The New York Film Festival selections “aren’t so much programmed as curated,” observes N.Y. Times critic A.O. Scott. The curators are led by program director Richard Pena, the festival’s program director, and otherwise made up of film critics — Film Comment editor Kent Jones, Entertainment Weekly critic Lisa Schwarzbaum, Vogue magazine critic John Powers , and Phillip Lopate, “editor of a recently published Library of America anthology of American movie criticism.
“These critics, like others in their profession, incline toward material that is sometimes described as difficult or challenging, but that requires a disciplined, active attention,” Scott writes. That’s a polite way of saying they’re film snobs. I don’t think Schwarzbaum is an elitist (she writes like a person who lives in a real world), but the others, I believe, probably are. There’s no avoiding this syndrome among Manhattan film congnoscenti. If you’re a serious film lover you’re going to feel the same way as the snobs do about this or that film, and that’s not such a bad thing.
But there’s something vaguely arid and ingrown about this culture also — a certain tendency to sidestep films with what an elitist would probably describe as plebian emotionalism.