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David Poland

By David Poland poland@moviecitynews.com

Why Can’t Critics Just Get Along?

Why is it that so many of our brightest film critics wander into the practice of reviewing the existence of a movie and not its elements?

The Help, of all summer movies, has become a flashpoint. And there is plenty to criticize in the film. However… most of the negative reviews I have read are not really about the qualities of the film, but about whether a movie with 1960s southern racism as a theme should be allowed to be anything but gritty and bloody and full of rage.

The funniest thing, to me, about this attitude is that films from other countries that subtextualize oppression because the national politics of those countries don’t allow open public discussion of the issues are praised to high heavens by the same critics as the most important films of the years virtually every year.

Obviously, you can discuss race in America cinema. But not unlike political oppression, our nation’s arts suffer from popularity oppression. In other words, if you want to make a serious movie about race, great… but don’t expect too many people to see it.

I argued, back then, that Precious inspired an unintentionally racist reaction in some white audiences, who felt the movie was plumbing the depth of the “real” black experience. “Oh… those black people have it so hard. You know, that’s how they live.” Is that a better form of racial cinema than The Help‘s simple and yes, simplistic morality tale?

More importantly, should my feeling about how that film was engaged with by white seniors (see: The Academy) discount the emotional experience that many people who never realized that some people (a small percentage of a small percentage of a small percentage) actually do live in that kind of pain and squalor?

And should a critic ripping into The Help today because we “should be past this kind of light view of racial history” discount the millions of people who are going to enjoy the morality tale of this film and think, at least a little, about our own views of race in the process?

When asked about Precious, however I felt about it, I suggested that people see it for themselves. I might offer up some concerns. But still, make up your own mind. The Help is less of a challenge, but still I would tell anyone, “If the ads or the trailer or the book make you interested in seeing it… you should see it. And if you think it shouldn’t have been made, don’t go.”

There is a legitimate discussion to be had about how portrayals of serious issues in films can be seen. But I am quite sure that there are no “answers.”

It is not really a stretch to see Transformers: Dark of the Moon as a film that lingers in the subtext of race, WWII-inspired action-dramas, and especially the films where a small band of scary men come together to protect a “native” village from some other form of greater organized terror. But many critics simply refuse to see that film as anything more than cynical money-grabbing ugly clanging metal not worth actually thinking about.

The stories of heroes and villains are as simple and a complex as drawings on the sides of caves and $300 million Jim Cameron movies.

I have quoted it so many times that I have forgotten what director said it, but ‘Give me my fucking premise” is, it seems to me, a basic responsibility of professional film criticism. But far too often, critics seem like they are playing whack-a-mole instead of being film critics. Or conversely, becoming publicists. Films must either be destroyed and don’t deserve to be seen or audiences should overlook all the flaws and go because it’s good for them and good for Movie City if these kinds of films are embraced commercially.

Personally, if every person who saw The Help was handed a free copy of The Interrupters – a movie steeped in race that really isn’t about race – and watched it, the world would be a better place. One is a bon bon and one is a five-course meal.

But I am supposed to be embarrassed because I am okay with The Help, appreciate some of the performances, and think it will be a really happy experience for a large swath of the moviegoing audience? Ridiculous. It’s not the melodramatic fluff that is Steel Magnolias. But is is Fried Green Tomatoes. Kathy Bates intentionally smashing into some obnoxious girl’s car because she “has better insurance,” this driving away relieved to have made a stand… that’s what you’ll get in The Help.

Moreover, these attacks on principle miss the point of The Help altogether. Those critics were too busy rolling their eyes over the bridge club scenes and the frilly dresses. It’s a story about individuals taking action, doing small things, being brave in the face of boogeymen, and moving forward because enough is enough. It’s not monks being slaughtered in the streets of Burma. It’s not even The March on Washington. it’s small voices choosing to speak out, wanting to change things, wanting the world to be better, one voice at a time.

And if anyone should understand that, it’s movie critics.

