Podhoretz's pre-emptive strike on film critics
Having called it so well when it came to Iraq,
John Podhoretz turns his acute neo-conservative analytical mind to something
else he knows nothing about -- movies. In "Thinking on Film," his apparently ironically
titled column in "The Weekly Standard," Podhoretz tells us why the end of the film criticism profession is a good
"This deprofessionalization," he writes, "is probably the best thing that could
have happened to the field. Film criticism requires nothing but an interesting
sensibility. The more self-consciously educated one is in the field -- by which
I mean the more obscure the storehouse of cinematic knowledge a critic has--the
less likely it is that one will have anything interesting to say to an ordinary
person who isn't all that interested in the condition of Finnish cinema."
And so, tough shit for anyone who might have been entertained by,
for example, the works of the hilarious and moving Finnish director Aki Kaurismaki. Or, while we're on the subject of Scandinavian film, who cares about the upcoming delightful and genuinely audience pleasing film "O'Horten"
by the Finnish director Bent Hamer? If people like John Podhoretz don't know
anything about them, how can they be any good?
And never mind that Finnish director, Ingmar Bergman. Or was he Swedish?
Frankly, no one is interested. As for anyone who might be interested in such nonsense, as Podhoretz wrote
on the occasion of Bergman's death, "They [don't] admire the medium. They [are]
offended by its unseriousness, by its capacity to entertain without offering
anything elevating at the same time." They are, he concludes, "embarrassed by the movies."
These deluded, serious people who waste their time learning about
the medium they are embarrassed by also claim to admire such uninteresting
films as "Vertigo" ("silly," says Podhoretz), "The Searchers" ("turgid, wooden,
boring, weird") and "2001" ("a crashing bore").
Instead, they should take a look at some of Podhoretz's favorites, such as
"Road House" and "The Phantom Menace."
Part of film appreciation, then, is not watching anything made
before 1989. But the most important qualification is ignorance. Ignorance, in film viewing as in
foreign policy, is bliss. The less you know, the less likely you're going to
let silly things like knowledge or taste get in the way of your interesting
sensibility telling you to get teary-eyed at the family values hokum of Ron
Howard's "Cinderella Man" despite its smearing of the great part-Jewish boxer (he
fought Max Schmeling in Nazi Germany wearing a Star of David on his trunks) Max
Baer. Or have fun with "The Phantom Menace" despite the incredibly annoying and
racist rantings of Jar-Jar Binks, the most despised character in "Star Wars"
history. Or get all patriotic and invade Iraq.
Come to think of it, I'd gladly
have the John Podhoretzes of the world dictate the discussion on film rather
than see them in a position to determine the nation's future. So while we're
getting rid of the film critics who at worst can only cause someone to waste
ten bucks on a film they won't like, how about getting rid of those neo-con
"pundits" who still pollute the media long after coaxing the country into total