Sunday, July 16, 2006

Take Five

I'm in the thick of some paper-writing, and have to take a blog-break. I'll pop up to post the occasional link or two in the comments, and as always you're welcome to do the same.

A reminder: the avant-garde blog-a-thon is on Wednesday, August 2, two-and-a-half weeks away—plenty of time to rent a DVD or catch a screening. I hope you can join us.

Back in a week. Ciao.


Blogger girish said...

--Brian Darr, Michael Guillen, and Peter Nellhaus reporting from the San Francisco Silent filmfest.
--Crazy: India is trying to ban blogs.
--Round-Headed Boy on Woody Allen.
--At Scanners: Office spaces in the movies.

July 18, 2006 8:26 AM  
Anonymous davis said...

Girish is in today's Wall Street Journal!

(At the very end.)

July 18, 2006 4:44 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Had no idea, Rob.

July 18, 2006 5:38 PM  
Blogger Barry said...

You've hit the big time G, the big time ;)

July 18, 2006 6:44 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Barry, tomorrow they'll use that paper to wrap fish and chips. :-)
(oops, slipped into my colonial roots again.)

July 18, 2006 6:53 PM  
Blogger Tuwa said...

There's a film I downloaded two years ago (legally) and still haven't watched. There it sits on my hard drive, 750 MB of guilt. I'm happy it's avant garde, since Girish has (unintentionally) given me a deadline.

And then there's Wiseman's Titicut Follies, which I got a year ago and still haven't watched (in spite of both my love for documentaries and my interest in the film and its suppression).

July 18, 2006 8:26 PM  
Blogger girish said...

There you go, Tuwa. Glad you'll join us.

July 18, 2006 8:30 PM  
Blogger Barry said...

Don't think I could watch Titicut again. Great doc.

July 18, 2006 8:37 PM  
Blogger girish said...

I've never seen it; I'd like to catch up with it sometime. In fact, I've seen merely one Wiseman, The Last Letter.

July 18, 2006 9:29 PM  
Blogger Tuwa said...

It looks like everything Wiseman has done is out of print (even at, which is usually my go-to source for semi-obscure documentaries).... I've noticed that a lot of directors have films out of print, even classic ones, including Renoir, Lang, and Ford.... It makes me wonder about the need for copyright (but, then, quite a lot does). :-)

The last I checked, the Documentary Institute at UF had exactly one of his films.

Wiseman takes an unusual approach to documentary film-making; sometimes he'd simply set a camera up and leave it running.

July 18, 2006 11:14 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Yeah, Tuwa, the unavailability is the reason why I haven't been able to catch up with his stuff, though I've been reading about it for a while...


--Cinetrix on Gavin Smith's editorial about blogs.
--In case you didn't realize: Acquarello keeps a well-updated list of select DVD new and future releases.
--More capsule reviews from Dave Kehr.
--Jim Emerson on film critics.
--Michael on A SCANNER DARKLY.
--Mystery Man on creative inspiration.
--Please head over to Dennis Cozzalio's and give him some suggestions on a name change for SLIFR.

July 19, 2006 6:34 AM  
Blogger Maya said...

An 11-day break from blogging sounds wonderful. Sigh.

July 20, 2006 12:52 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Michael, I must admit it feels good. :-)
It's funny, all of us bloggers know this, but blogging can get a touch tyrannical sometimes.
I'd love to read about the "psychology" of blogging. And I wish there were blogs out there about blogging.

Some clicks:

--Post+comments at Chuck's about AO Scott's recent article, criticism, etc.
--More Opening Shots at Jim's.
--I linked to Acquarello's new/future DVD releases page yesterday but I wanted to mention that it has an RSS feed that you can subscribe to if you use an RSS reader.

Okay, now back to writing.

July 20, 2006 8:06 AM  
Anonymous acquarello said...

I couldn't figure out what Gavin was getting at with his editorial piece. However sugarcoated, it's still mostly a dig at film bloggers, and I think more importantly, the intrinsic free cost of that instant gratification information. It read more like a job justification for why print will always be relevant while online content is a fad with a short shelf life.

I especially take issue with the "because we edit" rationale. While there are certainly a lot of film (or any other) bloggers out there who don't edit and don't particularly pay attention to the form of writing, quite a few do.

The tepid, olive branch Solidarność gesture that both types of writers are inevitably bound together by the passion of film criticism rings pretty hollow as well. Would he keep doing what he does if he didn't get paid for his time, used his own money to buy tickets, nor received other perqs of access associated with his "Editor - Film Comment" title?

