Like many (most?) people my age, my first exposure to film criticism, or criticism of any kind, came from Siskel & Ebert. I was too young to have any sort of sensibility beyond “movies = fun” and while there was some amusement to be had in seeing the bald guy and the fat guy fight, my primary motivation for tuning in was watching the movie clips. Far more than anything said on the show, these were how I determined what I begged my parents to see. If something looked kinda cool, then I’d invariably want to see the rest of it.
That all changed with one simple statement from Roger. I can’t remember how old I was or the movie in question, but I do know that it was something I’d wanted to see and that Roger was ripping into it. His comments seemed unfair to me, applying snobbish sensibilities to a movie that was obviously meant to just be some good fun. He mentioned asking some other audience members what they thought after the premiere and received the almost universal vindication of “Yeah, it was okay.” Visibly frustrated, Roger then said, “Life’s too short to watch movies that are just okay!”
He was right. So simply, straightforwardly, compellingly right that even a child had to accept it. There are too many good movies out there for us to waste our time on those that aren’t. If we don’t like what we’re watching, and I mean really like, not just acceptably pass the time with, then we should be watching something else.
I won’t claim that Roger changed my taste in movies. I continued to disagree with many of his reviews as I grew up, but he did teach me to care about what I’m watching. He also demonstrated that the chief function of criticism is to demand more from our entertainments, whether by calling out the bad ones or further exploring the good. It’s the basic standard I try to apply to everything I watch, whether I’m reviewing it or not.
Well, that was… disappointing. There was some serious potential in Buffy casting its eye to the heavens for the first time, but the series completely shies away from weaving some serious sci-fi into its genre-tapestry and instead delivers a frustratingly standard monster-of-the-week episode. It’s not that the Queller’s an awful MOW (at least in theory), and the integration of Joyce’s illness and Riley’s growing dissolution were well done, but neither had anything to do with the threat coming from above rather than below. The fact that the Queller actually turned out to be demon and not alien in nature might mean that I’m complaining about nothing, but if the show was going to so thoroughly avoid expanding its universe, why even suggest the possibility? Continue reading →
But publicly, let me state that The Wire owes no apologies — at least not for its depiction of those portions of Baltimore where we set our story, for its address of economic and political priorities and urban poverty, for its discussion of the drug war and the damage done from that misguided prohibition, or for its attention to the cover-your-ass institutional dynamic that leads, say, big-city police commissioners to perceive a fictional narrative, rather than actual, complex urban problems as a cause for righteous concern. As citizens using a fictional narrative as a means of arguing different priorities or policies, those who created and worked on The Wire have dissented.
You know what they say Commissioner Bealefeld, Come at the king…
As enjoyable as The Walking Dead promises to be, I’m simply unable to keep up with five posts per week. Fortunately, Leslie has volunteered to be Critical Viewing’s resident zombie expert. She brings some fine writing skills and a suitably geeky interest in zombie mythology to the table. I’m excited to have someone else’s voice on this blog and look forward to reading her reviews for the next few weeks.
Everyone, Critical Viewing has officially launched as the new home of Watching Between the Lines. All of the old blog posts and comments have been mirrored here and its my hope that the new name, layout, and features will help drive some expanded readership. I’ll be continuing to review various television programs on a weekly basis, though with a bit more attention paid to the “Features.” Thank you for your continued support.
Please feel free to provide feedback in the comments section on the new design, navigation options, name, etc.
Supernatual won the recent poll on which show I should be reviewing next. Same deal as always, one episode per week until the end. Premiere review goes up next Wednesday, for those of you who are interested.
Real. That’s a strange word to ascribe to any work of fiction, let alone one called Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Not content with merely trumpeting the shows fantasy-horror roots, the title also satirises them, promising a series that is, by … Continue reading →