Or maybe they understand all too well.

38 Responses to “Why Can’t Critics Just Get Along?”

  1. LYT says:

    “But far too often, critics seem like they are playing whack-a-mole instead of being film critics. Or conversely, becoming publicists. Films must either be destroyed and don’t deserve to be seen or audiences should overlook all the flaws and go because it’s good for them and good for Movie City if these kinds of films are embraced commercially.”

    YES. You’ve put your finger on something that’s been making me uneasy too.

  2. Lisa says:

    The racial issues in our country’s past are not the finest moments of our history. But I hate that the media as a whole is seemingly trying to make it like it never happened. Were a lot of the issues in the 60′s gritty and bloody and full of rage? Of course. But there was an entire group of people who either didn’t notice or chose to ignore that nastiness and just live their lives as they knew – and we all know that life is not all doom and gloom and drama, there’s a very healthy does of lightness and comedy thrown in.

    To make a movie set in the 60′s (whether comedy or drama) and not bring any kind of racial issues into it does not make it go away from our history. Just like last year’s release of Huck Finn with the infamous “N” word removed, it doesn’t change the face that at one time, bad things happened and we weren’t very nice to black people (to put it mildly).

    I’m of the mindset that Americans need to know all of our dirty history and learn from it rather than sweep it under the rug and hide from it.

  3. Paul MD (Stella's Boy) says:

    Americans don’t want to talk about race. Slavery was a long time ago and we have a black president, so why bother? That’s something I hear all the time. Here in Milwaukee, we’ve had two major incidents in the last month where black youth beat up white people in apparently racially motivated attacks. It has not led to constructive dialogue, not that I expected it to. This is America’s most segregated city. No one wants to talk about race here, and when they do, it’s about how downtown is unsafe (it’s not) and all black people are animals. At the same time, city leaders have been very reluctant to admit that there was a racial component to the beatings. Namely, that black teens targeted white people and made racially charged comments. By and large people are not interested in dirty history or meaningful discussions about race.

  4. Amanda Waltz says:

    It’s interesting how movies either overdo it with how they portray racial struggles (‘Precious’), or don’t bother showing it at all. When I reviewed the movie ‘Radio’, where Cuba Gooding, Jr. plays a mentally diabled black man (nicknamed Radio) adopted as a mascot by a dominantly white Southern high school football team in the 1970s, I found it totally unbelievable that no one had an issue with Radio’s race. At one point, he accidently wanders into the the girls’ locker room, an incident sure to raise concern among the white parents. But there was nothing. At least ‘The Help’ didn’t avoid the politics of race. It’s not being unrealistic, just light-hearted.

  5. “And if anyone should understand that, it’s movie critics.”

    That of course is something we’ve all whined about many a time. I usually complain about it when critics miss the subtext or even basic narratives of big-budget genre films and then accuse them of being empty-headed FX spectacles, but the concept applies here too (for what it’s worth, I took the last two Transformers films as pretty unsubtle ‘why we were right to be in Iraq/Afghanistan and why we should never leave’ parables). I think much of the problem comes from critics who want to pretend they are political pundits and judge a film as if said film is supposed to represent an all-encompassing picture in regards to its subject matter.

    Precious was just about one single young woman and the struggles in her life (her problems would be little different if she were a poor white teenager born with awful parents). Closer was a character study about four messed-up people in some form of romantic/sexual relationships, it was not an all-inclusive and generic ‘this is how men and women operate always!’ fable. I rather enjoy Crash as a series of individual character studies as opposed to a sweeping generalization on race relations. Twilight is about a single young woman and her choices in regards to the men in her life, she does not represent every young teenage girl ever.

    And, I step carefully as I have not yet seen The Help, this newest film seems to be merely ‘one tale in a sea of many many stories that took place during that period’. And yes, shouldn’t it be a film critic’s job to realize that distinction rather than seemingly critiquing everything (the outside politics, the poster, the trailer, etc) but the film? Of course, the other irony is that everyone whining that ‘poor Viola Davis has to play a maid’ will then trash the latest Tyler Perry vehicle (often sight-unseen) and wonder why so many people flock to them.