July 20, 2006 9:29 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Great points, Acquarello. I agree 100%.

He painted us in some pretty broad strokes...

It's interesting how this year has seen, for the first time, some real defensiveness and anxiety on the part of print-critical establishment about the Internet and blogs.

July 20, 2006 9:58 AM  
Blogger Tuwa said...

It's a little silly, really. He wouldn't write about them if people weren't reading them, and so he's wondering now whether people are reading more or reading the same amount but cutting out some former sources (e.g., the ones that cost).

I don't have the answer to that. But I do think free is sometimes just as good as not-free, and it's an obvious choice when it is.

Speaking of reading, I notice that once I started tinkering on the internet in 1997/98, my print reading fell off precipitously. This was also at the time I was finishing my undergraduate degree and admitted that my love of literature had turned into a hate of analysis. (It had turned reading into an exercise pinning every metaphor and allusion to a board to slice it open and prod in its intestines, looking grave because literature should not be fun.)

I'm still not sure if that shift in reading habits is correlation or causation, or perhaps a false binary for some gormless overeager student to trip over.

July 20, 2006 10:32 AM  
Anonymous Filmbrain said...

That Gavin editorial had me seeing red, and it completely ruined an entire Sunday for me. (Well, at least half of it.)

What made me hurl the magazine across the room was his closing sentence -- something about how it's a labor of love for both of us. Right. Only when Gavin tears up his paycheck can he claim equality with the rest of us.

What Gavin (and others) fail to realize is that bloggers are not playing an us vs. them game. Most every film blogger worth reading regularly dips into film magazines, books, daily reviews, etc. We link to them all the time! We are not trying to compete, nor steal readers away. I mean....for fuck's sake, there's a universe of films out there, and many of us are writing about those that don't get coverage elsewhere. But Gavin's not interested in that. He'd rather cling to the tired chestnut of bloggers as solipsistic losers who don't possess "the most scintillating critical minds".


July 20, 2006 11:34 AM  
Anonymous cinetrix said...

It does make you wonder who Gavin thinks reads his magazine. It's no Us Weekly in terms of circ numbers, I'm willing to wager.

It'd be interesting if bloggers decided en masse to stop buying/subscribing/linking to Film Comment and other specialized journals. Girish and I could still follow along in our respective university libraries, and other folks could spend some quality time skimming at a B&N to much the same effect. Is that what Smith really wants, to bite the hand? I doubt it.

July 20, 2006 12:46 PM  
Blogger HarryTuttle said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

July 20, 2006 1:24 PM  
Blogger HarryTuttle said...

Congrats for making the WallStreetJournal, Girish! ;)

Is this Film Comment editorial available online in integrality?

I don't see it as an aggression. "filmbloggers" doesn't mean this community, here, of insightful critics. The cinephile core is an invisible minority. Nobody should take these remarks personally, here.
The general population of filmbloggers is aimless.
Giving a better reputation to filmbloggers should begin by aknowledging "filmblogger" and "insightful critic" are not synonymous.

It's understandable that an outsider contemplating at the nebulous blogosphere would make pessimistic generalizations. Maybe Gavin doesn't know where to look.

I would agree with everything quoted on Pullquote. Filmbloggers are irrelevant for the most part. Don't overlook this bit : "but the best are about community building, engaged debate, and promoting a genuinely discursive approach to criticism--and the overall result is a tremendous vitality" (that's the part that directly concerns our niche)

What I understand is that he warns mass blogging against disparity and dilution, meanwhile, online readers should persist to sort out the quality blogs from the general noise. This is true and helpful to raise awareness.

This said, I agree with all the comments made about Gavin's malicious and inappropriate inferences. I'm just trying to look at it dispassionately.

Look at the names they cite to illustrate their survey : Poland, Knowles (representative of noteworthy blog or mass appeal?) and Kehr (print crossover).
This is typical print journalism. They only mention common facts, something the readers have most likely heard about because it is a popular phenomenon (by hitcounter). Which like cinetrix says, is contradictory with the minor readership niche of print film magazines.
Apparently the online "circulation" doesn't bear the equivalent face value of print circulation yet. It would be interesting to see how many bloggers get mor readers than newspapers. But I don't like to look at the problem from a "popularity" angle. It's more constructive to keep track of the quality equivalency.

p.s. sorry for the typos

July 20, 2006 1:47 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Merci--Tuwa, 'Brain, 'Trix, Harry.

I'm puzzled at why Gavin is making this into an Us vs. Them game; not sure what he stands to gain by alienating the filmblogosphere.

