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Actually, it occurs to me now to wonder if Greg was suggesting that I should have only odd questions, not even questions, in my mind. :blink:

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Naw, it was multiple choice -- and I put down "a" to begin with, and then opted for "none of the above."

But seriously, Peter -- you floated a question, and I offered an answer. What about it? Do critics really think that slaving away for, say, an hour and a half on a review is a more culturally or morally significant task than devoting, say, 18 months of one's life to creating a work of art (or crafting entertainment)? Do you really agonize over which is more important? Or are you just tossing your intellect a bone?

I think your choice of McDonald's as a metaphor is brilliant, 'cause it cuts to the core of the whole "elitist" issue, and why so many ordinary people find critics so damnably irrelevant.

Greg Wright

Managing Editor, Past the Popcorn

Consulting Editor, Hollywood Jesus

Leader of the Uruk-Howdy, Orcs of the West

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Greg Wright wrote:

: Do critics really think that slaving away for, say, an hour and a half on a review is a more

: culturally or morally significant task than devoting, say, 18 months of one's life to creating a work

: of art (or crafting entertainment)? Do you really agonize over which is more important?

I think any good piece of criticism, like any good piece of writing, is a work of art unto itself, so I'm not sure I buy the distinction in the first place, actually. But do I think analysis of a work of art can be more culturally or morally significant than the work of art itself? Well, morally, of course, absolutely. But culturally? I guess it comes down to a mere numbers game, there -- and almost always, the work of art will have far more exposure than the analysis of the work of art.

Then again, I'm thinking primarily of film criticism here. I'm not sure how I would apply these categories to food criticism. What sort of "morality" is there in food?

: I think your choice of McDonald's as a metaphor is brilliant, 'cause it cuts to the core of the whole

: "elitist" issue, and why so many ordinary people find critics so damnably irrelevant.

Danke.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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I think any good piece of criticism, like any good piece of writing, is a work of art unto itself, so I'm not sure I buy the distinction in the first place, actually.

Not to be combative, but... why not? The work of criticism has no reason for being (I actually erased the French phrase for that there!) without the object of the criticism. So while I agree that a work of criticism may also be a work of art, it's at best a derivative. (And plenty of my professors very much discouraged the idea of criticism as an art, casting it rather as a discipline.)

But do I think analysis of a work of art can be more culturally or morally significant than the work of art itself? Well, morally, of course, absolutely. But culturally? I guess it comes down to a mere numbers game, there -- and almost always, the work of art will have far more exposure than the analysis of the work of art.

I don't think I can agree with you there. Criticism is far easier than creation of art worthy of criticism, either negative or positive. There's value in criticism, but as a cultural artifact, excellent and worthwhile criticism is a far rarer beast than excellent and worthwhile art.

Then again, I'm thinking primarily of film criticism here. I'm not sure how I would apply these categories to food criticism. What sort of "morality" is there in food?

My goodness! Don't let chefs or food critics hear you say that! Didn't Anton Ego teach you anything!!?!?!?

Danke.

[translation]You're welcome.[/translation]

Edited by Greg Wright

Greg Wright

Managing Editor, Past the Popcorn

Consulting Editor, Hollywood Jesus

Leader of the Uruk-Howdy, Orcs of the West

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Strong words from Moriarty.

In 1999, a banner year for film, and probably the single best year since I started at AICN, there were several genuine masterworks released, and my favorite of them was an underperforming animated film called THE IRON GIANT. In 2004, there were also a number of truly great films released, and my favorite of the year was again an animated movie about superheroes called THE INCREDIBLES. And now, with the year half over, the single best movie I

P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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Gadzooks. The superlatives are getting embarrassing.

Greg Wright wrote:

: : I think any good piece of criticism, like any good piece of writing, is a work of art unto itself,

: : so I'm not sure I buy the distinction in the first place, actually.