  6. Paul MD (Stella's Boy) says:

    And what the hell do critics expect from a 140-minute movie based on a novel? A comprehensive and accurate examination of black life in 1960s Mississippi? How is that a realistic expectation?

  7. David Poland says:

    Scott… completely forgot to write about the Tyler Perry issue… which is becoming more and more offensive to me each time he is brought up and treated like he’s a mammy doll.

    The guy pulls himself up from nowhere, entertaining black people and pretty much only black people, builds a national following, becomes one of the most successful movie entrepreneurs in a generation, and all some people want to write about is that he puts on a dress. I’m not his audience. I don’t rush to his films. But they aren’t really made for my white west side snobby ass, are they? And that doesn’t make them shit. That just makes them for a different audience.

    He’s the Black Adam Sandler, on some level. And yeah, Sandler gets crap. But not for being a west side jew.

    Now, Dane Cook, on the other hand…

  8. palmtree says:

    I agree with your general point, Scott, but I found Crash to be a character study of individuals coping with race relations. In other words, yes, it was a statement on race relations otherwise why was every character dealing with race in such a specific way. And on that front, it utterly fails…

  9. movielocke says:

    Before I got to the end of this article, I was thinking of Fried Green Tomatoes. That’s a wonderfully made film which is indeed a bonbon when it comes to the issues, but a bonbon that profoundly affects, and more importantly, communicates with its audience very effectively.

    It’s the core problem of how the internet is changing our discourse. Humans are herd animals, we game ambiguities to flatter ourselves and our brains are hardwired to confuse agreement with intelligence. We’re naturally inclined to seek out agreement and promote in-group behaviors. Rather than the internet being a means to discover all sorts of points of view and ideas, interpretations and meanings that would never have occurred to us, we instead use the internet to comfort ourselves by looking only for people who believe like we already believe.

    Our brains are incredibly poorly equipped for critical discourse, but extremely well equipped creating circles and boxes to contain and control. This not that. Always a binary, Great or Trash, Worthy or Unworthy. Just getting the human brain to acknowledge that not everything has to be encased in a binary system of “Me-or-Not-Me” is a huge achievement, mentally.

    I’m going to borrow from another blog treating a similar issue and rephrase his sentence to fit the situation, because I think it’s well stated and very relevant to the question of critical discourse (at the bottom is the link to the blog):

    These guys are simply doing what everybody does: making moral yardsticks out of their aesthetic tastes. They literally think their dvd collection make them less ‘guilty.’

    Let me make a suggestion: the social RELEVANCE of popular film lies in its audience, the fact that films reaches millions upon millions of people. All you have to do is look at the audiences to realize that they move people far, far more profoundly than so-called ‘literary film’ (which I think has devolved into a spectacular in-group exercise, like-minded filmmakers writing for like-minded audiences, pretending to challenge all those out-group ‘adolescents’ (who never watch them) with films literally designed to alienate audiences lacking specialized training. Popcorn, in other words, masquerading as salad.)

    http://rsbakker.wordpress.com/2011/08/10/guilt-by-socialization/

  10. cadavra says:

    David, did you ever see THE LONG WALK HOME (1990)? Another “gentle” film about the same topic. Absolutely masterful, and it died like a dog.

  11. David Poland says:

    Yes. Good movie. Not an entertainment. This one is.

  12. Agreed, agreed, agreed.

  13. JS Partisan says:

    ANTHROPOLOGY TIME!

    “It’s the core problem of how the internet is changing our discourse. Humans are herd animals,”

    Social animals. We are social animals. It’s the reason why you are here, why we have a propensity to have friends, and why we long for a mate. There is a difference between a social animal and a herd animal. Please, have more faith in your fellow humans then equating them with herd animals.

