On Film Criticism


Yesterday, I spent part of the morning arguing with a friend as to the ongoing importance of film criticism. He said that film critics were like bees in September: dying slowly and stinging wildly in their final days. I said: Feh! Criticism is the last bastion of meaningful writing for a mass audience. My friend resorted to he elitism canard about how Ain’t It Cool News and shit like that is more relevant to the people’s tastes. I guess I’m not “the people,” because I don’t care what fanboys think about Avatar. (Which, if you ask me, looks retarded, and has no chance of escaping the long shadow of the fractionally expensive and work of genius, District 9.) Even if you don’t agree with Manohla, she cares about the transcendent meaning of film, and I’m all for that. There’s nothing better than reading a great film review, even if you’re uninterested in the movie. Like, for example, Dennis Lim’s consideration of the latest Final Destination — a movie I could never see; my friend Starlee and I once considered creating a series of horror film reviews that would be based on their Wikipedia entries, since we would be too scared to watch the actual movies — in which Lim manages to concoct and sell a critical connection between the four Final Destinations and the metaphysics of Ingmar Bergman:

Their first innovation is the casting of Death itself as the antagonist, which turns out to be quite pleasing from a design perspective. These are remarkably streamlined, clutter-free movies, unencumbered by the need to identify the killer or his motivation, let alone explain why he appears to die at the end of one film only to be revived at the start of the next. There is no supernatural or psychological back story and — a rarity in this most charged of genres —no sociopolitical subtext to speak of. At most, for those so inclined, the movies function as memento mori, posing cosmic questions about fate and mortality. The arc of any “Final Destination” film — a futile, movielong negotiation with Death — echoes that of the Bergman classic “The Seventh Seal.

See? Take that, Ain’t It Cool News!

Joshuah Bearman has written about CIA missions, jewel thieves, deranged private investigators, aspiring Fabios, bitter rivalry among dueling Santa Clauses, and the metaphysical implications of being the world's greatest Pac Man player. His article for Wired became the movie Argo. More from this author →