With his latest column, a piece that praises the primal visual energy of 300 and disdains the fuddy-duddy critics who are too caught up in the aesthetics of 1970s-era quality to understand the genius of young guys like Zack Snyder and his digital Hollywood brethren, L.A. Times columnist Patrick Goldstein has made me realize something…something that old-school, late-GenX and boomer-aged editors probably need to consider also. Seriously.
In order to hold on to the dwindling readership of Genx and GenY-aged movie nuts who are also video-game and graphic-novel fans (some scholastically-challenged, some not) and to save the established venerated film critics from seeming overly clueless and/or snooty, big-city newspaper editors need to hire pinch-hitting geek film critics to come in and write counterpoint reviews whenever any kind of all-digital, intellectually minimalist film based on a comic book is released.
Boomer-and late-GenX-aged film critics have, as Goldstein writes, “been trained to value realism over fantasy” and are therefore psychologically and physiologic- ally incapable of giving crap-milkshake movies like 300 any kind of fair hearing.
To give narrative simple-dick, whoa-dude, all-digital movies a fair shake, editors need to bring in critics who aren’t so hung up on erudition and literary traditions and plays and other 20th Century art forms, and who are able to approach films like the serious fans who bought $70 million worth of 300 tickets the weekend before last are…guys who can look at a heaving sea of all-digital images and go “wow” with absolute sincerity…guys who realize, as Goldstein writes, “that Hollywood’s mass-audience films are not a literary or an intellectual genre…never have been, never will be…they are built around visuals and emotion.”
The problem with boomer-aged critics (the pathetic saps) is that they’re hung up on the mostly discredited idea that visuals and emotion alone aren’t enough. Most of them feel that some kind of ruthlessness or fierce personal vision or comprehen- sive intensity — some kind of audacity or brashness, or a spiritual belief system that’s about something besides the fact that the bad guys are really bad and that the good guys are pure of heart and noble of spirit — is also necessary. I know that the older guys can’t seem to get with the program, and I don’t know what to do about it. Maybe they need to be taken out behind the barn and shot?
Other fields of criticism require different writers for different experiences. Sometime between the late 1960s and early ’70s it dawned upon editors that critics who were used to the worlds of opera and theatre and world-class orchestral concerts weren’t the right guys to review the latest Rolling Stones album or to trek down to CBGB’s and listen to some new band. You have to get writers who are part of what’s going on in order to write well about what’s going on.
Seriously — I don’t think for a second that mainstream over-40 critics were being the least bit clueless or crabby when it came to zotzing 300. They’re merely applying minimal standards of art, taste (which always comes, in the words of Francois Truffaut, “from a thousand distastes”) and narrative refinement to an aesthetically downgraded digi-world, however archiac and analog such judgements might seem to guys like Goldstein.
(I refuse to believe that Goldstein, a very sharp guy, is really and truly embracing the Snyders of the world. I think he’s equating big earnings with cultural-political significance on some level and is looking to somehow jump on the bandwagon. I know that he knows better. That or he enjoys pissing people off.)
Movies are great — they’re my life, my love, my religion — but let’s face the bitter facts. More and more movies like 300 are going to get made in the coming years (a lot of them), and more and more guys like Zack Snyder (and their allies) are going to take positions of power in this town. Slowly, steadily, movie culture as many of us have known it is being usurped and weakened, and is sliding into the swamp. The world is devolving. Movies may have peaked with Mark Lester‘s Truck Stop Women, or maybe, just maybe, the best is yet to come…but I doubt it.