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kicking up a fuss since 1997 | by maryann johanson

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question of the day: Can a Hollywood insider be a fair film critic?

I was stunned to learn this weekend that VanityFair.com has hired actor and filmmaker Paul Mazurksy to be its new film critic. It’s true that Mazursky has not been terribly active these days — his best known film is probably Down and Out in Beverly Hills, way back in 1986 — but he’s still an industry insider.
FishbowlLA quotes Vanity Fair editor-in-chief Graydon Carter:

I wanted a film critic who’s been inside the Hollywood trenches; one who would bring a richly seasoned viewpoint to current cinema. Mazursky fits the bill to a T. There isn’t an aspect of moviemaking that he doesn’t know first hand. And he has the scars to prove it.

Mazursky’s own introduction at VanityFair.com is in places incoherent, like here:

So, do critics matter? It depends on to whom. To the young audience? I’m not sure they even read reviews, in the era of RottenTomatoes.com. Does it matter to the over-45s? Sure, if they want culture and social problems—and don’t mind a little sex and violence. I’d like to believe they want to be moved to tears by the end of a great film.

What is the “it” Mazursky is wondering about in regards to the “over-45s”? It’s not “critics,” surely, because apart from the grammatical mismatch — did anyone edit this? — in what way do “culture and social problems” and “a little bit of sex and violence” have to do with “critics”… or criticism, or reviews, or anything else in this sentence? I have no idea at all what he’s trying to convey here.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, then, Mazursky’s first two reviews, of Melancholia (read my review here) and J. Edgar (my review coming shortly), are banal, to say the least.

There’s the matter, too, of what a slap in the face this is to all the professional film critics now out of work or underemployed. Mazursky may not know who cares about critics anymore, but one thing is clear: Vanity Fair doesn’t.

Can a Hollywood insider be a fair film critic? Can a Hollywood insider acting as a film critic be anything other than a novelty… or worse, a sideshow attraction? Can Vanity Fair possibly expect that readers will see this as anything other than a stunt?

(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD, feel free to email me. Responses to this QOTD sent by email will be ignored; please post your responses here.)



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