negativity

by eug
January 3, 2007 6:54 AM
11 Comments
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Is anyone else out there tired of all the negativity and personal attacks that make up so much of the blog writing today? Why can't we be critical without being insulting and disrespectful? Why are so many bloggers constantly trying to create controversy? Oh yeah, just like the 24-hour news channels, they are desperate for an audience...

Today, Hollywood Elsewhere's Jeff Wells tries to stoke a battle between The Hollywood Reporter's Anne Thompson and The New Yorker's David Denby, even though her measured comments about Denby's recent article are critical but respectful. At least she didn't insult the writer... Wells recently called blogging competitor Dave Poland a "pissy, pathetic little bitch," after Poland branded him, "George's buttboy" (referring to Wells' positive review of George Hickenlooper's "Factory Girl." The Wells-Poland battle has grown tired and unfortunately, I spend less time reading their worthwhile sites as a result.

Of course, the LA guys don't have the market cornered on negativity. Just last week, the valuable new NYC film site The Reeler went off on year-end top 10 writers last week, prompting the NY Times' David Carr to playfully call The Reeler's Stu VanAirsdale "a bit of a hater." STV responded to a number of negative comments with a contrite open letter today.

Finally, I can't overlook our own indieWIRE.com, which published some rather tough comments last week that went beyond criticizing "Pan's Labyrinth" to dissing those who praised the movie...calling them "mindless reviewers" and labeling the film "the prototypical Foreign Film for Dummies" (with a comparison to 'Amelie')...

Maybe I watched a bit too much daytime TV over my break in California (and maybe I am reading to much into the aforementioned examples), but the volume of insults and negativity just got to me. I am all for criticism...but with so much disrespect?

Thoughts?

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11 Comments

  • Paul Coleman | January 6, 2007 12:38 AMReply

    Wow. I don't have any energy left over for negativity. I'm just trying to sail my own boat and get my film out to the world.

  • Michael Koresky | January 5, 2007 11:27 AMReply

    Touché. But hopefully, with the exceptions of things like the Woody Allen and Rossellini retro pieces, longtime readers know the blog is just an offshoot area to let off steam. The more serious writing is on the main site and on indieWIRE reviews.

  • Michael Koresky | January 5, 2007 4:50 AMReply

    Thought I'd chime in since my review of Pan's Labyrinth has been invoked a few times. While I feel no need to defend my stance against a film that has completely taken the critical community by storm and has been all but lauded as a masterpiece by seemingly every single outlet known to humankind, I do admit that the "bile" of the review, as it's been called, came out of a furious reaction against critical consensus. I find the film more mediocre than offensive, but the hating was obviously fueled by some dormant contrarianism. However, the "Foreign Film for Dummies" bit was meant to reference what I saw as its "text-book whimsy"...not a judgment on people who like it. I try to avoid that in my writing, and I usually try to edit out that sort of writing in those of my other RS writers, hoping for a more rigorous approach. Therefore, I didn't mean to call anyone a "Dummy," literally...it was more about its makers than its audiences.

    That said, I think people reacted to that only because the film is so wildly beloved...and dissent is still a surprise. After I filed the review and sent it to (who else but...) Eugene, I realized that he had that day put it up as his best movie of the year! I think ultimately, then, it's a tribute to the diversity and plurality of voices that indieWIRE engenders...Eugene posted my negative review (as the official indieWIRE review) of a film he thought was the best of the year. Kudos and hats off, then, to indieWIRE.

  • Mark Rabinowitz | January 4, 2007 6:11 AMReply

    Here's a thought, Mr. or Ms. 'You're the negative one,' how about you put a real name or web address on one of your comments. Tom, Eugene and myself have no problems showing our faces. If you're going to criticize, how about growing a pair and doing it in the light of day?

  • You're the negative one | January 4, 2007 5:16 AMReply

    Their / your coverage of those events always cycle back to the same group of people in and around New York City. Which gets so ridiculous. There is no one saying you should cover "every screening at Two Boots on a Tuesday night." But it might help your credibility if you recognized that other things are going on there, and in tons of other places in New York. You're right: it is apples and oranges. And the indiewire apple is rotten to the core.

    And as for claims of greatness, your own "about" page indicates that you have "comprehensive coverage of indie, documentary and foreign language films."

    How can you be "comprehensive" when you ignore all sorts of interesting things in the city where you are based - let alone interesting "independent" events around the world?

    This is my last point. My point is made. You guys will probably never understand but hopefully some of your readers become more skeptical about it.

    Have fun at your next binge drinking party / festival junket!