    “we game ambiguities to flatter ourselves and our brains are hardwired to confuse agreement with intelligence.”

    Nope, but that’s a nice bit of prose.

    “We’re naturally inclined to seek out agreement and promote in-group behaviors.”

    We are naturally inclined to find other people. That’s what we are hard-wired to do. Seeking out agreement and trying to promote in-group behaviors has nothing to do with the exploits of humanity. We start out knowing two people and then get pushed out the door at 7, and asked to figure everything out. That’s not searching out agreement or looking for a group.

    “Rather than the internet being a means to discover all sorts of points of view and ideas, interpretations and meanings that would never have occurred to us, we instead use the internet to comfort ourselves by looking only for people who believe like we already believe.”

    I would agree with you, if that were the case. Seriously, Team Jacob, Team Edward, Team Jate, and Team Sate. I could go on but people look for others they agree with but the internet, if anything, is not about comforting ourselves with agreements. If anything, it’s about conflict, and a shit load of it.

    “Our brains are incredibly poorly equipped for critical discourse, but extremely well equipped creating circles and boxes to contain and control.”

    We try to control our world. We are humans. It’s one of our bad bits of business, but Einstein indeed existed. Scientist do indeed exist. Engineers do indeed exist. Our brains can handle critical discourse just fine but we just have a propensity to disagreement that goes away once we fully embrace critical discourse. That’s how civilizations are built and what not.

    “This not that. Always a binary, Great or Trash, Worthy or Unworthy. Just getting the human brain to acknowledge that not everything has to be encased in a binary system of “Me-or-Not-Me” is a huge achievement, mentally.”

    This point seems the most accurate but still rather fatalistic. Following pop culture and enjoying it, does have a bit of “I’M BETTER THAN YOU” put to it, but that’s because people fall into the trap in thinking that some art is deeper than others.

    So it’s not Me or Not Me. It’s Britney Spears isn’t as important as Basquiat and that’s where we get into trouble, because we like giving importance to some and less to others.

  14. Mike says:

    I wonder if part of the problem is that a certain group of people just don’t want light entertainment that’s tied to dark history. Personally, I love Life is Beautiful, but I can find a lot of people who hate that movie because they feel that the Holocaust is not appropriate for a slapstick movie.

    But, on the flipside, I hate Pursuit of Happyness, because I feel it’s esentially an entertainment piece about child endangerment. I understand people like it, but I wouldn’t give that movie the time of day, just because of how poorly it deals with its subject matter.

  15. Krillian says:

    I liked Life Is Beautiful. My main problems with it was that Roberto Benigni actually won Best Actor for it, and that led to time and money being spent on a live-action Pinocchio.

    I hated I Am Sam because it seemed so manipulative and unrealistic (would a man of Penn’s limited mental capacity really have his daughter perfectly groomed each day?) but I heard Shawn Edwards’ reason for putting it in his Top Ten was because it was so similar to a family situation of his and he felt they got everything right.

    I think every time a movie tackles race where whites are 50% or more of the main characters, it won’t win. We’ve had too many Ghosts of Mississippi. But there was a little movie called Freedom Writers that did a great job of straddling that line. And so few saw it.

    Actually I’ll try likening it to this. Imagine Braveheart being told from Sophie Marceau’s point of view. The brave princess who stands up to the other royals and helps the disenfranchised Scots. Which would be interesting, as long as the Braveheart movie existed. But it’s like we’re in a movie-world of twenty princess- style movies and the only actual Braveheart movie was directed by Spike MacLee.

  16. Bitplayer says:

    I actually have a pet peeve with movies about the black experience told through the eyes of a white character. It’s like they are saying, look I kinda want to tell this story but white people don’t go see movies with black people who aren’t named Will Smith. Insert white character to wave his or her finger at other white people for an hour and a half. From my experience black people want to see black people on screen being regular modern characters. Unfortunately so few of these movies get made it’s a rare experience. I’m glad this movie got made and I hope it does well. I’d rather see these people work than not work, but it does pain me a bit.

