Thumbs Down. Wait! Thumbs Up...?
As I've already nattered on at length about my enjoyment and fascination with film and theatre criticism, I was incredibly pleased to see that the deliberately dumbed-down version of At the Movies was scrapped (dumping Ben Mankiewicz and Ben Lyons) and brought back up to snuff by bringing on two critics, A.O. Scott and Michael Phillips, who actually think and care about movies. I also really liked reading this brilliant essay by Noel Murray at the AV Club rightfully praising the re-revamped show.
I particularly dug and related to this section:
"Some cineastes have blasted Siskel & Ebert for their thumbs-up/thumbs-down reductionism and their dispatching of movies in three minutes of conversation, but those nay-sayers likely didn’t watch the show week-in/week-out. I’d argue that Siskel & Ebert did more to foster a broad interest in artful cinema than any critic ever has.
At the least, they showed that it was possible to talk about the movie business on television without having it be all about money or gossip. It just about crushes my soul when I tune in the red carpet coverage on Oscar night—or even the cable news coverage on nomination day—and suffer hosts who clearly haven’t seen or even heard most of the movies they’ve been assigned to cover. The guiding principle of most movie coverage on television is that viewers are interested in celebrities, not the work that makes celebrities."
So I was definitely disheartened to read shortly thereafter that At the Movies is being cancelled. That this announcement immediately follows the news of Variety letting go of its chief film critic Todd McCarthy and its chief theatre critic David Rooney made the cancelation of the series all the more upsetting.
However, all is not lost. Roger Ebert has just announced that he and his wife, Chaz, are in the planning stages for producing a new film criticism show. He offers some details, but only some. Fortunately it sounds less of a "pie in the sky" plan and more of a "we actually have a few balls rolling" deal. This makes me hopeful.
I also agree with Mr. Ebert when he writes that he and his wife "believe a market still exists for a weekly show where a couple of critics review new movies."
There has to still be a market for a show where people talk and think about the work that makes celebrities, not just the celebrities themselves (or rather, what the celebrities are wearing). There has to be a market for a show where reasonably intelligent people to cut through the thick fog created by the PR machine and go, "this movie is Garbage!" (and let me tell you, it's refreshing to watch the archived shows and hear the late Gene Siskel exclaim that about a film with such conviction; it's almost unheard of in this day and age where the bulk of mainstream commentary on film is so soft-pedaled). And there has to be a large enough demographic out there that actually cares about movies, and wants to think about what to go see.
Anyway, I am hopeful.
I guess that's it for me for this week. Have a good weekend, folks. I'll catch y'all on Monday.
Not knowing where to shove his thumb,
James "Suggestions?" Comtois