Trash Humpers Thoughts: An apology/clarification to Mike D'Angelo

By Michael Lerman | "Lincoln Blogs" by Michael Lerman September 24, 2009 at 8:05AM

Trash Humpers Thoughts: An apology/clarification to Mike D'Angelo

I wanted to take a somewhat self-indulgent moment to clarify a rather glib and unsupported remark I made on Twitter about a colleague. Two days ago, I tweeted the following entry: “Michael Lerman wonders how Mike D'Angelo can afford to be so lazy in a recession where so many talented, hard working writers are unemployed.” While my remarks were in response to Mike's piece about Harmony Korine's Trash Humpers (and I'll get to that in a second), I left no evidence to support that in the least.

Many of you who know me well know that I've been complaining for quite sometime about a growing trend of critics writing attacks at each other, often not at their opinions in fruitful debate, but just simply of their writing styles or habits, often making petty personal snipes. Today, I've accidentally and embarrassingly fallen victim to that and, what's worse, I did it with the only excuse being that I was writing in a medium that forces you to fit all your thoughts into 140 characters - not a valid reason in the least. Some are very good at debating in such small, pithy phrases. I, clearly, have not mastered this art as I couldn't even manage to get the subject of the argument into the tweet, leaving my adversary, among others, to ponder what the hell I could be referring to. So, Mike, I just wanted to say publicly that I am sorry. As it stands, my remark comes across as hostile and insulting and you didn't deserve that at all.

However, as for the main point I was trying to make, I find this review a little bit of an easy way out. I don't presume to have some higher understanding of the film that you don't possess. I enjoyed it quite a bit and was skeptical going into it, so, I guess on a pure experiential level, I am a perfect example of the antithesis of what you are talking about in your piece. I feel there were a million ways to screw this film up, to make it feel more tedious or less structured. But, while it does play as a bizarre series of jokes and sequences, I see each of these building off of the previous ones and the choices of editing, ordering scenes and visual medium all served the higher purpose of making it simply hilarious and less unwatchable than it could've gone.

But what frustrates me the most is not that I think there's something here you don't understand, but more that I feel like you just had a negative reaction and, therefore, simply didn't try. You wrote circles around a philosophical term, avoiding any attempt to dissect the film for its intended purpose because you were so appalled that it would be considered a work of art, as supported in your sarcastic comment "Major fall festivals, here I come." I get frustrated or scared sometimes when I feel like we don't, as journalists, measure the value of work on its own merits, but instead on the context that others put it in for us. If we accept to write about a film, the piece should give the film some good thought, whether it be about White Material or Trash Humpers or Nights & Weekends or Space Chimps. Too often I read pieces that are simply dismissive because of the directorial style or the generic genre the film falls under or the status it holds in the festival realm and if you do that, then you aren't talking about the film anymore at all, but instead griping about the fact that anything you personally don't consider art gets made in the world or shown at events we consider sacred and prestigious, which is a dead horse we've all been beating for far too long.

I'm am 100% positive I am guilty of this myself from time to time, but I guess what I'm trying to say is this: Mike, I like your writing. A lot. Even the piece that I am taking issue with shows how intelligent you are. So I found it incredibly dismaying when you dealt with your negative reaction to Trash Hampers by writing what seemed like a masturbatory 605 words about, well, basically, why the film doesn't deserve 605 words written about it instead of trying to figure out Korine's intent and then intelligently ripping it apart on its own terms, discussing how he fails to carry out that intent or, at the very least, why that intent was misguided to begin with. I know you can do it so well. I just wish you had and, for that, I call you temporarily lazy.