Sunday, February 28, 2016

A Cynical Brit Film Critic (David Thomson) Misfires On The Oscars

David Thomson, who wrote the WSJ piece 'The Oscar Farce',   thinks  the Oscars'  time has passed.

It was kind of amusing, but also infuriating, reading David Thomson's takedown of the Academy Awards in the Weekend WSJ. (Feb. 27-28, p. C3)  Amazingly, after reading the first several paragraphs, I initially thought it was some angry young black guy trying to draw attention and gain notoriety. Imagine my surprise on learning he was a British film critic, older than I am, and a white guy to boot!

On mentioning going to an Oscar party tonight he cited, for example, his friends' AARP membership and they're considering boycotting the show, over the lack of black nominees, writing:

"It's charming that people so old and wise will take Oscar that seriously but I may have to explain how the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences was always a self-serving sham'>

Hmmm.....written like a true film critic. What was it director Federico Fellini once said about them?

"Eighty percent of film criticism comes from illiterates and deficient mentalities"

Then there's this choice chestnut from Brendan Behan:

"A critic at a performance is like a eunuch at a harem: He sees it performed nightly but can't do it himself".

This guy then questions whether Oscar will still be around in 2036 (he will) and writes:

"Can we agree the Academy is a ridiculous, archaic, and retrogressive club?"

Uh, no,  we can't. It isn't any of those because thankfully most members are actual doers and performers of the movie art, not jaundiced critics. They earned their membership by paying their dues, making or producing actual movies (many of them over decades) as opposed to just panning them, and writing crap op-eds to attempt to render the whole ceremony moot and its supporting organization passe.

Thomson does appear to have a thing for movies like "The Revenant"  which he believes is "the most beautiful and audacious film of the year". Why? Well, because "of its faith in action and heroism and its sense of the cruel beauty of nature, for the natural light...and the extended traveling shots"

He loves it, in other words, because it "harks back to an original cinematic duty- to go out to the real places and the real things."

Which is rank balderdash because not every film can or SHOULD be "Call of the Wild" or "Grizzly Man" (where the star actually ended up being eaten). I mean, that's just plain bollocks. Look at Spotlight, for example, A terrific film - of substantial heft- but not shot in bear country or high country! It's as if the action and adventure theme to Thomson is the only one with  genuine cinematic validity. To accept that premise would be too disavow or reject films like '2001 -  A Space Odyssey', 'Silent Running' or indeed, any of the great science fiction fare of the past 40 years (like the 3D  'Avatar') mostly filmed in specialized sound and special effects studios.

The biggest howler from Thomson is when he whines that:

"There's too much to see now. the avalanche of YouTube and all the other diversions of the Internet are an attention killer".

Thereby implying that in this cornucopia of mostly bullshit (99% of it is), one's appreciation for good films must suffer. Not at all! Most of what's on YouTube is twaddle that in decades past would appeal only to kindergartners. I mean kittens boxing puppies and other such crap?  Farcical performances by wannabe hotshots - magic vanishing tricks,  kid superheroes,  or making gastronomic atrocities? All wastes of time.

For the discriminating mind there is not "too much to see" but rather too little of quality to see. For more on this read Chris Hedges' 'The Empire of Illusion'.

The precise problem today which Thomson touched on but didn't fully explore is that there is simply a surfeit of plain old garbage flooding not only the media airwaves but the web too. Everyone wants to be some kind of somebody - starboy or stargirl - so adds to the total mass of dreck which they misjudge as quality. The end result is an excess of juvenile merde which creates a paradox of choice for too many minds too immature to separate wheat from chaff.

If more disciplined minds existed, as opposed to uncritical, undiscerning ones, then people would more clearly see and appreciate what an achievement most of the Academy Awards represent. Then the notion of the Oscars as "old hat rubbish" that Thomson trots out would be seen for the bunkum it is.

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