This last one merits some qualification, as I don’t agree with all of Siracusa’s conclusions or his central metaphor. (There was a good debate happening in the comments section when last I checked.) I do think he makes two spot-on points, though: the first being that people are far more likely to purchase and read books digitally using an existing device as opposed to purchasing something specifically designed for that purpose. The other has more to do with semantics: the fact that an album is an album, regardless of whether the format is LP, CD, or MP3; yet a digital book has the “e-book” tag.
…because I read this just after I’d posted my earlier post. It’s amazing.
This, from Human Giant, is also relevant to the subject at hand, though potentially not work-safe.
So I went to see The Dark Knight yesterday after work. Did I like it? That I did, though at times it seemed like a strange fusion of The Wire and The Long Halloween — but that’s not necessarily a bad thing in my book. It Batman Begins factored in an homage to the character’s pulp roots, this film incorporated more the feeling of more modern takes on the character — everything from the aforementioned Long Halloween to the overtly philosophical take Grant Morrison expanded on in Arkham Asylum. (And also, this.) And in some ways, it felt much more like Christopher Nolan‘s followup to The Prestige, thematically, than it did to his previous take on these characters. Did I think the film was perfect? Not really: while some of the action setpieces worked very well, others felt rushed or repetitive. And I’m still working out my feelings on the film’s — not politics per se, but at the very least, the implications of some of the questions it raises. (Spencer Ackerman offers up one interpretation.)
As I generally do once I’ve seen a film, I went back to take a look at the critical reaction. What I saw, honestly, rattled me a lot more than any amount of onscreen sociopaths. I’m not talking about the reviews — I’m referring to the reactions that reviews that didn’t argue that the film was the greatest thing ever received. Specifically, to those written by David Edelstein and Keith Uhlich — neither one exactly positive, but each one a lengthy response to the themes and imagery of the film. The amount of hostile, anti-intellectual vitriol embedded in the comments for each is unsettling.
It’s also strangely contradictory. To quote Edelstein, from his response to said vitriol:
They attack you for snobbery, for treating films like The Dark Knight as unworthy of serious discussion; then they call you a pretentious for engaging with those films beyond the level of “Wow!”
The question of the role of critics is a perennially ongoing one, as newspapers cut reviewers and pundits wax on the role of the internet on criticism. Something else that bothers me from this glut of angered commentary, though, is the question of just how many people are seeking a simple echo chamber from commentary — essentially, a one-to-one correlation between the films they like and the reviews they read. (A common theme in both comment threads involves disparaging the critics in question for films that they’ve liked, which is likewise problematic for any number of reasons.)
All of which raises the question: why exactly are the people responding so insecure about their taste in films that they feel the need to lash out at anyone who might question that. I don’t know that there’s any film that’s universally beloved by critics: hell, you can probably find an intelligent takedown of Citizen Kane if you look hard enough. My favorite film critics are Edelstein and The New Republic‘s Christopher Orr, and I try to seek out everything they’ve written. Does that mean that I agree with everything they write? No. Neither does it mean that if I enjoy a film one of them pans (for instance, The Prestige), I’m going to lie awake at night attempting to reconcile my feelings about said film with someone else’s less-than-glowing response to it.
Positive reviews by critics I trust have turned me on to films like Reprise and Kings and Queen that I wouldn’t have seen otherwise and that have, at their best, changed the way I think. But at the same time: it’s pretty essential to have enough faith in your own ability to watch and appreciate a film (or any other creative work) that you can feel secure in your own take on things.
The debate over the loss of arts criticism in newspapers nationwide has led to a heated debate between critics Glenn Kenny and Michael Atkinson over Atkinson’s comments in this Brooklyn Rail article. (Links for both come via The House Next Door.) Kenny weighs in on his blog Some Came Running with some harsh words regarding Atkinson’s argument that full-time arts criticism isn’t, well, actually full-time at all.
(For the record, I’m with Kenny on this.)
Same issue, slightly different facet: over at The Atlantic, Matthew Yglesias argues that consolidation of critical positions within newspaper chains is “a way to cut costs without compromising quality”. This does not go over well with many of his readers (except those who find themselves unable to get past his reference to You Don’t Mess With the Zohan), who head into the comments section with some vitriol or, in other cases, post links to his piece within the larger context of expressing their disapproval with his opinion.
(For the record, I also find myself asking the same questions as this guy.)
Spent much of the last four days immersed in SXSW Interactive events. Will soon need to check out more from Henry Jenkins, Alex Wright, and others.Â Brain feels thoroughly expanded; reading Thomas Pynchon’s Against the Day — a book which feels like it encompasses the scope of everything else I’ve read/seen/experienced in the last few years — has helped there as well.
Things like this will leave anthropologists — space anthropologists, maybe — very baffled about the shape of our society.
Jeff Sharlet edits The Revealer, a website that I find pretty much essential; it covers religion in media, and its perspective is unlike anything else out there, I’d say. Sharlet now has a blog; one entry of said blog focuses on the issues of Daredevil written by Ann Nocenti. These floored me when I was twelve and thirteen — there was a mixture of surrealism, horror, and sociopolitical commentary that felt very alien alongside the rest of what I was reading at the time. As Sharlet puts it:
That combination — absurd, and didactic, and fantastic — must have made for a wonderful time of writing. No concern for drama, art, or even pulp — just Nocenti’s mind turned inside out onto the page, with the anxieties of a blind lawyer/acrobat hero as her frame.
It’s worth reading. Sharlet has a followup piece on Nocenti that was posted more recently as well.