One critic’s take on the politicization of film criticism

The Guardian contributor Jessa Crispin writes that 2019 was a mediocre year for film, even though police departments issued warnings about mass shootings at premieres for Todd Phillips’s Joker (2019) because critics participated in an online moral panic over incel violence. According to Crispin, this overestimation of a movie’s sway over the course of real-world events has led to an overappraisal of releases such as Greta Gerwig’s Little Women (2019), with reviewers accusing filmgoers like Crispin of misogyny because she found it oversentimental. Crispin says shaming viewers into seeing certain titles for political reasons, even if the titles in question are poorly made, further divides audiences from the critic’s authority over the cinematic arts, and shifts the blame for nondiverse storytelling from the producers, where it belongs.

The advent of “extreme film criticism”

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Review aggregate sites such as Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic have also degraded long-form analysis. (Image Courtesy: The Los Angeles Review of Books).

With the rise of home video, film criticism (as per the French New Wave filmmakers behind the Parisian Cahiers du cinema in the 1950s) democratized, and to compete against the amateurs, professionals resort to “extreme film criticism,” according to the Los Angeles Review of Books. When AMC theaters screened all twelve Marvel movies leading up to the release of Anthony and Joe Russo’s Avengers: Infinity War (2018) that April, IndieWire reviewer David Ehrlich as well as The New York Times critic John Bailey subjected themselves to the thirty-one-hour marathon. Even this practice harkens back to François Truffaut, Jean-Luc Godard, and Éric Rohmer, who would spend entire days at the Cinémathèque Française bingeing the American masterpieces over and over again.

Film scholar Thomas Elsaesser dies at seventy-six

Seventy-six-year-old German-born film essayist Thomas Elsaesser died of cardiac arrest December 4 at a hospital in Beijing, after he failed to show up for an appearance as part of his Chinese lecture tour and was found in his hotel room, according to The New York Times. Survived by his wife, Silvia Vega-Llona, Elsaesser was born June 22, 1943, in Berlin, discovering the Hollywood melodramas for which he was so fond through his Burt Lancaster fan of a maternal grandmother, as well as European art films through his parents. New York University professor of cinema studies Dana Polan says Elsaesser was there when the modern understanding of film studies was becoming what we know it as today, writing more than two hundred essays since the mid-1970s.

Critics at “The Hollywood Reporter” pick their ten worst films of the year

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Included on this list are an X-Men installment, two John Travolta outings, as well as a widely panned musical. (Image Courtesy: The Hollywood Reporter).

The critics at The Hollywood Reporter have cast their votes for the ten worst films of the year. They range from reboots, remakes, and sequels, to cheap horror movies, to animated pictures only interested in selling toys, to pretentious arthouse releases. In alphabetical order, they are: Aaron Woodley’s Arctic Dogs (2019); Tom Hooper’s Cats (2019); Simon Kinberg’s Dark Phoenix (2019); Brian De Palma’s Domino (2019); Fred Durst’s The Fanatic (2019); Daniel Farrands’s The Haunting of Sharon Tate (2019); Sam Taylor-Johnson’s A Million Little Pieces (2018); Adrian Grunberg’s Rambo: Last Blood (2019); Steven Knight’s Serenity (2019); and Karzan Kader’s Trading Paint (2019).