even The New York Times has given up on quality film journalism

Oh, sure, the Times still has its few film critics reviewing films they’ve actually seen. But now, in an attempt to, perhaps, get on that Net bandwagon of movie blather that shits out thousands of words about movies saying nothing at all, it is introducing a new feature: “The Moviegoers.”

Welcome to The Moviegoers, an occasional new series in which the Op-Ed columnists Frank Bruni and Ross Douthat banter about movies, pop culture, television and other real-world distractions.

The Moviegoers? How many brand consultants do you think they paid how much to come up with that?

From 1993-95, Frank was a movie critic for The Detroit Free Press, and he has written frequently on culture for The New York Times Magazine and for the Arts & Leisure section. Ross is the film critic for National Review and frequently writes about film and TV on his Times blog.

So, Bruni hasn’t been a film critic for 20 years, and Douthat’s criticism at the National Review is available only to subscribers to the print version. Maybe. Douthat isn’t mentioned at National Review Online at all.

But whatever the quality of their credentials, the quality of their conversation about movies doesn’t even measure up to the very low bar set by all the geek-orgy sites that litter the web.

Douthat: [Y]es: I need to see “Calvary,” not least because if it’s as good as you say…

Bruni: I haven’t seen “Boyhood,” and I’m ashamed.

Douthat: “Lucy” sounds just terrible…

That’s right: they’re talking about movies they haven’t even seen, in some cases. This is about as useful or enlightening as fanboys orgasmically speculating about what we’ll see in some superhero movie coming in 2017 the script for which hasn’t even been written yet. (Which, in case you’re unaware, makes up about 75 percent of the content on many of the geek sites around the web.)

Douthat: Eve Tushnet’s contrarian take [on “Boyhood”] for The American Conservative captured some of its third-act problems pretty well.

Bruni: I… didn’t understand the shrill pitch of Gary Oldman’s performance [in “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes”], which Andrew O’Hehir made accurate fun of in his pan of the movie in Salon.

Douthat: I’m pretty sure I’m stealing this line from someone on Twitter

They can’t be bothered to explain their own opinions, so they’re borrowing other people’s.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, these two well-off white men have something to say about class warfare:

Bruni: [about “Snowpiercer”] I’m not sure we’ll get very far by painting the rich as morally hopeless people who must be subverted, vanquished, overtaken.

Douthat: [“Snowpiercer” warns that] the existing links between rich and poor can be severed only at great cost.

Yes, by all means, let’s make sure we don’t upset the rich, or make them worry about losing any of their wealth or privilege.

And of course these two well-off white men are all over the state of women in Hollywood:

Bruni: Women fared reasonably well. Not in terms of quality, mind you…. We still have a long way to go before female actors stand at the helm of as many big-budget extravaganzas and as many franchises as male actors do.

Glad he let us know that.

Douthat: And as for “Wonder Woman” … [A]ll the excitement about how Marvel is going to finally give us a superheroine just feels like a step in the wrong direction, for womankind and audiences alike.

Professional God-botherer and woman-hating, sex-fearing adolescent concern troll Ross Douthat: he knows all about what’s good for women!

Fuck this shit. Fuck me. These guys are getting paid for this. By The New York Times.


share and enjoy
If you haven’t commented here before, your first comment will be held for MaryAnn’s approval. This is an anti-spam, anti-troll, anti-abuse measure. If your comment is not spam, trollish, or abusive, it will be approved, and all your future comments will post immediately. (Further comments may still be deleted if spammy, trollish, or abusive, and continued such behavior will get your account deleted and banned.)
notify of
newest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
view all comments
Thu, Aug 14, 2014 1:48pm

I don’t believe in hate-watching TV shows, but I’ll occasionally hate-read Douthat’s opinion column. He argues that gay marriage is causing a decline in marriage nationwide and that people who speak out against homophobia are the real bigots, oppressing the religious people who refuse to work at gay weddings.

I did, however, like the article he hyperlinked here:


I’m not convinced that women’s dominance at the box office will be an enduring trend (not in the short term, although I think it will happen in my lifetime) but boy would I like to be proven wrong.

Thu, Aug 14, 2014 3:06pm

I haven’t read it (I guess that doesn’t matter), but it sure seems like the Times editor said “Hey, those podcasts are popular… let’s do one in print.”

Great job!

Thu, Aug 14, 2014 5:12pm

At least they’re admitting they haven’t see the films. I mean, by modern print journalism standards that’s ethics prize material.

