I was delighted to read the excerpt from Jonathan Rosenbaum's upcoming book [November 17]. I couldn't agree more with what he had to say about the state of film criticism. Much the same could be said about the state of filmmaking.
What prompted me to write this letter was the letter written by Christopher Seik in response to the Rosenbaum excerpt [November 24]. The letter attacked Roger Ebert and asserted that the film Happiness was superior to American Beauty.
If Christopher Seik holds himself to the same standard of film criticism as he does everyone else, it's hard for me to believe he's as knowledgeable about the art of cinema as he seems to think. I liked Happiness and thought it had a good original story and a good cast, but it was visually bland, with a mediocre production design shot mostly in medium and medium close-ups much like a television show. I have always felt that while it was a good film, it was overrated partly because of the abundance of disappointing films that seem to be made these days. As a result, the bar is lowered and a good film like Happiness is considered a great film even though it doesn't have all the components of great cinema. On the other hand, American Beauty had the whole package and shouldn't be discounted because it was marketed well.
The filmgoing experience in general is very personal and subjective, which is why I like to read Rosenbaum, Ebert, Wilmington, Pride, and many national and international reviews. I do not always agree with any one reviewer and would be thoroughly bored if I did. I felt Christopher Seik's letter was unnecessarily petty and hostile toward Roger Ebert. Everyone has their own tastes and makes a gaffe here and there. I think Ebert does a good job at what he does while covering a lot of territory. If I remember correctly Ebert gave Happiness an enthusiastic thumbs-up on television and in print. Contrary to what Christopher Seik may think, Ebert does champion indie releases and has done so for quite some time.