Thank you for printing "Junket Bonds" [November 17], the excerpt from Jonathan Rosenbaum's upcoming book. Honesty in the evaluation of big Hollywood films is hard enough to come by; honesty in the evaluation of film criticism seems nonexistent. It's long been my own contention that the mainstream media "film critics" are not film critics at all--they are movie reviewers. Film criticism necessitates at least a general understanding of art as well as some degree of intellectual discernment. A person with no knowledge of symbolism, structure, process, or meaning in painting, literature, poetics, music, etc, cannot offer a worthwhile evaluation of film, which, though most Americans wholeheartedly deny it, is art.
The popular movie reviewers are prominently placed in the media not to inject a dose of enlightenment into the general public's artistic ignorance but to validate and reinforce it. The replacement of the late Gene Siskel, who seemed to have a far greater interest in and understanding of basketball than of any art form, with Richard Roeper is indisputable proof. Most of these media figures know little if anything about intelligent, challenging films from the smaller American and great foreign filmmakers. How could you fawn over the ho-hum dark satirical humor of American Beauty if you've seen Todd Solondz's Happiness? Of course, the powers that release and promote films had predetermined that everyone would see Beauty while very few would see Happiness.
Last week, Ebert and Roeper bantered back and forth for what seemed an eternity about Charlie's Angels. I don't remember whether they liked it or not--that doesn't matter. Wasting airtime discussing such tripe at all only serves to legitimize it.
I would also like to thank Roger Ebert himself for a timely substantiation of my opinions concerning the knowledge of movie reviewers. On the same day that Rosenbaum's piece appeared in the Reader, a pitifully perfunctory piece by Ebert on the Luis Buñuel film festival appeared in the Sun-Times. At the end of his piece, Ebert says that "one of [Buñuel's] most audacious masterstrokes was with 'The Phantom of Liberty'...where [Buñuel] used two actresses interchangeably for the same role." I'm no film critic, Roger, but I think you meant That Obscure Object of Desire.