  17. Don Murphy says:

    Critics?
    He thrusts his fists against the posts and still insists he sees the ghosts!

  18. cadavra says:

    I once pitched an idea spoofing this trend: the black guys had a white “leader,” but he was a constant screw-up who had to continually have his ass saved by the black guys he was supposedly superior to. Admittedly, I was an idiot to think any creative exec would have the brains to see the humor in it and the balls to try developing it.

  19. molly'sdad says:

    It’s not just in the film world. I am a playwright. Recently a show of mine, set in the south in the 1950′s, with an equal black/white cast (and a black/white love story) was done in Stamford, CT and then in Seattle. In Stamford, a very mixed race town, the show was very well reviewed, by critics and audiences alike. Everyone recognized that, despite being set in the past, a story dealing with racial issues is still relevant and powerful. In white-white-white Seattle, although audiences enjoyed the show, the critics dismissed it as passe, dated and old-fashioned. One critic compared me to Stanley Kramer and said the show was “the best musical of 1957.” How I wish I could have introduced those self-satisfied critics to the African-American men and women in Stamford who wept through the show and said it was a still accurate depiction of their daily lives.

  20. Krillian says:

    Oh, I was in a production of The Diviners, and we had a black guy with a Louisiana accent as Melvin, and then a white critic saw the show and expressed disappointment that we’d made Melvin a “stereotypical black man.” And we had to say, “That’s his real accent.”

  21. movielocke says:

    You’re absolutely right, people are social animals not herd animals.

    “We try to control our world. We are humans. It’s one of our bad bits of business, but Einstein indeed existed. Scientist do indeed exist. Engineers do indeed exist. Our brains can handle critical discourse just fine but we just have a propensity to disagreement that goes away once we fully embrace critical discourse. That’s how civilizations are built and what not.”

    Yes. Science is incredibly hard and requires oodles of training and checks on the human brain’s assumptions in order to function properly. How we currently study art and culture is not scientific–and is explicitly anti-objective in a Palin-esque manner. I am right because I am right. Critics specifically howl–like the priests opposing Copernicus–when people try to apply principles of scientific analysis to the study and evaluation of art and culture.

    Science wrecks assumptions and common sense. Common sense is perilous because Common sense tells us that Basquiat is ipso facto superior to Britney Spears.

    Science would suggest that Britney Spears is relevant because her music is meaningful to millions of listeners and that Basquiat is meaningful because he’s taught to thousands of university students.

    The presumption that critics make is that creating a high/low dichotomy is inherently right and unquestionable. No critic would question that Basquiat is superior to Britney Spears, but a scientist would test that assumption with experimentation, gathering of data and analysis to reach a conclusion based on the objective defendable reality not upon how one wants to believe what reality is.

    People HATE this. People HATE to have their preconceptions wrecked. They leap to unsupported conclusions and then defend their position rabidly. That’s why there is always such VEHEMENT response (or completely ignoring the truth) when Poland posts a careful analysis that shows the Great Slump is imaginary when you look at the data. It’s why Moneyball changed the way Baseball was managed. Baseball isn’t science. You can’t apply math to Baseball. Baseball is inherently ABOVE math, it can’t be quantified. Which is all the same mystical bullshit–that art and culture can’t be quantified–in another form.

  22. David Poland says:

    Interesting Mollysdad… besides being so white, Seattle is generally – especially in the arts community – very liberal. And yet…

    And maybe there is an argument that Seattle and some other communities are ready for work that is more aggressive. Or maybe not.

    As with “women’s films,” ethnicity in the arts is a strange ghetto. It’s as though the audience – whichever one you are reaching – needs to have the epiphany that they are comfortable with or the work is (according to them) either a product of the corrupt culture or too soft.