"I don't see it as an aggression. "filmbloggers" doesn't mean this community, here, of insightful critics. The cinephile core is an invisible minority."

Harry, the odd thing is that it's only the cinephile blogs that talk about the kind of cinema that Film Comment writes about, not the filmblogger community at large, no?

I think publications like Film Comment need to stop thinking of their business as a zero-sum game (a pie of limited size, previously belonging entirely to the print pubs, now to be carved up between print and blogs). It's just not like that. A sensible reader is not looking to choose between print mags and blogs--they can both bring value to the reader.

It might instead make sense for Film Comment to exploit the web presence of film-lovers by ramping up Film Comment's web presence (eg having some of their writers keep blogs? I don't know) and reaching out to the Internet film-loving community. It just might increase visibility, goodwill and eventually, sales of the print mag.

Instead, if Gavin's trying to convince his readership to not go to the web to do any cinema reading, but instead just stay with his print mag, not sure if that gambit's going to work. Someone let that cat out of the bag a while ago.

July 20, 2006 5:36 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Lotsa Links:

--The Siren's back, now in Brooklyn, with a post on "voices of the screen".
--Darren's looking for suggestions for films that touch on "the philosophy of sex".
--Flickhead on THE COMMITTEE.
--New Dennis Cozzalio post on Jim Emerson's Opening Shots project.
--Walter on Woody Allen in response to Round-Headed Boy.
--The TIFF press releases and film announcements page.
--Latest capsules at Dave Kehr's.
--Now, like the "do loop" of a computer program, if you swing back up to the very first comment in this thread, you'll see links to Brian, Michael and Peter, all reporting from San Francisco. They all have new posts. (Yes, there is something in the water there and no, you can't tell me otherwise!)

July 21, 2006 7:55 AM  
Anonymous Darren said...

Girish, do you have opinions about any of the Indian films that TIFF announced yesterday.

July 21, 2006 9:02 AM  
Blogger HarryTuttle said...

You're right Girish, the logic is flawed, and the press needs to aknowledge the online evolution before it's too late. But press and TV didn't bridge their medium gap yet, so it might take a while for the internet.

I guess it's a matter of reciprocity. Most (american) cinephile bloggers have likely heard about Film Comment, but most FC readers (or writers) aren't necessarily familiar with the "best" cinephile blogs if any... And it might be due to the structural difference of mediatic exposition. Press competition and internet competition are different.
What is the proportion of cinephiles who know their way around the blogosphere? (stats would help to qualify the gap)
Is the internet culture as familiar/iconic for the general public as the press is already? Even if it was, individual blogs are overwhelmed by the multitude, and they aren't on equal footing like on the newsstand.

What is the frustration behind that? Would a blogger expect the recognition from the press, a certain publicity, to be drafted?
If blog criticism is truly an autonomous alternative to print criticism (for writing, not for reading) it can develop without the support of offline benefactors.
Critics are already rather insular within their own team, ignoring other publications. There is a structural/ideological conservative isolationism.

What would you want his discourse on bloggers to be, in a perfect world?

July 21, 2006 9:29 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Darren, unfortunately I don't know the work of those directors. But the Manipur doc sure looks interesting, and I'm going to try to see it.

I have a real blind spot for contemporary Bollywood films and filmmakers (not older Bollywood, which I grew up with and appreciate). There was a nice Film Comment issue on Bollywood a while back that I need to read carefully. My parents have tried to get me to watch some current releases with them on DVD but--and I feel like a heel doing this--I've more than once bailed mid-way. I need to find a way in if I can.

Harry, in answer to your question, I'm not sure what % of FC readers read or are aware of bloggers.

"What would you want his discourse on bloggers to be, in a perfect world?"

I don't know; I just think of the two worlds (print, blog) as having the potential to work synergistically and cooperatively with each other to boost visibility, attention, discourse on world cinema matters. Ultimately, it's all about cinema and conversation about cinema. And anything that detracts from or does not help advance it (like the antagonisms we've been talking about) is, in my view, a waste of time and energy.

A positive use of time and energy would be the print and blog worlds helping each other's spheres of influence grow, because this would mean potential for greater and better cinema discourse. For me personally, that's the one and only bottom line.

July 21, 2006 9:54 AM  
Anonymous acquarello said...

