Twenty years ago, conservative scholars like Allan Bloom and E.D. Hirsch were complaining about the decline of cultural literacy; today, conservatives are on the other side, egging on anti-intellectualism. Witness the twin posts this week from John Podhoretz and Rod Dreher, who, noting the death of film criticism (a topic I’ve been writing about for the last couple of years as virtually every major newspaper and magazine critic not named Ebert has lost his or her job), gleefully stomp on criticism’s grave. After all, both seem to argue, film criticism is just snooty liberal elitists who care more about “the condition of Finnish cinema” than reaffirming populist taste by championing market-tested big-studio blockbusters. It’s a pretty strange take on the trade, especially since both Podhoretz and Dreher have worked as film critics themselves.
Podhoretz argues that all it takes to review movies is an “interesting sensibility,” not specialized knowledge. This very low standard, of course, opens up the field to anyone who wants to post an opinion at IMDB, but as anyone who’s read the reviews there knows, having an opinion is no guarantee of literacy, well-reasoned argument, expertise, persuasiveness, or even taste. (Then again, getting paid to write criticism is no guarantee of those qualities either, as Podhoretz and Dreher’s own reviews prove.) Podhoretz insists that amateur reviewers, writing out of pure love for film, are more reliable barometers than professional critics writing for a paycheck. If that’s true, I hope he’s writing his reviews for The Weekly Standard for free. At least then, Rupert Murdoch would get what he’s paying for. Continue reading
Filed under Arts, Media, Movies