    As I am writing this, noticing that movielocke seems to have said something similar…

  23. anghus says:

    “But far too often, critics seem like they are playing whack-a-mole instead of being film critics. Or conversely, becoming publicists. Films must either be destroyed and don’t deserve to be seen or audiences should overlook all the flaws and go because it’s good for them and good for Movie City if these kinds of films are embraced commercially”

    There are a few of us in here that have been discussing this for years and have even given it a name. Everything is an epic achievement or an unmitigated disaster that must be smothered in the crib.

    I haven’t seen the help, but man that trailer doesn’t make me want to. Bryce Dallas Howard’s character seems like some kind of cartoon caricature desperately in need of a moustache to twirl. It wouldnt shock me to hear she ties “the help” to railroad tracks while polishing James Earl Ray’s sniper rifle.

    The film could be much more subtle. But i’m almost afraid of movies that tackle very real, very nuanced subjects in half drama/half comedy styles.

    You know what movie gets that tone right? Hairspray.

    It’s not that serious issues like racism and segregation can’t be handled in a light drama, but i think some subjects deserve more serious consideration.

    Mind you, this is all based on the marketing, which is doing nothing to get me to a theater.

  24. Robert Butler says:

    I thought critics are liking “The Help”, Peter Travers from Rolling Stone rated it 3.5/4, Emanuel Levy liked it, and Ebert rated it 3.5

  25. anghus says:

    yeah, maybe you need to be more specific.

    which critics are you talking about? or is this one of those generic ‘they’ arguments?

    26 out of 36 ‘top critic’ recommended.

    74% overall on Rotten Tomatoes.

    So is this argument geared towards 10 people? One of them in particular?

    You use the word ‘critics’ so youre implying more than one. It seems like you’re heaping a very large argument onto a very small group of people.

  26. David Poland says:

    Does Travers still count as a critic? Can we quote you on that?

    But seriously folks…

    Not talking about the mainstream reviewers. Talking about the effete. This piece came out of Eric Kohn’s how The Help makes “the black problem” in Hollywood worse and Scott Tobias at AV Club. Extended by the NY Post and NY Daily News, Wash Post, Village Voice… and even, it seems – though I hadn’t seen them before – from two of my favorite writers, Manohla Dargis and Ella Taylor. So, a high percentage of the NY writers.

    and while I am there… the first graph of Manohla’s review…

    “There’s a scene in “The Help,” the new movie based on Kathryn Stockett’s novel, that cracks open the early-’60s world of strained smiles and gentility that rarely leaps out of this big, ole slab of honey-glazed hokum. It’s after hours, and Aibileen, a maid played with determined grace by Viola Davis, is going home. Suddenly the bus stops, and a white man orders the black passengers off, explaining that a black man has been shot — except that he doesn’t say black, Negro or colored. In a pool of dreadful night, Aibileen and a young man trade goodbyes and rush off. And then this sturdy, frightened woman starts running as if her life were in danger, because it’s Mississippi, and it is.”

    Now, I have no idea whether this is NYT stylebook or something Manohla believes in herself (and I am not going to ask her as fodder for the blog), but how much irony is there in a review accusing a movie of being too lightweight for its topic, yet not having the freedom to write the word “nigger” in the context of a quote? DreamWorks and Disney did it, but The Paper of Record will not.

    Just sayin’.

  27. Paul MD (Stella's Boy) says:

    A+ from Cinemascore so far and headed for 5-day opening of $25-$30 million. I guess people really do love the book.

  28. anghus says:

    Does anyone count as a critic?

    Roger Moore from the Orlando Sentinel is on the ‘top critic’ list on Rotten Tomatoes.

    yikes.

    I still giggle at the X MEN FIRST CLASS “Certified Fresh” tv spot. We saw how well that took.

  29. David Poland says:

    I think people will enjoy the movie too, Paul. It fills a demand.

  30. Paul MD (Stella's Boy) says:

    Yeah probably great timing for an uplifting crowd pleaser.

  31. palmtree says:

    The only criteria to be a major critic is to be published in a major publication.