Thu, Aug 14, 2014 8:18pm

“Douthat: And as for “Wonder Woman” … [A]ll the excitement about how Marvel is going to finally give us a superheroine just feels like a step in the wrong direction, for womankind and audiences alike.”

Am I misreading this, or does he really not know which company owns Wonder Woman? Maybe there’s some context in the ellipsis, although I can’t imagine it’s very enlightening.

reply to  Jurgan
Thu, Aug 14, 2014 8:37pm

You could always read the piece to find out. :-) There’s a whole chunk of text omitted in the ellipsis, mainly speculations about why female-led films are currently doing well. The sentence about the Marvel superheroine links to an article about Sony making a female-led movie about a Marvel character.

reply to  Bluejay
Thu, Aug 14, 2014 8:58pm

While I agree with you, I don’t want to give Ross Douthat any more web clicks, so here’s the relevant paragraph:

And as for “Wonder Woman” … no, Frank, no! I suspect female leads are doing particularly well right now in part because every promising male lead gets vacuumed up by the superhero-industrial complex, and in part because there’s a large, insufficiently tapped public appetite for movies in which (with apologies to the Bechdel test) two people can talk to each other about something other than the immense threat posed by a supervillain. So all the excitement about how Marvel is going to finally give us a superheroine just feels like a step in the wrong direction, for womankind and audiences alike. Give me better scripts for Jolie or McCarthy or Bullock; give me more great roles for Lawrence; give me Mila Kunis or Emma Stone in movies that make the most of them; give me ScarJo in a role that will make Anthony Lane finally sell his soul to the devil for a night with her. Just don’t ask me to cheer at the prospect of Hollywood’s fairer half vanishing into masks and tights as well.

Apparently, The Winter Soldier wasn’t about the surveillance state in an age of terrorism, and the X-Men films weren’t about bigotry and social change, and Man of Steel wasn’t about personal responsibility or about outliers and the desire for conformity. They were about hitting the villain really hard.

Tonio Kruger
Sat, Jan 03, 2015 6:12pm

Douthat: [“Snowpiercer” warns that] the existing links between rich and poor can be severed only at great cost.

Ironically, Douthat gave Snowpiercer a rave review in The National Review. Though I doubt he gave it for the same reason that MaryAnn gave it one on this site.

And of course, there have been many politically-inclined science fiction movies (for example, Brazil, Serenity, The Matrix, Idiocracy, etc.) that have been championed by both sides of the political divide with the main difference usually being that conservatives are usually better acquainted with old-school literary science fiction than most liberals seem to be. (Then again, most liberals seem to watch a lot more movies than conservatives even though — again — both sides like to complain about how their side is rarely represented in modern-day movies.)

In any event, given the way Snowpiercer ends, it would seem a bit foolish to argue that Douthat’s conclusion is wrong. Unless I’m missing something…

reply to  Tonio Kruger
Sat, Jan 03, 2015 7:49pm

conservatives are usually better acquainted with old-school literary science fiction than most liberals seem to be… most liberals seem to watch a lot more movies than conservatives

I see Santa gave someone the Jumbo Gift Pack of Generalizations for Christmas. ;-)

Tonio Kruger
reply to  Bluejay
Sun, Jan 04, 2015 9:34pm

Why, yes, it was very nice. I really should send you one next Christmas. :-)

But seriously, folks…

Normally, I’d say “touché” — especially since I’m usually not a big fan of generalizations involving my own peeps — but to be honest, it’s not like that generalization came from nowhere. (Though it was meant to be a bit tongue-in-cheek.)

When Idiocracy was first released, most of the critics who treated it as an original idea were liberal and most of the critics who recognized its obvious precedents in the literary sci-fi world were conservative. Moreover, when Idiocracy first came out, it was real popular in certain liberal circles to equate conservatism with anti-intellectualism, a “compliment” which was often returned by the many conservatives who liked to equate liberalism with stupidity. Of course, not every liberal or conservative conformed to those generalizations but unfortunately, enough of them did — and many still do today.

I saw a similar situation result when District 9 was released, only this time few conservative critics drew a connection between the movie’s opening premise and the similarities between the premise of a popular Frederik Pohl story called “The Day After the Day the Martians Came.”

Anyway, there are a lot of obvious exceptions to my generalizations — John Scalzi, for example — and I really should try a lot harder to resist making them.

After all, I have seen a lot more minority-baiting on certain conservative sites than I have on most liberal sites. Not all conservative sites, of course, but enough of them — like Big Hollywood, for example — that I would consider myself dishonest if I pretended that it didn’t exist. Then again I am not always satisfied with the self-congratulatory attitudes I see on some liberal sites. After all, when I see a lot of people in my neighborhood hurting from the economic changes that have come about since 2009, I find it hard to be patient with people whose idea of a brilliant comment in regard to such situations is to make yet another smug comment about Fox News.

