Thursday, July 26, 2012

You Know, Who ...

I've been so long in responding to the comment Who Am Us Anyway left the other day that I thought I'd just turn it into a short, blabbery post.

"You know, Who, I read a throwaway line in this week's New Yorker magazine that serves as the antithesis of the movie reviewing philosophy we adhere to here at the Monkey. In an article called "Tune In Next Week," Emily Nussbaum wrote:

As viewers, we rely on hierarchies to govern our notion of television ambition: cable trumps network, drama is better than sitcom, adult is worthier than teen, realistic is more grownup than sci-fi, grim beats sunny, PBS documentary tops Bravo reality show, and 'as good as Dickens' is superior to anything resembling a soap opera.

I don't know that Nussbaum meant that seriously Nussbaum doesn't believe in those hierarchies any more than I do, but I do know plenty of people who would take it seriously, especially if you substitute 'film' for 'television' and 'Erich von Stroheim' and 'Douglas Fairbanks' for, respectively, "PBS documentary" and 'Bravo reality show.' And I'm just telling you, Who, I'm not buying it.

This is my aesthetic criteria for judging a movie: does it move me (to laugh, to cry, to think, to leer at my wife lasciviously)? and does it do so in a memorable way, despite the passage of time and with it, the hype, buzz or cultural relevance surrounding the film's initial release?

Some movies you forget before you've even left the theater, some fade within a few years, but some are as fresh and exciting as the day they were made, maybe even more so.

Thus, as you scroll through the Silent Oscars and on to the Katie Awards, you'll see Chuck Jones next to Ingmar Bergman, Shirley Temple next to Alfred Hitchcock, and yes, even a grim, grownup head-scratcher like Abel Gance sharing the stage with Harold Lloyd. If it's good, it's good, and if it's not—at least in my often-wrong opinion—you probably won't find it here."

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Wait, did you read the paragraph directly following that one? The whole reason I listed those hierarchies in the first place was because I was saying that they were wrong—-leftover, neurotic categories that began because of people's historical anxieties about television. That's kind of what the whole essay is about.

Clarissa Smith said...

You're not the average viewer. You're too smart. The majority is being ruled by stupid cliches. And if you tell them you even watch old movies from the 20s, they're astonished and ask, "Why would anybody do that???" Why would anybody eat health food, instead of stuffing themselves with ordinary junk? ;)

Mythical Monkey said...

The whole reason I listed those hierarchies in the first place was because I was saying that they were wrong—-leftover, neurotic categories that began because of people's historical anxieties about television.

You're absolutely right, of course -- what I should have said was something like "Nussbaum doesn't buy these hierarchies any more than I do, but I know people who do ..."

I had just scribbled the quote on a piece of paper when I read it because it reminded me of something that Who Am Us had said in a comment to an earlier post, but my comment was going to be so long in responding to his that I figured he'd never see it.
I'll go back and do some sort of "strikethrough" edit to clarify the point.

This is why I don't usually spew a post off the top of my head ...

Mythical Monkey said...

You're not the average viewer.

Smarter than the average bear ... although as my previous comment makes clear, not always.

Emily Nussbaum said...

Thanks for the correction! Much appreciated. And interesting to read your thoughts. Best, Emily