Scott vs Carr vs Emerson – musings about critique of criticism
But this doesn’t mean that waving your visit card with the title “film critic” automatically should give you protection against any questioning or critical question.
This week I was baffled seeing how touchy some cinephiles can get when film criticism is up for discussion.
This outrage was sparked by a filmed discussion that was posted at New York Times’ website. It features two of their reporters, A.O. Scott and David Carr, talking about different views on film criticism.
Scott is the guy who wrote a negative review about The Avengers, which made one of the actors so pissed that he called for riots against him over Twitter. Carr is working with their media coverage and was one of the central characters in the recent documentary Page One. (On a completely irrelevant note he also reminds me of Dr House, which might be one reason why I like him so much. He’s a bit rough in the edges but appears to have a good heart hidden under the grumpy surface.)
In case you haven’t watched film, I suggest you do. It doesn’t go into depth, which you can’t expect a seven minute interview to do, and the argments are pretty familiar. It’s just a piece of entertainment and a chance to see those writers in person.
Doing his job
Carr puts some relevant, down-to-Earth questions about how film critics think and tosses out opinions that aren’t unusual if you go outside of the bubble that film fans like us live in. Scott answers the best he can, which in fact is very well.
People seem to think that Carr is “dumb” since he asks “dumb” question. But I would argue that he not necessarily holds those opinions for truth; I would rather suspect the opposite. But he puts them out because there are those out there who have them and because he wants to give Scott a chance to respond to things that are going on in people’s mind, even if they’re rarely spoken about, at least not in public media.
And Scott doesn’t apologize for writing negative reviews about popular movies. He sticks to his guns, in a nice and friendly way and the “nasty” questions from Carr don’t bother him any more than the childish tweet storm about Avengers. Scott comes out as intelligent, eloquent and easy to follow and is comfortable talking about criticism with anyone, since he has the self distance and thick skin that you get when you’re confident in yourself.
For all I can tell, the both of them enjoyed themselves pretty much. This is a little performance, a charade that they set up with a glimpse in the eye. Scott isn’t butt hurt or insulted and has no reason to be. They were doing this on purpose. Sometimes being a journalist means that you put out uncomfortable questions. It comes with the role. Carr’s job is NOT to be a member of a club of mutual admiration; his job is to question and spark a good disscussion and that’s what he’s doing and that’s what A.O Scott wants too. Would you really think that N.Y. Times would publish this if Scott thought that he had been treated unfairly and that Carr was a complete jerk?
But if Scott doesn’t mind, there’s no shortage of other film buffs (in some cases critics) who now are raging on his behalf in the comment section and elsewhere. The angriest one appears to be Jim Emerson, who in a long post, filled with righteous fury, goes through the entire interview, line by line. The point to be proven is that Carr is ignorant and his questions are outrageous.
I don’t say that Emerson is wrong in everything he says. As a matter of fact he’s got a lot of good points about criticism. But oh, the way he delivers them and the way he goes on about them!
He’s definitely doing himself as well as other film critics a disservice. If you ever had prejudices about film critics as being full of themselves, with overblown egos and out of touch with people outside of their little bubble, they will be confirmed by this overreaction.
As I said initially, Kermode doesn’t approve of critics bashing on other critics. And yet, here I am, calling out Emerson for calling out Carr. But again: I’m not a critic and I’ve never aimed or aimed to be one. This is my hobby, not my job. I’m someone who puts up graffiti with punctuation, as they say in Contagion.
And that’s necessarily not just a bad thing. But that’s for another post.
The week is over and it’s time to calm down and make peace over a drink. If you agree with me or disagree with me, go ahead and tell me so. Just keep it civilized. Like A.O. Scott.