26 octobre 2011

Festival pundits (spoiled brats)

- Cultural Diversity Awareness -
Gavin Smith: "Regular readers may have noticed that over the years I've used these pages as a forum for grueling or sounding off about things. Many times, I've found myself casting about in desperation for a topic about which I can conceivably squeeze out 500 words or so - you gasp, but all too often that's what writing an editor's letter comes down to. And if there's one thing I've learned, it's that there's one standby you can always count on if inspiration doesn't come to the rescue. That's right, when all else fails, denouncing this or that film festival for failing to measure up in some way or other works everytime. All you have to do is invent some expectation or obligation that said festival level failed to meet, add water, and voilà! And let's face it, everybody likes a good fight as long as they're not the punching bag. You think I'm joking, I'm not joking. [..]"
(Film Comment; Sept-Oct 2011)
Un-fucking-believable. Not only he thinks that the fastidious job of an editor is to forcefully fill up one page every 2 months (in his case) with random topics... but he tells us about it, WITHIN HIS EDITORIAL, to take up some space and word-count and make his reluctant duty less insurmountable to complete. Babbling about having to babble, in order to babble less. And he confesses all this shamelessly in public, to his own readers who count on him to show a certain "leadership" and insights about the management of a cinéphile journal and the current state of world cinema.
I thought that you could only get the job of editor in chief *IF* you had something to say. If it's chores to you, you're obviously not qualified to run this position. Just to trivialize his laziness, he just pretends that ALL editors in chief are as reluctant as him. Yeah right. Reading Sight and Sound won't give you a strong aspiration to what an actual editorial looks like... (sorry Nick James, you need to work harder) but if you read the French press (Positif, Cahiers, Vertigo -not the UK one-, Eclipses, Repérages...), you will figure a few things, first that they are not reluctant to come up with an editorial every month (in the case of monthlies), second that they are never short of insightful ideas and try hard to be relevant to currency and the problematics of the art cinema scene. Because they believe in the responsibilities of an editor and they love their job. What a cultural gap! Apparently, in the USA it's a pride to mention your flaws (like Dan Kois; he's not one loose cannon, it's a pervasive mentality in American Culture at every levels, that's why he is symptomatic) and move on... the readership will only admire you for it, not feel cheated. This kind of environment doesn't really favour higher aspirations and pushing one's limits if proud complacency is rewarded.