  32. Dennis says:

    Has history been redefined or has it been diminished by characterization that seems intent on entertainment? I don’t think so, and I applaud those who created the THE HELP and made the film — and for their sensitivity in handling a subject that ultimately brings race to the forefront.

    Anything that prompts a discussion of race deserves recognition; however, film critics should concentrate on the criteria of filmmaking and whether a film works within the aggregate of its creative elements. Dismissing a film because it doesn’t specifically comment on or omits an historical context doesn’t serve the film, its makers, or its potential audience. Providing a perspective about its historical context within the framework of its screenplay is fine — as long as it is coupled with actual film criticism.

    The criticism of this film’s ‘existence’ has run the gamut from, “How can a white woman write about this subject?” to “How can a black actress portray such a role and feel proud?” The bottom line: both the book and the film have touched an awful lot of people, and it provided work for black actresses who delivered moving portrayals. And no one’s reputation or dignity was lost in the process.

  33. Q says:

    Please site specific film critics and arguments.

  34. Andrew says:

    “Oh… those black people have it so hard. You know, that’s how they live.”

    Which white people reacted to Precious that way?

  35. David Poland says:

    A lot of people over 60 who I spoke to, Andrew… literally dozens… and pretty much every one of them that liked the movie…

    I’m not saying they are bad people. They grew up in a world of segregation and went from nigger to negro to colored to black to african american all in one lifetime (obviously, along with the men and women of color who were described as such).

    There are also plenty of black people who hated the movie because they felt it perpetuated stereotypes.

    Point is, the movie is the movie. And the reaction is the reaction. And they are often separated by quite a distance. People project onto all movies, but especially movies that stir up discomfort of the kind of issues that linger so heavily in our society. Never talk sex, politics, religion or race in polite company, I guess.

    Q – Here is around-up by David Hudson that leans that way… http://mubi.com/notebook/posts/tate-taylors-the-help

  36. Josh K-sky says:

    I haven’t seen any critical reviews of The Help that “are not really about the qualities of the film, but about whether a movie with 1960s southern racism as a theme should be allowed to be anything but gritty and bloody and full of rage.”

    I have read many critical reviews, as well as personal statements of indignance, that the marquee stories of the civil rights movement are about white saviors. (Mississippi Burning had plenty of grit and rage, but it’s most often mentioned in the same breath.)

    The other criticism I’ve read more than once is that the white villains are so cartoonish that white audiences are free to identify only with the white hero, and identify not at all with the villains. But they were the norm for generations across a vast swath of the country.

    I agree with you that it’s wrong to review the movie you wanted to see instead of the movie you saw. But these are, I believe, “really about the qualities of the film.”

  37. David Poland says:

    I can only assume that you are pointing to Ms Rosenberg as someone who is only interested in the politics of making a movie like this…

    “I’m less interested in the badness of this particular piece of art, and more interested in why we keep making Noble White Ladies Meet the Civil Rights Movement movies, and how we can get something different in production.”

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GN You’re obsessed with Kubrick, too.

MB Does he still occupy your mind or was he more of an early influence?

GN He was more of an early influence. Kubrick has been my idol my whole life, my own “god.” I was six or seven years old when I saw 2001: A Space Odyssey, and I never felt such cinematic ecstasy. Maybe that’s what brought me to direct movies, to try to compete with that “wizard of Oz” behind the film. So then, years later, I tried to do something in that direction, like many other directors tried to do their own, you know, homage or remake or parody or whatever of 2001. I don’t know if you ever had that movie in mind for your own projects. But in my case, I don’t think about 2001 anymore now. That film was my first “trip” ever. And then I tried my best to reproduce on screen what some drug trips are like. But it’s very hard. For sure, moving images are a better medium than words, but it’s still very far from the real experience. I read that Kubrick said about Lynch’s Eraserhead, that he wished he had made that movie because it was the film he had seen that came closest to the language of nightmares.

Matthew Barney and Gaspar Noé