The end of film criticism


Willie Osterweil argues for a new way of talking about film @ The New Inquiry.
What is Hollywood? Hollywood is a pool of money, power, and people. Hollywood is a monomaniacal schizophrenic, making films at the voices’ instruction. Each film represents a different voice in its head; some are violent, some frightening, some romantic, some beautiful. But all of them praise the perfect beauty of the commodified image.It’s news to no one that film production has changed radically since 1954, when François Truffaut and the writers at Cahiers du Cinéma created auteur theory. Yet film criticism, both academic and popular, usually maintains that the director is the paramount force behind the production of cinematic meaning. Though auteurs exist (e.g. Werner Herzog, Catherine Breillat, Wong Kar-Wai), for the vast majority of entertainment cinema, meaning is determined by a different force: a manufactured zeitgeist, a false urgency sustained by the barrage of advertisement, conversation, and criticism about a movie that creates a sense that films reflect their cultural moment. I call this the “film current.”What makes so many mediocre, repressive, boring, or stupid films seem worth discussing? Why are movies like Crash, Juno, or Slumdog Millionaire treated as relevant, new, even subversive? The film current. For most major film releases, marketing costs a quarter to a third of the production budget; this money goes to establishing a film’s ubiquity and “cultural relevance” while masking its inadequacies, inviting critics to regard it as a window to the psychological state of the American people, and regard themselves as insightful for doing more