* * *
A.O.Scott : "The New York Film Festival is just getting under way after the late-summer flurry of Venice, Telluride and Toronto, and although the Oscars are still four months in the future, the jockeying and handicapping have already begun in earnest. [..] it would be nice if critics especially tried to take Oscar out of the picture, at least a little"
Dargis : " The distributors, meanwhile, try to sell their movies to the press in hopes that the world’s entertainment media will spread the good, heat-seeking news back home, which increasingly seems to mean its Oscar chances. It’s a drag how late-summer, early-fall festivals like Telluride and especially Toronto are now too often seen as warm-ups for the Oscars. [..] I also find it dispiriting that the horse race among them often overshadows everything else. [..] As we move out of the high festival season into the “awards season,” it would be great if odious, cynical descriptors like “Oscar bait” were ditched."
Unwelcome Guest of Honor at Festivals (A.O. Scott, Manohla Dargis;  NYT; 30 September 2011)
They write 5-6 month (not 4!) away from the Oscars, both the last one and the next one (we can't be further apart than that during the year), this is THE MOMENT for art cinema, thanks to the curation of international festivals which are concerned with quality rather than profit, and they still manage to fucking NAMEDROP the Oscars and talk about it half-the-wordcount !!! WTF? It's NOT the Oscars season. It's the festival season! Talk about the festivals then, don't talk about the fucking Oscars now. In the American press, it is everyday a day to promote the Oscars, even in the NYT! The title of the article says it all... Cultural fatigue is so very sad.
Manohla : "Among other things, with our festival dispatches, we are trying to point the conversation about the movies in a direction that has nothing to do with their box office or Oscar fortunes."
But that's exactly what you've done! If you mean it, don't mention it (15 times!!!) in the article. Half of the article is about what festivals are in relation to the Oscars! You are aggravating the Oscars bandwagon phenomenon you pretend to eradicate. It is so ubiquitous in American culture that even the editors of the NYT are incapable to keep it out of their column when they mean to. Hopeless.
It's like writing an article on classical music and defining it as "not-Dubstep". It doesn't inform the subject in any way whatsoever, while publicizing something totally different that has nothing to do in that article. Did you learn that in journalism school or in marketing school, I'm wondering... If you want to give publicity to the Oscars do an article on the Oscars (you have 365 days in the year to do so)!
I'm mocking. They probably believe they're doing a great job by spelling out all the things they're not going to tell us about, while shrinking the wordcount reserved to actually talk about the subject... [insert furious rolling eyes]. 
Scott : "Here in North America, where foreign-language films have a persistently (and frustratingly) marginal commercial existence, the festivals offer reminders that cinema is a global art form."
Finally something intelligent and responsible to say. Unfortunately that's the only sentence in the whole article dealing with the lackluster American distribution (whereas it should have been the subject of the entire article!). Pussy footing is all these cowards can do... Maybe in a 100 years of film education at that pace they'll reach 20% of foreign films. OMG. That'll be the day.
Manohla Dargis : "I attend five festivals a year, though only partly because they give me a sneak peek at what’s coming our way." 
Yeah right. There are more foreign films in a single festival than you'll ever have to review in the NYT (because it was picked up by American distributors for your weekly batch duty). More like you find there what is NOT coming your way. The USA commercially releases 558 titles, of which 520 are American films (see Presumptuous Best Film in the World), so there are only 38 slots left (if all domestic films are released right away) for the rest of the world to screen films in the USA! (and most of these are mainstream blockbusters from Europe, not the artfilms from festivals). You should know that, your job is to review EVERY FILMS RELEASED EVERY WEEK. 
And at the sight of your half-hearted enthusiasm for the festival champions, it is obvious that anything you write isn't helping American distributors and American viewers to watch more foreign film next year.
Dargis : "That’s one reason many of us make the pilgrimage to Cannes, which remains the first stop for a lot of titles released in the fall: it’s where you can discover a film for yourself."
It's touching to tell us about the high-life of jet-set critics... but do you realise that the readers who you write for are never in a position to discover films in this virginal way, precisely BECAUSE of what you write! Reviewers are the ones (along with the marketing campaign) who tell all about the movies BEFORE they are even opened in theatre!!! Why the need to rub it in your readers face that they don't watch films like you do??? These guys never think before they write...
Dargis : "The [Cannes] festival is something of France’s answer to the Oscars (more so than the Césars, its annual film awards) and a modest bulwark against Hollywood hegemony."
WTF? Cannes (the best major festival that world art cinema has, no less!) is compared by the editor in chief of the NYT to the fucking Oscars??? Are you kidding me? You're out of your mind. Did you know the difference between a national award show (awarding American-centric mainstream movies with a democratic/demagogue poll of thousands industry people) and an international festival (for exclusive premieres selected by a curator and awarded by a small jury)??? Look it up on wikipedia!

I've noticed a nasty tendency amongst American reviewers, they love to bash major film festivals out of jealousy because the art scene attention shifts away to Europe, and there is no serious festival in the USA. They try to discredit the best festivals (which do the job to support world cinema that the USA market never does!) that are not taking place in North America. So bitching and whining in Berlin, Cannes and Venice is in fashion (see Clueless anti-festival Clichés). And when comes TIFF and NYFF they try to find nice words to say about these festivals, maybe in the hope to artificially turn the tide and bring cultural authority in America, which has none, substituted by business and marketing. This disingenuous tendency might not be intentional or premeditated, but it is growing, consciously/concerted or not, every year. And if professional critics follow suit without realising that bitter knee-jerk reaction, it means they aren't critical enough. The rest of the world seems to think that Cannes, Berlin and Venice are precious institutions, and try to discover the new artists that will fill the second-hand line up at TIFF or NYFF, and the presumptuous "Best Of" lists of all critics at the end of the year.

This present article, like all the others we find in the American media, is peppered, more or less subtly with snide remarks and low blows at festivals, while reminding the readership about the omnipresence of the Oscars, in case they forget :
AO + Manohla : "exhausting, sometimes overwhelming season [..] The whole thing can seem a bit like the pre-primary presidential campaign, in which candidacies blossom and wither before a single vote has been cast. [..] sucking up so much media oxygen [..] anticlimactic [..] a system that serves a lot of different, sometimes contradictory purposes [..] festivals also serve the imperatives of the industry and, increasingly, the machinery of hoopla and trivia that we know and endure as the awards season [..] I wonder if the emperor has no clothes [..] Oscar-ized [..] nothing to do with their box office or Oscar fortunes [..] if you looked past the nudity [..] self-consciously sterile visuals [..] another example of British miserablism [..] American cinema of sexual desperation [..] “Shame” can serve as a case study of the festival system at work [..] guaranteed that the audience would be small, serious and self-selected [..] more appealing destination for curious and adventurous moviegoers than the literal penitentiary of “Hunger.” [..] Fassbender is a much bigger star now [..] the festival itinerary can be seen as a kind of test marketing, with advance free publicity provided by journalists [..] It’s a drag how late-summer, early-fall festivals like Telluride and especially Toronto are now too often seen as warm-ups for the Oscars. [..] The festival is something of France’s answer to the Oscars [..] a modest bulwark against Hollywood hegemony [..] horse race [..] Though in February, when one of them lays hands on the statuette, I will of course be watching. [..] I’ll be watching too [..] tried to take Oscar out of the picture"
Where to start? This is just ill-conceived mentality at the root. No sane mind would write such things if they had benevolent intentions towards the festival circuit, art cinema and the films themselves. They "say" they are against the Oscars race rhetoric, yet they use it as much as anyone else. 

