Friday, March 26, 2010

Quote of the Day: Armond White

"Over recent years, film journalism has—perhaps unconsciously—been considered a part of the film industry and expected to be a partner in Hollywood’s commercial system. Look at the increased prevalence of on-television reviewing dedicated to dispensing consumer advice, and of magazine and newspaper features linked only to current releases, or to the Oscar campaign, as if Hollywood’s business was everybody’s business. Critics are no longer respected as individual thinkers, only as adjuncts to advertising. We are not. And we should not be. Criticism needs to be reassessed with this clear understanding: We judge movies because we know movies, and our knowledge is based on learning and experience."
That's an excerpt from film critic Armond White's excellent defense of his trade. Film criticism, he argues, has become advertising for new movies.

His essay, which could as easily apply to art criticism or literary criticism, includes some gems from other film critics, like Pauline Kael, who wrote in 1974:
"Criticism is all that stands between the public and advertising."
And Molly Haskell, who said more recently:
"The Internet is democracy’s revenge on democracy."
This all reminds me of a story art critic Jerry Saltz once told in a review. He'd been chewed out by a gallery owner who couldn't understand why he wasn't more supportive of the art market. Bad reviews, her logic went, were bad for business. But, Saltz fired back, they are good for art, and for the public.

As White writes in his essay, "Commerce, based on fashion and seeming novelty, always prioritizes the idea of newness as a way of favoring the next product and flattering the innocence of eager consumers who, reliably, lack the proverbial skepticism." What good is anything when the biggest recommendation one can make about it is that it is new to the market?

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