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Should Critics Write About Filmmaking? Now in Pie-Chart Form!

by Sam Adams
March 28, 2014 2:11 PM
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Writer Tim Wainwright has been keeping close tabs on the debate about whether -- or more accurately, to what extent -- critics have a responsibility to discuss matters of form. It began with a broadside by jazz critic Ted Gioia, crossed over to film with Monday's Criticwire Survey, became a manifesto by Matt Zoller Seitz, and found its way to several other sites before ending up back here. Along the way, as invariably happens, both sides have been whittled down to reductive caricatures, including the notion that this debate actually has opposing points of view rather than different positions along the same continuum. (If there's a "No, Critics Should Never Write About Form" essay out there, I haven't seen it.)

At his blog, sensibly called "Tim Wainwright's Blog," Wainwright does an excellent job of tracking the discussion as it's proliferated and metastasized, even singling out a few well-chosen tweets. He's also done Criticwire the solid of turning the Criticwire Survey results into a handy pie chart, reproduced above. Now if someone could do the same for the music side of the debate, we'd really have something.

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  • No thanks | March 28, 2014 8:24 PMReply

    I don't think many critics object to writing about form or "knowing what you're talking about" as MZS puts it. I think many might fundamentally agree with a lot of his points. However, I think what a lot of people objected to was his pedantic, condescending tone and the whole backpeddling, feigning contrition "Golly, I don't know how that could have possibly offended, golly" stuff on Twitter meanwhile RT'ing every negative comment that implied he had "embarrassed" critics (which is laughable). I think people just object to MZS.

  • Matt Zoller Seitz | April 4, 2014 12:19 AM

    You may very well be right: I had more than one conversation about the piece that amount to people saying, "I don't like your tone, young man." Be that as it may, I was genuinely shocked by the reaction to the piece, for reasons Sam summarized above. And I did feel that it was misconstrued by a lot of people who seemed to think it was calling for critics to suddenly represent themselves as experts on focal length or nonlinear editing, when it was asking nothing of the sort.

  • Ed | March 28, 2014 5:38 PMReply

    HA! You sure should write about filmmaking! Just don't make movies.

  • Sam Adams | April 4, 2014 10:33 AM

    I can get behind this.

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