not a messenger from the occult, sometimes cultish, world of parametric modeling, interstitial planning, void filling, and impenetrable whatevers. But the critic does need to understand that stuff in order to better explain how architecture not only shapes the city but manifests our values, identity and legacy as a culture.” Architecture folks are still worried about an art guy taking over the Times architecture slot. Yeah, what's next: a metro reporter doing op-ed? A culture editor taking over the restaurant reviews? Chaos!

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Lethem v. Wood: Whose Fault Is It, Anyway?

In "My Disappointment Critic," the essay excerpted in the Los Angeles Review of Books from Jonathan Lethem's new collection, the author defends his book The Fortress of Solitude (eight whole years later!) against what he considers to be an unfair review written by the august literary critic James Wood.

"Why, I hear you moan in your sheets, [...] violate every contract of dignity and decency, why embarrass us and yourself, sulking over an eight-year-old mixed review?" Lethem asks in the very first paragraph. The fairness of this question is evident in the general response to the essay so far, e.g. this comment: "Nothing more tedious than authors [...]

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Sam Sifton Is Sambivalent

"The restaurant’s steaks are taken off grass-fed cattle, and butchered to the thickness of a Frisbee. This is a grim combination, leading to giant flaps of crust-free, overly chewy meat the flavor of nickels. Most people cut bits off, then push the rest around the plate as if it were a pile of napkins. At $45 for a rib-eye, this is a nasty business." —Sam Sifton gives the very attractive new East Village restaurant Peels a nice kiss at the start of his review in today'sTimes. But then he slaps it across the face! But then he gives it a kiss again at the end, saying of their breakfasts, [...]