:

: Not to be combative, but... why not? The work of criticism has no reason for being (I actually

: erased the French phrase for that there!) without the object of the criticism. So while I agree

: that a work of criticism may also be a work of art, it's at best a derivative.

True, it's derivative. But the reviews I value the most are the ones that are excellently written, the ones that inspire me to look at films in new ways, the same way the best films inspire me to look at other things in new ways. There is an art to writing, period, and I don't see why that should cease to be the case just because one is writing criticism.

: (And plenty of my professors very much discouraged the idea of criticism as an art, casting it

: rather as a discipline.)

Art is a discipline. :)

: Criticism is far easier than creation of art worthy of criticism, either negative or positive.

Well, the critic is not working ex nihilo, true; he is responding to something that is already out there, whereas the artist who creates the art is filling a void that people might not have realized existed in the first place until the work of art came along and filled it.

: There's value in criticism, but as a cultural artifact, excellent and worthwhile criticism is a far

: rarer beast than excellent and worthwhile art.

Perhaps, but I thought we were discussing excellent and worthwhile criticism of art that was NOT excellent or worthwhile. Art that is NOT those things is extremely common -- not rare at all.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Greg wrote:

The work of criticism has no reason for being (I actually erased the French phrase for that there!) without the object of the criticism. So while I agree that a work of criticism may also be a work of art, it's at best a derivative. (And plenty of my professors very much discouraged the idea of criticism as an art, casting it rather as a discipline.)

While the criticism may not have come into being without the object of the criticism, I do think it can find plenty of "reason for being" beyond merely responding to the object. It can grow into something much greater than that.

Heck, a great deal of art is derivative, in that it is a response to another work of art. And sometimes, those "responses" are greater than their inspirations.

Sometimes, criticism is written with style and poetry. Some of Anthony Lane's reviews are much more enjoyable and revealing than the films that they're reacting to.

I don't see any reason why creative criticism can't be an art form.

And I've read a lot of reviews in which the review itself was more revealing and artful than the film it was reviewing.

In fact, if I see a bad movie, my practice is to try to write a review that is more worth reading than the movie is worth seeing.

So I think I'm with Peter here... that a review can be a greater and more valuable thing than the film that inspired it.

However, I don't think that there's any kind of storytelling that is completely and utterly without value. A starving man in the desert might find the nourishment to survive and reach a settlement if he's handed a piece of terrible food. I've met a Lost Boy of Sudan who drank urine to survive. There is nothing so poorly made that the truth can't shine darkly through it. And so, while we must tell the truth and be honest about a work's quality, we should avoid sneering condescension, or contempt for those who are moved by it.

I've met a person who came to Christ because of seeing The Love Bug.

P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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Jeffrey Overstreet wrote:

: And so, while we must tell the truth and be honest about a work's quality, we should avoid

: sneering condescension, or contempt for those who are moved by it.

Yes.

: I've met a person who came to Christ because of seeing The Love Bug.

Oh I'd LOVE to hear THAT testimony. :)

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Greg wrote:
The work of criticism has no reason for being (I actually erased the French phrase for that there!) without the object of the criticism. So while I agree that a work of criticism may also be a work of art, it's at best a derivative. (And plenty of my professors very much discouraged the idea of criticism as an art, casting it rather as a discipline.)

While the criticism may not have come into being without the object of the criticism, I do think it can find plenty of "reason for being" beyond merely responding to the object. It can grow into something much greater than that.

Heck, a great deal of art is derivative, in that it is a response to another work of art. And sometimes, those "responses" are greater than their inspirations.

Sometimes, criticism is written with style and poetry. [...]

So I think I'm with Peter here... that a review can be a greater and more valuable thing than the film that inspired it.

Possibly the best example, if not exactly current, of a work of criticism that is arguably much greater than the "art" which inspired it: Alexander Pope's 18th century satirical poetic essay/mock-epic The Dunciad, in which he denounces the lousy art and artists of his time. All of the bad writers Pope mentions are now forgotten, except for what he says about them.

