Google+ Cinema Viewfinder: The Big Sleep: The Current State of Things and a Few Words on Glenn Kenny

Monday, May 12, 2008

The Big Sleep: The Current State of Things and a Few Words on Glenn Kenny

by Tony Dayoub

So here is the current state of things around here. Got back from Tribeca a week ago when the following proceeded to occur:
  • My laptop died. Thought it'd be a simple matter of replacing the hard drive and recovering some data from the old one. Turns out the whole motherboard is fried (or some such shit like that... I'm not the tech-savvy type) and the data is, to quote Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer) in Blade Runner, "lost... like tears in rain." Included in that data, pictures of my son's first Christmas. Lesson: Always back everything up.
  • My cell phone is dying. Which has made it almost impossible to conduct business while I wait for my new laptop, since my cell was the only way I could answer email. Working on getting that replaced as well.
  • My car could go any day now. Scary is hoping your car doesn't die out in Atlanta traffic with an unreliable cell phone to depend on.

The good news is that I've had plenty of time to watch a stack of screeners that was waiting for me when I got back from NYC. So you'll be getting plenty of reviews as soon as I'm back up, including:
Until then, let's talk about something else that has been on my mind. Premiere Magazine, a film magazine that started in France (and continues to be published there), was first published in the U.S. in 1987. Some have been critical of the American magazine for trivializing the art of film, i.e. concentrating on celebrities and box office tallies, and even putting out an annual list ranking the most powerful people in Hollywood. I was a subscriber from day one, and I can tell you that at fifteen, it was a considerable influence on my approach to analyzing cinema. Sure, if you were looking for scholarly examination of film in the context of world cinema you were probably better served by reading Film Comment (a publication I still enjoy greatly). But there was still room for Premiere's brand of journalism. Because though some would accuse it of trivializing the medium, I found it was honest in covering American film in the grander scheme of things, covering everything from independents to blockbusters, films to home videos, spotlighting actors both famous and obscure, and never letting you forget that though you may love film for its art, it was ultimately the business forces that decided if it would get made or not. Last year, Premiere, in the U.S., succumbed to the erosion of advertisement income now plaguing much of print media in the face of the rising popularity of the internet as news outlet. Many of the staff lost their jobs as it transitioned to a second life on the net, except one.

Glenn Kenny, the mag's resident film critic, continued in that capacity as the magazine became one of many entertainment sites that abound online. His singularly distinctive voice and style was one of the few reasons to continue to visit the site, as he also supplemented his reviews with a fantastic blog, "In the Company of Glenn". Not only does this man have an opinion (which I frequently disagreed with), but he is a master of the English language. You'd be surprised how few of those exist online. Here's an example of his way with words from his post on 4/21/08 entitled Monday Evening Palate Cleanser:

It vexes me. I am terribly vexed.

Why, on this mild Monday evening, do the words of Joaquin Phoenix's Commodus echo through my head?

That's a rhetorical question. I know exactly why. That answer's multi-faceted. Part of my vexation stems from encountering, in this here blogosphere, a putative paean to a particularly distinguished work of cinema, which praises the particular work at the expense of practically every other movie the director of that work ever did, trotting out heavyweight quotes the better to swat at...David Denby, who recently had the temerity to cite said director's "refinement." What such score-settling has to do with the work at hand is, naturally, beyond me. But the score-settler seems to believe he's achieved the ambition of that character in Gass' "In The Heart of The Heart of The Country," which I guess is nice for him, not so nice for those turning to him for some wit or perception. And in thinking about all this, I further think, "Dude, you really want to get into it like this?" "It" being the week, after a weekend of examining some of the other discontents readily available in the film-appraisal corner of our world. And I answer, "No, I do not."

I bring up Mr. Kenny because Premiere just terminated his position. And as NPR reported on a story on the very day Kenny announced his departure, he is but the latest casualty in a long string of critics who've accepted buyouts or have been terminated from magazines and newspapers nationwide. So a site struggling to stand out from all the others just got rid of the one person who had the most potential to help them in doing so. And another veteran film critic loses his job because of ever increasing competition from bloggers who write more often, more incoherently, and often for free.

Though I am thankful for the immediacy, and facility, that the online world affords me in expressing my views on this subject I adore, cinema, I will always defer to journalists with formal training and experience when it comes to writing. Here's hoping that Mr. Kenny will land on his feet quickly, and get on with the business of provoking us to think on cinema from his perspective, no matter how often I may disagree with it.

An archive of Glenn Kenny's blog for Premiere, "In the Company of Glenn", is up, for the moment, under my Recommended Blogs to the left. His new writings may be found under a blog he set up, all by himself, called "Some Came Running", also under my Recommended Blogs.

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