Film: Dead Horses
By Henry P. Raleigh
ART TIMES August Online 2012
I really don’t wish to be seen as beating a dead horse again but there it is and can’t be avoided. This time it’s Frank Rich, former op ed columnist for the New York Times, in an otherwise very nice (for him) October review of recent publications on the life and work of Pauline Kael. Turning his back on what is left of us Mr. Rich had this to say: “We no longer live in the age of movies, ambitious and professional arts criticism is an increasingly arcane calling…” It should be noted that Mr. Rich began his career as a film critic on Time and the New York Post so I guess he’s feeling pretty good that he got out in time. OK admit it, the Golden Age of 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s movies and criticism is not coming back with its Kael’s, Sontag’s, Carris’, Mekas’ et al nor are the auteurs and the art film houses showing those swell foreign imports. It’s been downhill ever since then. The slide began, you know, with a 1935 essay, “The Film Critic of Tomorrow”, by Professor Rudolph Arnheim, psychologist and aesthetician. The Professor had once taken a shot at movie criticism back in the silent film days. After sound and color came in he became disgusted with the result and threw in the towel. Now, as I understand it, the Professor figured that the movies had become no more an art than a tray of used kitty litter and only a fool would go around nowadays (his ‘tomorrow,’ you see, is ‘today’) thinking there is any distinction at all between good and bad movies. Professor Arnheim laid it right on the line—movies are a commodity, a product like any other, manufactured to gull the widest possible audience to pony up the cash for the production costs plus a lot more besides. When it’s all said and done critical regard is simply a matter of bookkeeping, just check out the weekly box office charts in Entertainment Weekly and the bloggers will do the rest. That’s all there is to it and it’s no use moaning about it.
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