Daily Archives: October 11, 2000

The Audience is Sometimes Right (Part Two)

The concluding chapter of my book Movie Wars: How Hollywood and the Media Limit What Films We Can See (Chicago: A Cappella Books, 2000).
Due to the length of this Conclusion, it’s being posted in two parts. — J.R.

Q:   In Chapter Five, you argue that the cable channel Turner Classic Movies does a more responsible job of preserving our film heritage than the American Film Institute, citing what they’ve recently done in “restorations, revivals, documentaries about film history, and even in presenting foreign-­language movies.” Of course TCM has vastly more economic and material resources at its disposal than the AFI does, which suggests that big business versus state funding isn’t always the enemy.

A: Yes, and I’d stand by that comparison — although I wouldn’t go so far as to claim that TCM has any sort of edge over the Cinémathèque Française, especially when it comes to varied and knowledgeable programming of world cinema (which includes certain categories like experimental film that TCM completely ignores). I had to wait for years in Chicago before I could get TCM, and friends of mine in New York and Los Angeles had comparable problems. Now that we have it, it’s certainly a boon to get the sort of balance between structured and unstructured programming of older films that the Cinémathèque has often specialized in.… Read more »

The Audience is Sometimes Right (Part One)

The concluding chapter of my book Movie Wars: How Hollywood and the Media Limit What Films We Can See (Chicago: A Cappella Books, 2000).
Due to the length of this Conclusion, it’s being posted in two parts. — J.R.

Conclusion: The Audience Is Sometimes Right

 

     “What is your feeling towards your audiences — towards the public?”                     

     “Which public? There are as many publics as there are personalities.”

                                   — Gilbert Burgess, “A Talk with Mr. Oscar Wilde” (1895)

 

 

 

QUESTION: Aren’t you laying yourself open throughout this book to the charge of sour grapes?

ANSWER: What do you mean?

Q: I mean attacking critics like Janet Maslin and David Denby because you’d so obviously like to have their jobs yourself.

A: If that’s really your impression of what lies behind my arguments, then my arguments have failed. There’s a hefty price tag for whatever prestige and power comes with writing for The New York Times and The New Yorker, and I consider myself fortunate that I don’t have to worry about paying it. Film critics for those publications — including Vincent Canby and Pauline Kael as well as Maslin and Denby — ultimately wind up less powerful than the institutions they write for, and insofar as they’re empowered by those institutions, they’re disempowered as independent voices.… Read more »