This is just my take on it, but having been an on and off member of the Film Society of Lincoln Center for almost 20 years now (quit in the early 90s when I first left NYC and moved to Cape Canaveral), I can definitely see that there has been some especially fundamental changes to the scope and focus of Film Comment (and FSLC in general) just in the past few years that seems out of the range of normal growth and evolution in an attempt to get away from the highbrow perception and get "more butts in the pews" in terms of readership (and viewership). So maybe I'm reading too much into Gavin's comments, but I wonder how much of the hipshot is fueled by the frustration over not being to have crossover appeal in the way that bloggers have, particularly towards attracting younger cinephiles (this was also a side issue in Doug's post on Unshown Cinema) who are more comfortable with the web. So you're absolutely right, instead of making FC's web presence better, his response is to say "we're just like you (...but better, 'cause we edit, natch!)".

As far as readership, basically if you're a Film Society member, you get Film Comment foisted on you whether you want it or not, which is why I have a subscription (speaking of short shelf lives, the magazine usually ends up in my recycling bin within the week), so I suspect that this is where the demographics would skew towards older FC readership. Personally, I find the magazine too generalized and non-committal to be useful (except for Olaf's World and some of Kent Jones' work) to find its own fan base, and I think that's really the core of the problem, not bloggers eating away at their base.

July 21, 2006 10:38 AM  
Blogger Zach Campbell said...

I like everything Acquarello just said. FC still has some good and even excellent writing (and to me, too, its best regular writers are Moller and Jones), but it's essentially a big glossy advertisement for the Film Society of Lincoln Center. And it follows trends & issues at least as much as it creates them. I don't know that I could do a better job, lord knows Gavin Smith probably has some pressure on him, but without the freedom that the Web and those uneddited bolgs of the unwashed masses, FC would seem oppressively staid and conservative rather than simply 'institutional.'

July 21, 2006 11:55 AM  
Blogger HarryTuttle said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

July 21, 2006 12:43 PM  
Blogger HarryTuttle said...

Cahiers and Positif should get along for the greater Good of art cinema, but they don't. Interests are at stake, that come in the way of a selfless communautarism...

The absence of sponsors and editors is one major advantage blogs have on the press. We don't have to be loyal to anyone. We can cite any source, copyrighted or unverified, from a direct concurrent or from an aquaintance. That's why I like this uncensored liberty of expression.

This spirit of open source, free-access, cooperative is an utopia particular to the online generation. It's not a characteristic of other (profit-oriented) media.
Blog and press don't disagree over the necessity of a conversation about cinema, the support of the underexposed (they accomplish the same effort on each their side), but it's each on their own. If some blogs get more attention than their print conterparts, why worry about the absence of recognition? Blogs build their own network.
I prefer to save our independance, impertinence, cynism towards the press than to owe to a magazine that kindly linked to us.

I agree with you Girish, it would benefit the cinema we like to survive... in a perfect world. But there are practical incompatibilities.
It is becoming to change though, not as fast as things evolve online of course.
Cahiers going online (articles online, translated in English and spanish, forum, live chat with critics, cine-clubs meetings, a special issue on online criticism with favorite links...)
La Cinémathèque official website (cinephile page with online content, favorite links)

I'm afraid the internet isn't the most friendly choice to look for quality information yet. It is to us if we have a map, but not to the average moviegoer or cinephile.
What acquarello says about targetting a non-cinephile readership would explain why the overall conclusion on the blogosphere is so grim.

Anyone here believes the cinema exposition on the blogosphere in general is hopeful and constructive?

What about a comparative survey of the cinephile content, across all media available? What are the best ones and how would you rank them? (how many online venues will top the press?)

p.s. sorry about the edit again Girish.

July 21, 2006 12:52 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Acquarello, Zach, Harry--Thank you!

A couple of links:

--Acquarello on Francoise Romand's MIX-UP, which sounds fascinating.
--Several new posts at MZS's.
--Filmbrain on Lee Yoon-Ki's LOVE TALK.
--Andy Horbal on CARS.

July 22, 2006 7:47 AM  
Blogger Noel Vera said...

Didn't know Smith felt that way about bloggers.

I did notice, though that Film Comment (which--shameless plug here--I had to buy to get this particular article), which used to be available at even Waldenbooks in Michigan some sixteen years ago, now can only be found in Barnes and Noble bookstores in bigger cities. Has their circulation dropped or something?

July 23, 2006 4:45 AM  
Blogger Noel Vera said...

I might add I probably can't make the August 4 deadline for the avante garde blogathon, as I'll be moving to Pennsylvania by end of the month, and will be double busy then.

July 23, 2006 5:02 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Good luck with the move, Noel. And thanks for linking to the Olaf Moller article--very cool.

July 23, 2006 7:03 PM  

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