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Defending Elvis Mitchell. Sort Of.

Photo of Eric Kohn By Eric Kohn | Eric Kohn April 25, 2011 at 4:05AM

Defending Elvis Mitchell. Sort Of.

I don't really know Elvis Mitchell. I've had a few pleasant conversations with him and I hope to have more. Since the news came out a few days ago that Mitchell lost his job at Movieline, maybe because of some odd confusion regarding his "Source Code" review, few people have leapt to his defense. Mitchell's professional track record sounds pretty awful, and anyone who has dealt with the ramifications of that now has the opportunity to vent. Is that fair? Well, somewhat: The guy works in a public medium, which means that any professional misstep runs the risk of getting noticed by everybody.

Still, Mitchell is not a bad guy. Bad guys lie, cheat and steal. Sometimes they run dictatorships and kill millions of people. Mitchell's just a little shifty, but he manages to stay in the game for a reason. He's a perceptive critic, with a vast understanding of film history and very wide range of aesthetic interests. That should dominate his reputation. Everything else is either a footnote or worth forgetting about. I also feel like his tendency to flake on jobs is a kind of irreverent performance art, a persistent (if pompous) statement of individuality. I'm not excusing the behavior, but I haven't been affected by it, either. I like this review of "Requiem for a Dream," in which Mitchell writes that Aronofsky's "effrontery is effectively a personal statement." That's probably what Mitchell is going for with his own shenanigans.

Anne Thompson has quoted me in her piece about the Mitchell news, as I was at the Florida Film Festival last week when he failed to show up as a jury member. The festival was ticked; I was just disappointed. He's a great conversationalist, able to discuss movies and pop culture in a relaxed, personable fashion, which is partly why he has been able to stick around on his own terms. I hope he finds another opportunity soon, and holds onto it.