Monday, December 12, 2005

Snarky Film Critics Invade the Makor


(image via

What do you get when you fill a stage on the Upper West Side with a bunch of snarky film critics? Last night, Armond White, Thelma Adams, Stephen Holden and Glenn Kenny brought their "A-game" to the 92nd Street Y and, with all due respects, let their freak flags fly. According to Indiewire's Reeler:

"For whatever reason, the brittle, contrarian bitchiness that stifles (Armond White's) columns resurfaced Sunday as optimism--and you cannot say that it was there in the Press the whole time. Remember, this is the guy who only three weeks ago eviscerated these same colleagues for their smugness and intellectual dishonesty.

"Not that he invoked a cuddle party Sunday, but the guy had some far more constructive insights to pass along when he could--like when Holden asked if he rejected cynical films like Syriana in an ostensibly cynical time. 'You have an agenda which is really that movies should progress, (or) morally uplift us,' Holden said.

"'Everybody has an agenda,' White said. 'So I'm not ashamed to say my agenda is that I want a movie that does not insult me, and very simply, basically, I want what everybody wants from art: I want art to show me something about myself, something about others--tell me something about the world that I wouldn't have understood until I encountered this work of art.'

"'But something positive,' Holden said.'No,' White said. 'No. Not necessarily positive. I believe in that Leslie Fiedler line, 'No! in Thunder': Not necessarily positive in a namby-pamby sense, but positive in a profound sense. If we're living in a cynical age, why do we need more cynical movies? We can get cynicism really easily-- just pick it out of the air. Living in a cynical age we need movies that teach us how to remember that we're human. To remember that we're like others.'

"Panel moderator Michael Zam jumped in. 'So what are some movies that make you feel that this year?'

"'Munich,' White replied. 'The great, great Munich.'

"'Oh my God,' Adams groaned."

And, we imagine, it takes quite a bit to make US Weekly's Thelma Adams groan. The conversation contunued thusly:

"That is pretty much where the discussion broke off into an insider bull session about unreleased films that most of the audience obviously had not yet seen. Munich got a lot of face time, as did The New World, King Kong, Match Point (notably--and wrongly, I might add--reviled by each of the panelists; more on that here Dec. 21) and The Producers. A few other fall films did make it into the chat: Lodge Kerrigan's brilliant Keane came up and was promptly forgotten again, while A History of Violence drew mixed sentiments including Kenny's awe-inspiring (and unironic!) observation: 'I don't think Cronenberg thinks of himself as a satirist. I think of it as more of a philosophical burlesque.'

"Meanwhile, Adams wondered if Jake Gyllenhaal would be considered as more than Brokeback Mountain's supporting actor Oscar hopeful had he not played a bottom ..."

(A considerable pause) More of such deep, insightful philosophical burlesque here.

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