Anyway, I’m sorry for any offense I caused.

Mea culpa. Mea maxima culpa.

reply to  Tonio Kruger
Sun, Jan 04, 2015 11:12pm

I’m afraid I lost the thread in there somewhere, Tonio.

Did you just want an excuse to say “a pox on both liberals and conservatives” and call it a day? :-)

Tonio Kruger
reply to  Bluejay
Mon, Jan 05, 2015 9:26pm

Perhaps I should have done just that. Though I usually tend to go with the usual “a plague on both your houses” quote…

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  Tonio Kruger
Mon, Jan 05, 2015 3:01pm

You’re confusing a mention of X with knowledge of X. Just because a critic did not mention a (possible) influence on a film doesn’t mean s/he isn’t aware of it.

You could just as easily — and with perhaps even more justification — conclude that the conservative critics you allude to haven’t read any SF since the 1960s.

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  Tonio Kruger
Sun, Jan 04, 2015 3:25pm

conservatives are usually better acquainted with old-school literary science fiction

*If* that’s true — and I’m not sure that it is — it’s probably because “old-school” SF is pretty darn conservative socially and politically!

Tonio Kruger
reply to  MaryAnn Johanson
Sun, Jan 04, 2015 9:44pm

As always, it depends about what old-school SF you’re talking about.

And let’s not forget that “conservative by 2014 standards” is not necessarily the same as “conservative by the standards of the year it was written.”

For example, Stranger in a Strange Land was considered pretty daring when it was first published in 1961. Yet if it came out today, it would be considered old hat. And yet it was written by the same guy who wrote The Puppet Masters and Starship Troopers.

Then again Starship Troopers featured a non-white protagonist at a time — 1959 — when few mainstream novels in the Western world had one. True, it might have been nicer if the author had not waited until the last chapter to point this out. But when you compare that to how J.K. Rowling handled the sexual orientation of a major character in one of her more famous novels — a novel published in an allegedly more progressive time — one can’t help but wonder how much progress we have made compared to those old-school SF writers.

Dr. Rocketscience
Dr. Rocketscience
reply to  Tonio Kruger
Mon, Jan 05, 2015 4:26am

SiaSL would be considered “old hat” because it is old hat. It’s one of those seminal works than defined and redefined the genre. You can’t expect the same book to do that twice. You’re making the same rookie mistake of guys like John C Wright and Larry Correia, in assuming that if Heinlein were alive today (and writing, rather than desperately clawing at the inside of his coffin), that he would be writing the exact same books now as he did then, and would therefore be unsuccessful. This fails on two points:
First, I think Heinlein was more clever than that. People sometime refer to him as “ahead of his time”, but that’s true only in the sense that he knew how to push the genre into more respectable literary territory. And he kept moving. The same guy who wrote Starship Troopers and SiaSL also went on to write “The Moon is ah Harsh Mistress”, “Time Enough for Love”, and “Friday”.
Secondly, the assumption that Heinlein couldn’t be successful today is highly suspect. Off the top of my head, I can name two current, highly successful Sci-Fi writers (one of whom much of this post is borrowed from) who made their names writing books that are specifically described as “Heinleinian”.

Tonio Kruger
reply to  Dr. Rocketscience
Mon, Jan 05, 2015 9:34pm

I wasn’t exactly arguing that Heinlein could not be successful today but thank you for pointing all that out, anyway.

Ironically, I’ve tried to read Larry Correia’s work and I just couldn’t get through his first novel. I suspect he’s an acquired taste that I have no wish to acquire at this time. Or maybe I’m just maturing in my literary tastes. Who knows?

I know that Spider Robinson is a big Heinlein fan. And I suspect most of your post is borrowed from one of John Scalzi’s posts. So the other writer you refer to is who? Harry Turtledove?

Just curious.

Dr. Rocketscience
Dr. Rocketscience
reply to  Tonio Kruger
Mon, Jan 05, 2015 9:39pm

I haven’t read Correia myself, but as I understand it, he doesn’t write conservative science fiction per se, but is a conservative who write science fiction. But he has lent his voice to the chorus of conservatives saying “Robert Heinlein could never [insert whatever achievement here] today, thanks to all the damn liberals.”

Scalzi, yes. He’s kinda my dude. The other I had in mind was Charlie Stross, with “Saturn’s Children”.