Of course, no one writes like that today...

There is this difference between the growth of some human beings and that of others: in the one case it is a continuous dying, in the other a continuous resurrection. (George MacDonald, The Princess and Curdie)

Isn't narrative structure enough of an ideology for art? (Greg Wright)

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BethR wrote:

: All of the bad writers Pope mentions are now forgotten, except for what he says about them.

Interesting. Reminds me of G.K. Chesterton's Heretics and its sequel, Orthodoxy. I've got a two-in-one copy of those books, and while I haven't read it yet, I flipped through the chapters and realized I didn't recognize most of the names in Heretics. But it was Chesterton's refutation of those people that eventually prompted him to write the sequel, which is now one of the best-known works of apologetics around.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Animation critic Michael Barrier gives his take. I haven't seen it yet, but if what he says is true, then the movie is much stronger as a movie than as a story, which is not the Pixar standard.

Edited by David Smedberg

That's just how eye roll.

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A couple of passing thoughts:

It'll be interesting to see if critics latch onto Anton Ego the way they did to the critic portrayed in Lady in the Water, both thankless, heartless creeps, except that one is redeemed in a way, and the other not. I loved both characters, and I liked both movies, but I imagine many critics that like Ratatouille will not have cared for Lady in the Water. There are broader reasons for liking or disliking these films than the portrait of one particular character in each, but I wouldn't underestimate critical narcissism in these evaluations. ;-) (I'm not thinking of anyone here at A&F!)

I still believe -- and I'm not the only one -- that no matter how many ways there are to proclaim Sideways a comic masterpiece (and I pretty much am in that camp), the fact that it shows a "critic" of sorts finding love with a va-va-voom blonde flatters the egos of critics.

Also, last night I put on Venus while doing some Web surfing, thinking it might draw me in if it were as good as I'd heard. That's not fair to the movie, and I don't want to claim an informed opinion of it, but let's just say that I was bored stiff by the movie. Why do I mention this? Because O'Toole's performance in Venus was Oscar-nominated. And yet, his performance as the voice of Anton Ego is, to my ears and eyes, far more delightful.

That's all.

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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Christian, I don't remember whether or not I ever got around to making this point in the Lady in the Water thread, but I remember thinking at the time, reading your comments on this point, as one who began my review of that film by ridiculing Shyamalan's savaging of the critic, that in my case at least my reason for doing so was not that I egotistically resented Shyamalan's deflating of the critic's pretensions, but on the contrary that I found it jarring that Shyamalan was crediting the critic with any consideration or attention whatever.

The whole presence of Harry Farber in the film seemed to me to reflect a creatively unhealthy awareness and even preoccupation on Shyamalan's part with us and our colleagues in the audience, whereas a healthy creative process is concerned with the work and not thinking about the critic at all. It seemed to me symptomatic of the way Shyamalan had tied himself in knots creatively, becoming obsessed with defying those smug judges with their notebooks who've been gunning for him ever since he got too big for his britches after The Sixth Sense.

(Of course, there was also the fact that "Harry Farber" is just two letters different from USCCB Office of Film and Broadcasting director Harry Forbes. Coincidence?)

And yet I feel quite differently about Anton Ego, though for reasons that would take too much thought and energy to explore at this late hour.

“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” — Flannery O'Connor

Writing at the new Decent Films | Follow me on Twitter and Facebook

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Jeffrey Overstreet wrote:

: Jeffrey Wells didn't hate it. Amazing. Which is high praise from him.

Actually, I think he nailed it pretty well: "It's not a great film, but it satisfies and then some."

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Great comments, Jeffrey, on the issue of criticism as an art -- and with well-worded qualifiers.

