By Ray Pride Pride@moviecitynews.com

John Ashbery

This question comes up so often in reviews. “No one reads this poet so what demands does he have on our attention?” and so forth. It’s sort of like the Yogi Berra remark: “nobody goes there anymore it’s too popular.” It’s sort of like, people are alarmed that more people go to rock concerts than go to chamber music performances, but the people who go to both enjoy what they’re doing. Does it really matter how many of them there are? I suppose it would be alarming if there were only a dozen or so people who read poetry. But as I’m sure you know there are many more than is dreamed of in the mass media, or in the New York Times Book Review for instance. Of course critics say before the 20th century everyone read poetry, but I don’t think that’s true – although undoubtedly more people did. They say that since the 20th century began poetry has shut itself off from people by being so difficult and irritating. Maybe. On the other hand people seem to be attracted to poetry for just those reasons. It does require more effort and more attention, and it can be stimulating as a reader to give that to the poetry. As much as I like Carl Sandburg, I enjoy something that has a certain amount of crunch and resistance to it.
~ John Ashbery

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What’s up with your people mover shot, where it seems like people are kind of floating along?
Oh, my signature shot? That’s just a new way for people to move! It’s really become my Alfred Hitchcock cameo. I did not invent that shot, but Ernest and I did it on the set of Mo Better Blues, when Shorty had to walk [through the park], and I thought, “Let’s try it.” But after that, we tried to have a reason for it. For example, that wonderful sequence in Malcolm X where you hear the great song, “A Change Is Gonna Come.” The final scene is like that, Malcolm floating along to his destiny. In 25th Hour, after Philip Seymour Hoffman has kissed Anna Paquin, we did a shot like that, and it shows his state of mind. In Inside Man, after Denzel thinks he’s witnessed the murder of a hostage, we did the floating shot there.

So you just like the way it looks?
Yeah!
~ Spike Lee To Matt Zoller Seitz

“I never accepted the term contrarian. I think that’s offensive, frankly. And my response to that is: if I’m a contrarian, what are other reviewers? What I strive to do is be a good critic, not somebody who simply accepts the product put in front of me. I guess it scares people to think that they don’t have any originality; that they don’t have the capacity to think for themselves.

“There’s a line a lot of reviewers use that I don’t like at all. They say ‘accept the film on its own terms.’ What that really means is, ‘accept the film as it is advertised.’ That’s got nothing to do with criticism. Nothing to do with having a response as a film watcher. A thinking person has to analyze what’s on screen, not simply rubber-stamp it or kowtow to marketing.”m

“To me, everything does have a political component and I think it’s an interesting way to look at art. It’s one way that makes film reviewing, I think, a politically relevant form of journalism. We do live in a political world, and we bring our political sense to the movies with us – unless you’re the kind of person who goes to the movies and shuts off the outside world. I’m not that kind of person.”
~ Armond White to Luke Buckmaster