The New York Times Celebrates and Cheerfully Perpetuates Neanderthal Thinking

All of those who can find or make no meaningful distinction between the following two sentences — “The world is going to hell in a handbasket”; “America is going to hell in a handbasket” — are likely to find an article called “The Cecil B. De Mille of Movie Lists” by Stuart Miller, featured prominently in the Arts and Leisure section of today’s New York Times, precisely the sort of entertaining news that intelligent movie lovers should be paying close attention to. I’ll try to oblige them.

The article celebrates (and perpetuates) the untiring efforts of a produce clerk in Austin, Texas to list the 9,200 greatest movies ever made, a project clearly viewed by Miller as the quest of an enlightened primitive. But what could be more primitive than Miller’s own assumption that the clerk’s omission of silent films and animated films is a secondary matter, to be squirreled away in the article’s penultimate paragraph? Or, even worse, that three more minor omissions, apparently equivalent to one another in importance, and clearly even less important than silent and animated films — “documentary, made-for-TV and foreign-language films” — can be acknowledged parenthetically in a follow-up sentence?

I suppose we should all therefore assume, along with Miller and his editors, that foreign-language documentaries, silent documentaries, made-for-TV documentaries, foreign-language TV films, and foreign-language animated films (among other neglected possibilities) are omissions that aren’t even worth mentioning, even in passing, as existing categories.

Thanks, guys, for brightening up my day.

So is it the world, America, Austin, or simply the New York Times that’s going to hell in a handbasket? You tell me.  [4/18/10]

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