ROGER EBERT RULES
You know that already, but to be reminded again, surf to this week’s must-read post on film criticism in the age of the internet. Yes, it’s sad that film critics are losing their jobs, but Ebert finds good reason to celebrate the diversity of voices the ‘net brings us.
A key graph:
What the internet is creating is a class of literate, gifted amateur writers, in an old tradition. Like Trollope, who was a British Post official all his working life, they write for love and because they must. Like Rohinton Mistry, a banking executive, or Wallace Stevens, an insurance executive, or Edmund Wilson, who spent his most productive years sitting in his big stone house in upstate New York and writing about what he damned well pleased. Samuel Pepys, who wrote the greatest diary in the language, was a high officials in the British Admiralty. Many people can write well and yearn to, but they are not content, like Pepys, for their work to go unread. A blog on the internet gives them a place to publish. Maybe they don’t get a lot of visits, but it’s out there. As a young women in San Francisco, Pauline Kael wrote the notes for screenings of great films, and did a little free-lancing. If she’d had a blog, no telling what she might have written during those years.
In his piece, Ebert mentions David Bordwell in this account of an exchange with a student looking for career advice.
“So, in all sincerity and honesty, do you think I should encourage the kid to follow his passion (which is what I would normally do), or give him a hard dose of reality? Maybe he could consider other work in the film-biz that holds more potential?”
The best response to this question came from my hero David Bordwell, who is the most knowledgeable film critic in America. I won’t even get an argument about that. David and his wife Kristin Thompson, herself on the topmost shelf, have published many invaluable books, including textbooks few film students fail to use. These textbooks are extraordinary above all because they are books, written in classical English prose and a great pleasure to read. Now David and Kristin have transformed their own careers with the best single movie blog on the web. After distinguished careers as much-published writers, it’s as if the internet allowed them to unleash their real energy.
If you didn’t see my tweet last week linking to Manohla Dargis’s well-deserved appreciation of Bordwell in the New York Times last week, here is that link again. And, as a related aside, let me echo another of my tweets this week by welcoming once more Todd McCarthy to the blogosphere.