Mamo #306: The Death of the Film Critic, Part Deux

Critics reacted to M. Night Shyamalan and Will Smith’s After Earth and fans reacted right back, in the only way they know how: erratically. With more layoffs at “real” publications, and Twitter telling us what we already think anyway, is proper film criticism dead?

To download this episode, use this URL: http://rowthree.com/audio/mamo/mamo306.mp3

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Sean Kelly
Guest

I’ve long since stopped reading movie reviews (at least prior to seeing a film), since I know the critics feelings of the film are more often than not going to be different than mine.

I personally got a bit annoyed this week, since some Toronto film folks on Facebook were trying to convince me (one actually begged) NOT to go see AFTER EARTH last weekend (which I DID go see and ended up liking).

In response I did a bit of a Twitter rant on Saturday morning, which I shall now post in full:

Today I feel like reiterating my preference for “Like” or “Don’t Like” in regards to movies, as opposed to “Good” or “Bad.”

Nothing annoys me more than being told what movies I should be seeing. Your type of movie isn’t necessarily my type of movie.

There is a reason I preface all my reviews with “My Thoughts on,” because that’s what they are.

I always encourage people to make-up their own minds about what movies they see and not to let some other person’s opinion influence them.

And with that, I shall prepare to see AFTER EARTH this afternoon.

Speaking of Twitter, I sometimes don’t realize that some of my 400+ followers actually read my tweets and I’m sometimes surprised by an unexpected response.

Rick Vance
Guest

Any kind of reliance on Continuity over anything else is always something that turns me right off of stuff and is actually the one of the reasons that is keeping me out of modern Big Two comics (the other being the accelerated schedules not helping anyone). Everything is referential now because all the people in charge of the comics grew up on the comics so the loop becomes tighter and tighter.

The end of the episode put me into a ranty kinda mood so here goes nothing. Sandman is my least favorite comic of the last two decades and is the cause (in my eyes) of so many beliefs that have permeated the modern comic audience and is a great showcase of how Neil Gaiman isn’t really that great of a writer (I haven’t read any of his prose but in comics he is just dull).

Mattmovies
Guest

I’m in total disagreement on Gaiman in general and Sandman in particular – but I’m curious if you want to elaborate on the comment. To my knowledge the average reader is mostly unaware of Gaiman’s work, he’s a somewhat specialized taste. And there hasn’t been huge crossover to the general comics audience. How is Sandman “the cause (in my eyes) of so many beliefs that have permeated the modern comic audience”? What beliefs are you referring to?

Rick Vance
Guest

It is a lot of really small things that all cumulatively build into my disliking of that work. Which all goes into how Sandman is taken in the larger market and how comics fans treat the book.

Sandman and Gaiman inadvertently sparked an entire generation of comics fans who whether subconsciously or not only really pay attention to whims of the writer and as long as the art isn’t offensively bad and the writer is someone they like there is no problem in their eyes. There are obviously many more factors that drive this belief however I do see Sandman at the center of it. From its position as the flagship Vertigo title (even though it didn’t begin there) and what that brand represents, to its prominence in book stores, to its high spot on any recommendation given to someone new in comics, it introduces people to comics from a 1 Writer / 20+ Artist book so it isn’t the fault of the person that they gravitate to the consistent element.

It has created and through its influence and training of its readership cultivated a culture of writer is the most important part of this work.

Then when you add in Gaiman’s influence outside the comics sphere it balloons even further.

As I said earlier it was never the intent of anyone involved to do this just whenever I talk comics with people online inadvertently the writer is the first and only name that comes up in the conversation. I place some of the blame of that at exactly what Sandman is.

(Even small things like how Gaiman’s name is SO much bigger than everyone else on any of the material)

I don’t tend to care for a great deal of Vertigo comics for very similar reasons. There are standouts but few and far between.

(That all being said I really dig the Frank Quitely and Mike Allred stories in it.)

Matthew Price
Guest

I’d say both Alan Moore and Frank Miller precede him in that. To be honest, I agree with your basic points, except that you see them as a problem and I see them as a strength. The writing matters way more than the art to me as long as it’s clear what’s happening – great art can improve a great story, but I’ve read some books with beautiful panels that were fucking dull stories and that’s a no go for me. Then I’m just at the art gallery only there’s no originals, just reproductions.

Rick Vance
Guest

Frank Miller draws most of his catalog of work I fail to see how he would qualify. Not to mention being one of the absolute greatest artists comics have produced.

The reason I would still put Sandman specifically above Moore comics (although I agree that to new readers a focus on the scripting usually always happens). Is that Moore generally sticks with a single artist for a project and the books reflect that.

Rick Vance
Guest

It also applies to Prometheus as people piled on the script and failed to recognize some of the brilliant visual storytelling being done by Scott. Words took a huge priority.

It does feel like the script is taking priority everywhere.

matthew price
Guest

Miller always strikes me as a writer who draws, but again, that’s just a subjective thing. Probably because his best stuff for me is Hard Boiled/300/The Big Guy and Rusty. I love Sin City, and that’s fairly art driven. But I guess my point is that it starts with the ideas for me, and the ideas are (for me) contained in the words and structure more than the execution. I feel the opposite about films.

Rick Vance
Guest

Yeah that makes sense and his writing is really fucking good (see also Elektra Assassin)

but my Miller touchstones are Ronin and Daredevil and Dark Knight and Strikes Again.

Matthew Fabb
Guest

Neil Gaiman has revolving writers for The Sandman and the Books of Magic mini series, but I can’t think of any other Neil Gaiman comic that worked this way. Beyond those 2 titles he mainly had one artist. Even both Death mini-series, a spin-off of Sandman used one artist Chris Bachalo (the definite artist of Gaiman’s Death in my mind).

As I mentioned above, I wonder how Sandman might had been different if Sam Kieth had stayed on.

Personally, I’ve always thought that Alan Moore really pushed the rises of importance of the writer in comics as much as Neil Gaiman did. Then you throw in the whole “British Invasion” comic writers and it goes beyond them. It’s hard to target credit or blame on any one writer.

Robert Reineke
Guest

I’d say that Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing run is the true genesis of it with Bissette & Totleben alternating with Alcala and Veitch as the needs of the schedule dictated, with editorial making sure that Bissette & Totleben handled the big issues. There certainly were writer/artists beforehand that got people’s attention, Kirby’s Fourth World for example, writer and artist teams, Lee & Kirby, but Moore was probably the first superstar writer where it didn’t matter who the artist was.

Matt Gamble
Guest

I’m sure much of the genesis for that was working on 2000 AD, where the writer’s and the artist’s would rotate around pretty frequently. Moore, Morrison and later Millar all came through there and Gaiman is a bit of a Moore protege.

Rick Vance
Guest

I would kinda agree with that if Swamp Thing had the magnitude of success that Sandman did. Which it does for comic fans but Sandman extends far beyond that.

Robert Reineke
Guest

I view Sandman as an extension of Swamp Thing in many ways. Right down to picking up Matthew Cable as a supporting character. Although I do agree that 2000 A.D. is probably the true source, Alan Moore became big in the US because of his Swamp Thing work, which later snowballed into Watchmen and The Killing Joke, and that’s the real seed of the British Invasion.

To carry it back further, Wes Craven’s Swamp Thing might have made it all possible by convincing DC to revive the comic in order to tie into the movie.

Matt Gamble
Guest

Can we all just agree that Moore’s run on Swamp Thing is fucking incredible?

Rick Vance
Guest

Also yes HOLY SHIT that TIFF lineup I am still trying to pick which of those Labor Day days I want to go to.

Both the Friday and Sunday nights look really fucking good.