I have no quibble with what criticism can be -- but I suspect that whatever brilliant insight (or poetic effect) might be gleaned from a "brilliant" review of a "bad" movie could have been achieved without reference to the movie (if the writer were really worth his or her salt). And in that case, perhaps the writer should have written a poem, an essay, or a screenplay rather than a review. But then the writer would be a poet, an essayist, or a screenwriter and not a critic, eh? And then the writer would be subject to criticism! Ouch. :unsure:

Maybe I'll start writing critiques of reviews! Wouldn't that draw a lot of readers!?!??!? Probably not... as very few people find even excellent reviews more entertaining or nourishing than bad movies. (Yes, yes... I know they should. But they don't, do they?)

Which, thankfully, brings us back to McDonald's once more, and Anton Ego. Darn those rats who think they can cook!!!!

I've posted further comments over on the "Christian film criticism" thread, as more discussion along this line is far afield of this thread's topic.

Greg Wright

Managing Editor, Past the Popcorn

Consulting Editor, Hollywood Jesus

Leader of the Uruk-Howdy, Orcs of the West

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Greg Wright wrote:

: I suspect that whatever brilliant insight (or poetic effect) might be gleaned from a "brilliant" review of a "bad" movie could have been achieved without reference to the movie (if the writer were really worth his or her salt).

I disagree. I'm the kind of person who benefits when people use specific examples to make their points, and a bad movie can offer brilliant examples for a critic who wants to explain what works and what doesn't work in a film (or in art and storytelling in general).

: Maybe I'll start writing critiques of reviews!

Heck, don't we do a fair bit of that here already? :)

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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: Maybe I'll start writing critiques of reviews!

That's actually what I did for the first few years of Film Forum at CT. But when CT Movies became its own website, I was told to change my approach and not editorialize much at all on other people's reviews. It became more a "reporting what folks say" column instead of a column about the nature of contemporary Christian criticism. The project was a lot more interesting for me in the earlier days, and became more a routine of linking and excerpting after that. I miss that early column. I often found it hard to believe that I'd been given that kind of freedom to question and speculate about Christian media.

P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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Monday Mouse Watch : Could underwhelming box office receipts for "Ratatouille" really spell trouble for Disney & Pixar officials?

Here's an article that's almost sure to upset all you animation fans out there. Jim Hill shares what he knows about the projected domestic box office for Brad Bird's newest film. Which suggests that "Ratatouille" is going to earn significantly less than "Cars" did last year

Jim Hill Media, June 25

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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So, in twenty words or less... what would keep you from giving this film four stars?

I'm curious. I've just turned in a four-star review, and I have this nagging sense that I may change my mind. I certainly wouldn't give it FIVE stars (out of five). But out of four? I'm thinking four.

P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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So, in twenty words or less... what would keep you from giving this film four stars?

I'm curious. I've just turned in a four-star review, and I have this nagging sense that I may change my mind. I certainly wouldn't give it FIVE stars (out of five). But out of four? I'm thinking four.

It's tough for me to criticize anything in a film that so deeply impacted me and that does so many things right but...

Peter was right, there is a little narrative drift right around the 1 hour and 10 min mark. And there are even two moments that smack of cliche'. 1. The angry tirade that drives Remy away and leaves the young chef to his own devices on the Big Night. 2. As PTC mentioned, the moment where Remy's dad shows him the dead rat's in the window, (especially when it was very obvious to Remy and everyone that he would not be welcomed into the human world.

Saying all that, I'd probably still give it four stars out of four. and probably 4.5 out of 5.

Edited by DanBuck
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20 words or less?

The rat-family stuff represented a *slight* dropoff for me, but that's just a gut feeling. I'm not sure I can defend it objectively. I had no problem with the falling out between Remy and Linguini, but did have pause about the means through which Remy controls Linguini's actions.

As for weather this movie makes more or less than Cars, I'm already tired of that discussion.;) I thought "Cars" was cute, but it's not in the same league as "Ratatouille." I'm reminded of how fleeting box-office judgments are.

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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