Henry Breitrose brings up a very good point (not surprisingly) when he
wrote: "It seems curious that some ca. 35 years after the inauguration of
Studies" (dated from the organizational meeting of the Society for
Cinema Studies, originally dubbed the 'Society of Cinematologists'), a
thread emerges addressing the paucity of readable and literate film
critics. What's gone wrong?"
Of course, one answer is, precisely, the institutionalization of "Film
Studies" with the attendant academic baggage (specialized training and
terminology, need to produce for tenure, etc.). Though I think there are
"readable" scholarly works, few are truly engaging and exciting (no
surprise; it's rare in ANY academic field). This situation was further
exacerbated by the situation I alluded to in an earlier post, the decline
of the "public intellectual." The great, readable, exciting critics of the
50's (remember the glory days of CAHIERS DU CINEMA), 60's and into the
70's, were aided both by public intellectual forums like PARTISAN REVIEW
(from the late 40's and the writingsd of Dwight Macdonald and Robert
Warshow), to the beginnings of the small film journals, like FILM CULTURE.
Neither CAHIERS, nor MOVIE (among others in Britain) nor FILM CULTURE were
written for an "academic" audience (unlike, say, CINEMA JOURNAL, which I am
NOT insulting [I am, after all the current editor!]). To Murray
Pomerance's plaintive cry, "ISN'T THERE SOME WAY FOR US TO ADDRESS THIS AND
BRING ABOUT A NEW SITUATION?," one can say that this very forum (the net!)
is one solution.
I also think that there is, and is always going to be, a significant
difference between film criticism as "consumer guide" and more detailed,
thoughtful criticism that is by nature difficult to produce in daily or
weekly publications, whether it is newspapers, magazines, or even TV shows
a la Siskel & Ebert (who ARE indeed the best of the TV bunch by far!)
Denby in NEW YORK is very good, I agree (one can subscribe to it, but it is
very New-York-City oriented, moreso than the NEW YORKER), but the one-page
limitation on him (it seems) is literally limiting.
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