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Topics/Questions/Exercises of the Week—14 August 2009

Glenn Kenny

If It's Too Loud, You're Too Old: It began with Ebert. And then, as some would have it, A.O. Scott picked up the ball, although his own piece is far less age-centric and a more nuanced don't-believe-the-hype piece. And then it was picked up by Wells, who stirred some Bill Maher Americans-are-stupid rants and H.G. Wells/George Pal imagery into the mix. And was then challenged (in a remarkably even-handed manner, if I may say so myself) by yours truly, who was backed up by Drew McWeeny. What is it? It's what I like to call the "You Damn Kids" meme, and it was kicked off by the fact that—get this—not enough teenagers have gone to see The Hurt Locker. I know, I know—what you say?

My favorite of the many, many, many comments this back-and-forth-and-back-and-forth has generated came from Stephen Boone, over on, ahem, my own blog: "Dumb is not the problem, never was. Dumb is forever. The real problem is that dumb has finally, perhaps irrevocably, infiltrated the one aspect of filmmaking craft that could not afford to lose its good sense: the editing. Professional film editors have abandoned their craft in favor of utterly random newsmagazine pastiche. Some say, "fuck it, no looking back." I say that any critic who goes chasing the "anti-intellectualism" thread is dropping the ball. Movies today are smarter and more complex than ever, textually, but who cares if, in terms of picture editing (what Tarkovsky called a director's "handwriting") they are senseless and weightless?

Mainstream movies have deranged their relationship with screen time, and that's why they are so unsatisfying, confounding and forgettable. Many critics seem to think this phenomenon is inevitable at the multiplex; that sensible and sensitive construction is only the province of your festival faves. When an Anderson or Tarantino or Soderbergh bust out with popular entertainment that moves sensually and not spastically, the work is treated as a curious anomaly that has more to do with the individual filmmakers' special talents than the fact that they simply followed rules any studio hack circa 1960 would have known well enough to heed. Today, critics and filmmakers are conceding editorial innovations that are about as revolutionary as a keytar. Put down your goddamn books and start looking at what's going on before and after the cut. That's where we're losing everything."

This kind of sets up a whole other discussion, potentially, and if S.B. would care to elaborate, here would be a good place to have it. Especially given that the age argument seems played out, and Wells is onto a new class of people who suck: Chicks, 'cause they won't go see The Cove.

Because It's All About Me, Finally: At Monster In Your Veins, a previously unmentioned blog, Charles Webb looks at the "You Damn Kids" debate and writes: "A.O. Scott launches the opening salvo over at the NY Times. Roger Ebert becomes exasperated, calling it a Gathering Dark Age. Jeff Wells gets all Wells on our asses and calls the current generation Eloi here. And of course, it becomes point-counterpoint with Drew McWeeny formerly of Aint It Cool News weighing in and later, Glenn Kenney in a response devoid of"

And then the sentence cuts off. Seriously. DEVOID OF WHAT??? Somebody please answer me! I haven't slept in two days! And it's "Kenny!"

When Was The Last Time A Filmmaker Was Interviewed For "The Atlantic"?: I don't recall. Do you? But here's Quentin Tarantino, of all people, talking to Atlantic national correspondent and one-time Iraq war cheerleader Jeffrey Goldberg, all about Inglourious Basterds and it's "Jewish avenger" component. Goldberg himself allows that scalping Nazis is "a bit much," and Tarantino once again proves the wisdom of trusting the tale rather than the teller, and I don't care what the Rolling Stones said about it being the singer, not the song, Mick Jagger would say something like that, wouldn't he? In any case, that dictum—the non Rolling-Stones-one!—applies to maybe half of Nick Ridley's generous and very entertaining interview with Tarantino for the more traditionally apropos outfit Sight and Sound.  I'm very high on Basterds myself, you may find out why here if you like; one thing's for sure, the debate on this picture, which is now starting to repercolate after the Cannes premiere, is gonna be a doozy.

Armond White-ism Of The Week: "This Eiffel Tower image also recalls the postmodern epigraph that closes Godard’s In Praise of Love : 'I will go to my grave with more visions than man has previously ever known.' " The Eiffel Tower image to which White refers occurs in G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra. Again, I swear—he's doing this on purpose!!!

Also, in White's review of District 9, White approvingly cites a piece by—a film blogger! Who referred to a Morrissey song in a piece about Roy Andersson's You, the Living. Well of course he did! White doesn't tell us where the piece appears, but still, that's kinda sweet.

In other White news, we return to Ebert, who, after writing a pretty thorough and impassioned defense of White's pan of District 9, is compelled to review prior White work and concludes that the man is "a troll." Albeit a smart and knowing one. I dunno, I think Armond's too tall to be a troll.

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