Sunday, December 21, 2008
No wonder I don't like Manohla Dargis's movie reviews in the New York Times
Optimism, I should add, perhaps needlessly, does not come naturally to me. Hope is for suckers ... I tend to embrace my inner Caden Cotard, the theater director played by Philip Seymour Hoffman in Charlie Kaufman’s Synecdoche, New York, a grievously underloved film about life and death and every agonized and beautiful thing in between, including art and the scratch-scratch of those who are trying to leave their marks on the world.
Like Caden, I generally don’t see the proverbial glass half empty; I tend to see it drained to the last drop, chewed up and swallowed, jagged shard by shard.
PS, from Wikipedia: "Following her negative review of the first Garfield movie, the second movie, Garfield: A Tail of Two Kitties, names the main villain, played by Billy Connolly, Lord Dargis."
Here's further Dargis buzz, courtesy of Jeffrey Wells' recent "Hollywood Elsewhere" column on what he calls film critic nutters: "I'm speaking of critics whose rave about a certain film makes you think right away, 'Well, I guess I won't see that one' or, at the least, has you saying 'Uh-oh.' Or, conversely, hearing one of them talk about how much they despise this or that film leads you to think, 'Hmmm, this could be interesting or even good. If Blankety-blank hates it, it can't be all bad.'" Dargis swept top honors among the ladies. [Pyrrhic victory, mayhap? After all, how many did/could they consider?]"I think Manohla Dargis is out of her mind. The 'Ask the Critic' column just irritates the hell out of me. Even when I agree with her, I wish I didn't have to -- she's so in love with her own quirks. I never get the feeling that she just loves movies; she loves writing about them." -- Post-Production Polly "I would put Manohla right up there with Rosenbaum or Wilmington or Armond White. What they all are are intellectuals who by definition have a strong and particular point of view, and who sometimes go off the board. Except there's really no such thing as off the board...except maybe to say FREDDIE GOT FINGERED or FEMME FATALE are the greatest films of their respective years." -- Los Angeles based Hollywood columnist
"Manohla Dargis, though obviously smart and impassioned, comes pretty close [to nutter status]." -- Oakland-based internet editor/film critic --
"This is completely ridiculous, since Manohla is one of the only interesting daily critics in the country right now. It's so ridiculous that I have to wonder who you're asking for their takes, and I have to really wonder what their reasoning is." -- Los Angeles-based film critic
Wells comment: Dargis is the best thing to happen to the LOS ANGELES TIMES in a long while, and my kind of fruitcake.
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Back when she was with the LA Weekly in 2000 (and its sister pub, the OC Weekly), I wrote a letter to the editor. Thanks to the miracle of archives we can still read it:
Having just seen Remember the Titans and as I think back on Manohla Dargis' other reviews, has she ever given a positive review of a film directed by or starring an American person of color, or is she just the most racist movie critic in America? It seems that if you're a person of color, Manohla will always pan you for either selling out or somehow not being quite good enough.
"Seriously, this letter is so stupid I don't want to dignify it with a response, but how about a list of movies I've liked: To Sleep With Anger; One False Move; Daughters of the Dust; Combination Platter (or doesn't Asian count?); The Crow (ditto); Menace II Society; Suture; Basquiat; Pulp Fiction; Seven; Crooklyn; Clockers; Set It Off; The Long Kiss Goodnight; Independence Day; Jackie Brown; Enemy of the State; and He Got Game. There are many more, but this jerk can look up the reviews on the website."
The ironic thing, given that send off?
Manohla didn't review any of the cited films. At least, not in the Weekly.
This was during the period when I used to say the only way they'd let you have a movie review slot at the Weekly was to show you didn't like movies. (The one exception was John Powers.) It would always amaze me at the end of the year, because if you looked at the staff's "Ten Best" lists, you'd find the same thing as Manohla's list above -- overwhelmingly, they didn't write the reviews for the movies they each liked.
This was also when I came up with the line: "Movie critics are the English majors who didn't have the patience for that 'reading' thing."
Posted by: Hal O'Brien at Dec 26, 2008 11:24:32 AM