* * *

The Thick Red Pile (Nick James, Sight and Sound, Nov 2011)
And Nick James, the British Dan Kois, is also there for the knee-jerk attacks at "red carpet glamour" and "talent fanboys", turning the vital contribution of major festival to the health of world cinema into a stupid caricature that corresponds more to a spectacle like the Oscars. He and the others believe that artfilms cannot have a red carpet or a prestigious ceremony... as if the top class treatment was something reserved for the movies that make big money. Bollocks! Brad Pitt and Clooney can walk the festival carpet because they are among the few Hollywood A-listers who had the taste to pick low budget artfilms for a miserable paycheck when they could easily stick to blockbusters all year long. They aren't the proudest and brightest members of art cinema, but there is no shame in welcoming them and benefiting from their mass-media appeal. Cannes doesn't invite populist blockbusters in competition, unlike other second-hand festivals.
And then he applauds the designation of clueless rambler Chris Fujiwara (see here, here and here) at the head of the moribund Edinburgh Film Festival that nobody wanted to direct last year and failed at their anti-cinephilia debate. The guy doesn't know what is criticism or its "work ethic", he can't tell the difference between a professional critic and an amateur cinephile, he thinks that audiences must be tortured and he cannot even define what is "good writing"... Good luck Edinburgh! Why does Europe need to import idiots from America to curate a festival? Is there nobody competent in the UK to take this position? I'm worried about the British film culture...


4 commentaires:

HarryTuttle a dit…

"[..] This issue of Film comment marks the publication of a story on something close to my heart. Indeed, it's a subject that sheds a little light on how I cultivated my movie passion and by extansion how I wound up sitting here writing this editorial. That subject is : movie novelization.
There, I've said it.
Now begins not a sentimental journey but a mortifying tale of misspent youth, a shame-filled confession of what I cue up to while Kent Jones was rereading Manny Farber's Negative Space for the 12th tile. [..]
Okay, right about now I find myself wondering, as I'm sure many of you often do, if I'm actually fit to be the editor of this magazine. [..]
(And doesn't it burn you up that a younger generation of cinephiles had it so easy thanks to home video?)"
editor's letter; Gavin Smith; Film Comment; Nov-Dec 2011

HarryTuttle a dit…

"[..] with the print issue of Cinema Scope 48 featuring reviews and interviews for films that aren’t exclusively showing at TIFF, but also premiering at Venice, New York, Vancouver, and many other stops on the road to being downloaded in pirated fan-subtitled versions. [..]
As I type with fingers crossed, I think it might turn out to be the best festival package in the Toronto-based media, not only because the word Oscar goes unmentioned. (I don’t think there’s a film in TIFF this year directed by someone named Oscar.)
[..] I’m changing up my yearly ritual a bit. Instead of recommending films that we haven’t previously covered in the magazine, here are ten films I’m looking forward to seeing. This also allows me the opportunity to reveal that, yes, I don’t get to preview everything before the rest of you, and sometimes I do other things than watching films: namely, writing emails to people about them."
Mark Peranson, editorial, Cinemascope; issue 48 (Oct 2011)

HarryTuttle a dit…

Speaking of importing foreign curators... In other news, Frédéric Boyer (former director of the Cannes Quinzaine des Réalisateurs, briefly) is invited to curate the Tribeca festival in New York! Irony.

HarryTuttle a dit…

"I avoided reading reviews or learning too much about the picture, so I was able to form my own opinion of [The Artist]…and I enjoyed it very much.

Since then, I’ve spoken to several film-buff friends who came away from the film feeling disappointed. I can understand why: at this point it’s been praised to the skies, and people—especially old-movie aficionados—are going to see it with outsized expectations."
Leonard Maltin (5 Dec 2011, indieWIRE)

another film page employee who brags about watching movies ahead of everyone else, without being influenced by prior hype and built-up expectations... and tell his readers about it, who are fatally SPOILED by the fact of reading that very article!