søndag den 6. marts 2016

Sjældenhed: Kritikerinterviews!

. fra interview med New York Times' filmanmelder A. O. Scott, hvis nye, klogt rodede bog om kritik, Better Living Through Criticism, jeg skrev en WA-kommentar om for et par uger siden, på slate.com:

"Some people in your position might say that they spend their whole life writing and thinking about books and movies, and all these idiots on Twitter have an opinion, and their opinions are stupid.
The fact that there are always other people out there in the world sort of contending with or competing with me just means that I have to be better. I just have to write better. I can’t take anything for granted. I have to find the readers that I need and cultivate their trust in a way.
Since you became a critic, are there any movies or any reviews you look back on and say, “Wow, I blew it”?
Yes, there have been many, many such times and I will take them all to my grave with me and never admit to them because the job of the critic is to be wrong. I think it’s much better to have my mistakes corrected by other people than to try to correct them myself.
You were wrong about Brooklyn. I had to sit through that movie. But more broadly, do you ever think you were wrong not in your judgment of a movie but in some moral or aesthetic stand you took?
I think probably so, but criticism or reviewing is a present tense, very in the moment thing. Part of what we’re doing is the opposite of a definitive judgment. It’s a very early, very provisional, kind of putting down a marker and initiating something that’s going to go on for a very long time. I read some of my favorite critics, like Susan Sontag or Pauline Kael or Roger Ebert, and over the course of their careers they were wildly inconsistent.
What I very much believe in is trust. This is also one of the reasons that individual critics retain some degree of importance in spite of aggregation and Yelp scores. That you can open up the newspaper and find the person that you know. That takes time to cultivate and to learn, and in a way you sketch out a character that you’re going to become and that you grow into. Every writer’s voice is a construct and a persona, and A.O. Scott in the New York Times or in the pages of that book, is not necessarily the person sitting here now.
I hope the person sitting for this interview is the A.O. Scott in the New York Times.
Down in the basement, there are a bunch of underemployed graduate students who can churn out this stuff every month.
What critics writing now do you like most?
Alex Ross for sure. He’s amazing. That’s like pure critic fandom for me. Staying at the New Yorker, Emily Nussbaum is for me the critic of the moment. The art form, the voice, everything kind of happening there. I don’t watch as much TV as I should probably but there’s such vivacity, such intelligence. I think she’s tremendous.
It’s amazing in 2016 that you’d have a movie critic of the New York Times say I should be watching more TV.
Yeah, it is.
(...)
I wrote a somewhat notorious piece about Sideways; the headline was that it was the most overrated film of the year. It was about how certain aspects of that movie may have tickled the narcissism of my colleagues. It wasn’t particularly negative about the movie itself. I was at the Cannes Film Festival and I was standing outside and someone standing next to me just kind of walked up to me and said, “You know I think you’re right, it was overrated.”
I turned around and it was [Sideways’ writer and director] Alexander Payne. We ended up going to see a movie together."

- og fra et andet interview med Scott på electricliteratur.com (og forresten siger han i et tredje interview, at aldrig læser bøger på en skærm, men hans bog læste jeg på iPad, ha!):

MM: Speaking of words, you list adjectives that critics try to avoid. “Astonishing,” “beautiful,” and so on. Some of those are the very words that appear on book jackets.
AOS: Right. Let me say that, while that’s my pet peeve, to see those disembodied words–“stunning”–on covers, now that I have a book that’s being reviewed, I sometimes wish there were more of those. I’ve read a couple reviews [of Better Living…] that were very smart and thoughtful. They really engaged the book. And I’ve thought, Couldn’t you get a “brilliant” in there, so we can use it? I’m a hypocrite about that now (laughs).
MM: Staying with words, do you think it’s limiting in the first place to use writing to apprehend film?
AOS: There are critics now, like Matt Zoller Seitz and Kevin Lee, who are developing the use of video as a medium of film criticism. There are some rights and intellectual property issues there, as I learned when I tried to do film criticism on television, but it’s happening.
Language is what most of us have, and the constraints can be good. To try to describe something in such a way that people can imagine it before they’ve seen it—that’s part of the craft. When I was a kid, I read a lot of reviews of movies that I never saw, or that I saw much later. If I was reading Pauline Kael, her writing was so lively I could get a sense of what these movies were like.
(...)
MM: How is reviewing movies different from reviewing books?
AOS: Not being able to quote is a big difference, and not being able to stick sticky notes between the pages (points at my book).
The thing that I still find hard is that movies synthesize so many art forms—you can write about the music, or the cinematography, or the performances, and so on.
I went to see the Coen brothers’ Hail, Caesar! with my family yesterday, and I was staggered. It’s as much movie as you can put into one movie. It’s got the history of Hollywood. It’s about the nature of spectacle; it’s got amazing music; it has very stylized performances; it’s about religion, and Marxism, and the boundaries between reality and illusion. And a lot of movies—good movies, and bad movies too—are just that complicated. You have to think, What is the thread that I want to pull?
(...)

MM: And a big question: What do you think is the future of movies? Virtual reality?
AOS: One of the great things about movies is that the art form has not been the same in any two decades. It makes its way from a fairground amusement to a theatrical experience and then through the development of parallel editing and montage, the addition of sound, location shooting and color and—I mean, it’s constantly changing. Filmmakers are constantly discovering the aesthetic potential of each change.
Virtual reality is interesting. The migration of a lot of motion pictures into television and into the web might challenge the feature as the main form.
But what’s also true is that the desire of people to go to the movies has been remarkably durable. I went to watch Hail, Caesar! on Saturday, like I said, and it was sold out.
MM: My last question. At this stage in your career, what do you strive for?
AOS: What I hope for is that I don’t lose my capacity to be surprised. The day I start feeling that all the great movies are in the past, that’s the day I should stop. But there are always new ways to think about movies that I haven’t tried. One of the hardest things to write about, I find, is acting. It’s a puzzle. What is it? What are actors doing?
Lately, I find myself thinking of film in terms of audience, too. I did some writing last year about fan culture. There’s a difference between being a critic sitting in a theater, and being an audience member. How to talk across that divide?
And how do movies interact with viewers? It’s audiences who complete movies, and I’d like to figure out how to talk about that in my criticism.
MM: These questions make me wonder—do you watch theater?
AOS: No. I don’t like being in a room with actual people.

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