  • Tom Hall | January 4, 2007 3:05 AMReply

    Well, 'indieWIRE is the negative one' (sorry for the previous typos, long day), I am not sure how covering festivals, events and screenings in NYC, LA, Park City, Tornoto, Istanbul, Greece, Dubai, Cannes, Rotterdam, Berlin, Austin, Nantucket, Newport, Sarasota, Chicago, Orlando, Miami, Palm Springs, Santa Barbara, Seattle, Portland, Denver and obviously, an entire site dedicated to the film community in San Fransico, can be compared with making sure you're at every screening at Two Boots on a Tuesday night, but I don't disagree; indieWIRE has its limitations. No one can cover everything. I also don't remember the site ever saying that they define independent film (nor do I remember the words 'ooooh, we are the source for independent film', but I digress)-- that is merely you transposing your anger over the absence of your own concerns from indieWIRE's coverage. Certainly, I read The Reeler everyday, and again, I know Stu and think he's a great guy, but I also know that his 'no bullshit' policy and his sassy style come at a cost to community building (which is not his mission at all, I suppose) and it has burned bridges for him. I don't care; I read The Reeler anyway. Am I pissed when indieWIRE or The Reeler or anyone else doesn't write what I want them to write? No, I go write about it myself. At the end of the day, though, I still don't see how selective editorial content can be seen as negative in the same name-calling way your comments and a lot of bloggers are. Its apples to oranges. If you want your movie or event covered by indieWIRE, that's one thing. But hiding behind a screen name and throwing stones, it is hard to take you seriously.

  • indiewire is the negative one | January 4, 2007 1:55 AMReply

    Oh come on, Tom Hall. Just compare how many more venues and events are covered at the Reeler. For starters - and this is just New York City - they have recently covered things (and in detail) at Fordham University, MonkeyTown in Brooklyn, the Two Boots, the Anthology, Lincoln Center, Museum of Modern Art, many other spots, Film Forum, not to mention things at the Ziegfeld and big studio movies like THE GOOD SHEPHERD and tons of other places. They seem to be pulling it off with a much smaller staff and probably a much smaller budget. And they don't pretend that they're defining independent film. Meanwhile indiewire always talks like oooh, we are the source for independent film -- but then it's yet another night out on the town with John Sloss and Ryan Werner. It's time to start calling them on this shit.

  • Tom Hall | January 3, 2007 11:18 AMReply

    Amen, Eug. I have been making the same point privately and on my own blog for a long time; Too many people I know the film are not only negative, but many don't even like movies. My own policy, only rarely broken, is that if I don't enjoy something, I don't bother writing about it. I don't want to contribute to the negativity. Sometimes, I feel compelled to jump in and say something about a film that deeply troubles me or if I feel an institution is shortchanging its audience by excluding films, but otherwise, these films have it hard enough in the world without all the negative piling on. As much as I admire the Reverse Shot gang for defending films and artists that may go overlooked otherwise, I also get frustrated with their consistent negativity. Stu is a great guy, but The Reeler blog has always been about stirring the poy (remember his comments about IFC back in the day?). I dunno. I am in film programming because I LOVE movies and I want the movies I love to make an impact on people who might not otherwise see them. The rest is just a waste of energy. Good for you for saying so.

    As for the comments of 'You're the negative one', I don't understand what films and film events you would like to see indieWIRE cover and what economic model you propose to allow a staff of three people to cover the 90% (a dubious number at best ) that is missed while hosting a FREE website that is not owned by a major media corporation. I'm sure the guys would love a look at your business model.

  • champura | January 3, 2007 10:33 AMReply

    I agree completely about Poland and Wells. I find it astonishing that these guys have chosen to interpret the recent Denby and NYO articles as some sort of NY-fueled hatred of LA. Anne Thompson's well-reasoned response only serves to show how reactionary those guys are.

    And don't get me started on that bizarre Pan's Labyrinth review. Michael Koresky should know by now that rant-riddled reviews only tend to undermine any reasonable points the reviewer has to make.

  • Karina Longworth | January 3, 2007 9:06 AMReply

    I think the personal nature of blogs has encouraged otherwise sensible writers and thinkers to drop their usual journalistic armor and play dirty. That's not always a bad thing, but personally, I got into this business because I enjoy reading (and writing) about films, not film bloggers/critics. I think it's possible to engage in criticism and debate without getting this personal -- as far as I'm concerned, even if the writing is fair game, the writer shouldn't need to be. But I also understand the game well enough to know that these silly little spats are probably more about Tecnorati rankings than anything else. Which sucks for those of us who couldn't care less about David Poland's trash-talking skilz, but...

  • You're the negative one. | January 3, 2007 8:34 AMReply

    The bigger negativity / insult is indieWIRE and other sites' pretending that 90% of the film events that take place don't take place - a "negation" if anything is. How much ink do you have to spill about Pan's Labyrinth and The Departed, while ignoring all sorts of other great things out there?
    The Reeler refers to your poll as "clubby shit.", and comments on how all the lists are
    addressing the same 10 percent of the year's releases as everybody else - hardly enough to address everything that truly could be considered "the year's best movies."
    You deserve all the negativity you get directed back at you, because of all the negativity you direct through your passive aggressive silence about truly indie things taking place elsewhere, and your endlessly acting like you are the guardians of greatness though you really are grandstanding bullshitters and
    junket whores.
    Indiewire has become (and probably always was) the site for the "indie lite elite." Like the IFP, you have damaged the idea of independent cinema much more than you have supported it.