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"Movie criticism of the elevated sort, as practiced over the past half-century by James Agee and Manny Farber, Andrew Sarris and Pauline Kael, J. Hoberman and Dave Kehr... is an endangered species..." -- Richard Corliss, Film Comment, 1990
Good gracious, film criticism is still dying all over the Internet again this week. Who's killing it this time? The usual suspects, depending on who you ask, ranging from "Siskel & Ebert" to "the bloggers." The quotation above was written 20 years ago, and that wasn't the first time its dire predictions were made. Now they've just become conventional wisdom, so people feel the need to repeat them every few hours. IFC.com reports that, at a UCLA panel discussion of filmmakers and critics following a screening of Gerald Peary's affectionate documentary overview of American film criticism, "For the Love of Movies," TIME magazine curmudgeon Richard Schickel announced, to no one's surprise, that he never loved them. That's right: No love from Mr. Schickel. None. (This is confirmed by his attitude toward Robert Altman.)
"Watching all these kind of earnest people discussing the art or whatever the hell it is of criticism, all that, it just made me so sad. You mean they have nothing else to do?" asked Schickel before adding, "I don't know honestly the function of reviewing anything."
Yes he certainly doesn't, which has been clear in print for some years, but I don't know the function of what Schickel was doing on this panel. You could make the same complaint about any kind of writing, or any enthusiasm that people feel like writing and talking about, from sports to politics. Oh, you tech columnists and food writers -- stop communicating with others about things you're interested in! What is the point? If you have to ask, you're not likely to feel ardent about engaging in the practice -- except, perhaps, for the paycheck. Now that is sad.