Rightwing Film Geek

Speaking of knee-jerk

At least Blockbuster and the Blog-rating have the excuse of being dumb (in every sense) mechanical programs. But what is the American Spectator’s excuse for this bit of unfocused spite, against the AFI Top 100 list.

It’s fine to take down a consensus masterpiece (I was one of the cinephiles who saw the first efforts of Vlad the Impaler). But reading through this dreck by Larry Thornberry, it’s hard to see what he has exactly against KANE.

He makes exactly one serious, sane point made against the film, an observation that counts as criticism. Slathering negative adjectives and sneering at “film majors and various other humbugs” doesn’t count. Nor do also potentially-serious points that are actually factually wrong, such as “it’s long” (it’s 1 minute short of two hours, which is the “standard” feature-length), or that betray fundamental misunderstandings such as “Welles is pompous” (Kane the character often is; Welles the man is completely self-effacing, here at least).

In addition, all his criticisms against KANE also apply to the other films on the list that he explicitly approves of. BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI (not “over”) and THE GODFATHER are far longer than KANE and THE SEARCHERS is exactly the same length. CASABLANCA and DUCK SOUP (Harpo aside) are talkier films. And no movie that screeches to a halt for the BJ Thomas “Raindrops Are Falling on My Head” interlude can even pretend to be about Butch Cassidy or anything other than the 60s Summer of Love.

Thornberry’s one serious well-taken point against KANE is that “it’s talky.” Which is to some extent true. But apart from the already-noted double standard, and the fact that lots of great movies are “talky” if the “talk” is great (including those of former American Spectator editor Whit Stillman), he also completely ignores the fact that by far the larger part of the standard pro-KANE panegyric is about how VISUAL the film is. KANE is a stylistically dense masterpiece, of light and shadow, of true blacks, of German expressionist lighting, of deep focus, of visual metaphor, etc. Here’s a quick, cheap primer.


I’m no fan of formal credentialism in the field of film criticism, but it’s hard to imagine why someone would be qualified to dismiss KANE if he thinks he can get off doing so without mentioning the film’s extremely distinctive visual style. How out of touch with the field of film criticism — populist, highbrow or otherwise — can he be?

The rest of his article is just a bunch of cheap shots that are even less developed than his attack on KANE — GONE WITH THE WIND is long; 2001 is obscure; RAGING BULL is boring; TITANIC is long and expensive; SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION and BONNIE AND CLYDE celebrates criminals (THE GODFATHER and BUTCH CASSIDY don’t?); Benjamin in THE GRADUATE is stupid; THE DEER HUNTER wasn’t made by a Vietnam vet … and much more.

I wish Bob Tyrrell gave his raspberry-filled J. Gordon Coogler Award to magazine articles. The 2007 winner wouldn’t have had far to travel for the presentation.

June 25, 2007 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , ,

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