Saturday, September 27, 2008

Are film critics qualified to assess politics?!

The famous Roger Ebert, formerly of Siskel & Ebert and Ebert & Roeper, has recently begun commenting on political affairs. According to L.A. Times writer Patrick Goldstein, he’s not the only one. In his piece, Goldstein makes a valid argument that campaigns are so dependent on their theatricality and direction to succeed, and therefore perhaps film critics are perfectly eligible to comment on politics. Interestingly enough, film criticism is one area in which bias is accepted. Reporters and commentators are scolded for letting their personal viewpoints and, dare I say, opinions bubble to the forefront, but film critics are fully expected to think freely. Would political coverage be more effective if film critics took the lead? I seem to remember a certain quote that feels only appropriate: “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players.”


Cindy Yeung said...

There's the question of, are film critics' opinions valid igf we are taking their experience of how much they know politics into account?

M. Dery said...

Interesting, but what do you add to the Times piece? Isn't your point his point, in large part? I would have been curious to hear your thoughts on the creeping politicization of our cultural conversation, by which I mean: pundits' and talk show hosts' and newsreaders' growing tendency to frame their pronouncements in political terms, or to look for a political moral in every current event or controversy du jour. Also, where's the supporting evidence for your assertion that politics is mostly media-savvy stagecraft, at this point? Some concrete examples---Bush's use of devastated New Orleans as a backdrop for his speech about Katrina, his famous TOP GUN landing on the deck of a U.S. aircraft carrier (MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!), etc. How long has this been going on? (Hint: See THE SELLING OF THE PRESIDENT.) When did it shift into overdrive, historically, and why? And do you really believe movie critics are better equipped, critically, than, say, political historians or advertising critics to make sense of the annexation of politics into the field of P.R.? Finally, doesn't the mass-culture version of film criticism represented by thumbs-up/thumbs-down critics like Ebert represent the de-politicization of movie criticism? Compared to, say, sixties intellectual movie critics like the Village Voice's Andrew Sarris or the French CAHIERS DU CINEMA crowd or Susan Sontag, Ebert is painfully apolitical, at least to some minds.