SXSW 2010 Panel: Hyperbole in Film Criticism

Chase Whale

by:
March 26th, 2010

Main Entry: hy·per·bo·le
Pronunciation: \hī-ˈpər-bə-(ˌ)lē\
Function: noun
Etymology: Latin, from Greek hyperbolē excess, hyperbole, hyperbola, from hyperballein to exceed, from hyper- + ballein to throw — more at devil
Date: 15th century
: extravagant exaggeration (as “mile-high ice-cream cones”)

Main Entry: crit·i·cism
Pronunciation: \ˈkri-tə-ˌsi-zəm\
Function: noun
Date: 1607
1 a : the act of criticizing usually unfavorably b : a critical observation or remark c : critique
2 : the art of evaluating or analyzing works of art or literature; also : writings expressing such evaluation or analysis
3 : the scientific investigation of literary documents (as the Bible) in regard to such matters as origin, text, composition, or history

Let's face it, online blogging is taking over print, radio, and T.V. By giving readers an instant way to view materials and gossip, it's a no-brainer why the Internet has boomed so rapidly. With that, however, comes a problem: anyone can be heard just by starting up a website. No degree required, no credentials needed.

Last week at SXSW, Erik Childress of eFilm Critic moderated a panel called Hyperbole in Film Criticism, in which various film critics discussed just how much film criticism has recently changed, and some of the most important topics in online journalism: worst trends (I have to be first!, grammatical errors), Twitter, consistency in work, the difference in enthusiasm and being a film critic and quote whoring -- to name a few.

Hyperbole in Film Criticism hosted some of the best and most colorful critics (5 online - 1 print) of our generation: James Rocchi, Jen Yamato, Marjorie Baumgarten (Austin Chronicle - print), Drew McWeeny, and Scott Weinberg. This was a very thought-provoking panel for me, as there were many things discussed that I've always questioned and wondered about. I picked out four topics from the panel that I thought were the most helpful to up-and-coming bloggers (like GATW) and embedded them after the jump. If you run a movie website or are interested in starting one, I highly urge you to listen to these clips.

Heads up: The audio at times gets really loud and really soft - my apologies, there wasn't much I could do to adjust.

Scott Weinberg, James Rocchi and Drew McWeeny on Twitter reviewing:
[audio:https://gordonandthewhale.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/Sequence-3_1-2.mp3|titles=Hyperbole Panel Twitter Conversation]

Scott Weinberg, Drew McWeeny, Marjorie Baumgarten, Jen Yamato, and James Rocchi on worst trends:
[audio:https://gordonandthewhale.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/Hyperbole-WorstTrend.mp3|titles=Hyperbole-WorstTrend]

Jen Yamato, Drew McWeeny, Scott Weinberg, Erik Childress, and James Rocchi on quoting (on posters, ads, etc.):
[audio:https://gordonandthewhale.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/Hyperbole-Quotes.mp3|titles=Hyperbole-Quotes]

Marjorie Baumgarten, James Rocchi, and Scott Weinberg on being a film critic vs. enthusiast
[audio:https://gordonandthewhale.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/Hyperbole-FilmCritic.mp3|titles=Hyperbole-FilmCriticvsenthusiast]

Also, after leaving the panel, I had a few questions I wanted some further insight on, which James Rocchi happily answered for me:

1) How do you classify someone as a "film critic"?  I'm not sure if the obvious answers are "writing for an established outlet" or "be a part of a film critics association," but I'd like a further insight in it.

As blunt as it sounds, to me it's simple: Are they paid to do the work (or able to make a living if they run their own shop)? Payment isn't just how people live, it's also how the market validates creators and writers who are worthy of publication.

2) When you're invited to a junket and end up hating the film, how do you control how the review gets posted since your interviews will go online and a studio paid for your visit?  Do you have someone else write the review?

As I live in L.A., I rarely have to accept studio-provided transportation; when I do, I know that the interviews are separate from the review. As part of a three-person review team at MSN Movies, I don't review every film for them -- and, at the same time, my editor hired me because he knows that regardless of whether or not I do an interview, I'll file a fair and honest review of the film in and of itself.

3) What are your thoughts on film critics and close relationships with filmmakers?  Meaning, let's say you know someone well and you have to write their review, what do you do?

Hope to heck it's a good movie, and be able to look them in the eye and tell them if it isn't and why you think that's the case.

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  • michaeltoussaint

    This is the best article on a panel about hyperbole that I have ever read in my entire life! If this article was a lizard, it would be a tyrannosaurus rex on steroids with spikes that shoot laser beams!
    *face melts off like an overly-curious Indiana Jones Nazi*

  • michaeltoussaint

    This is the best article on a panel about hyperbole that I have ever read in my entire life! If this article was a lizard, it would be a tyrannosaurus rex on steroids with spikes that shoot laser beams!
    *face melts off like an overly-curious Indiana Jones Nazi*

  • http://www.candlerblog.com/ Jonathan Poritsky

    Wow, thanks! I missed the panel (first time at SXSW, clueless about figuring out my schedule) so this is a huge help.

    This stuff is very thought provoking, perhaps a bit disconcerting. I'm one of those “unpaid” (I've been paid in movies) cats who calls himself critic. It's weird because I'm in a place where I think like a critic (and a writer) but don't have the resume to back up the title.

    It's been a very odd month for critics, who have come under fire from their own (Richard Schickel and Armond White), from a filmmaker (Kevin Smith) and harshly from an academic (Thomas Doherty). In a way, I think we have to re-learn what film criticism is and can be. For one of the most complete explanations on that matter, check out David Bordwell's response to Doherty:

    http://www.davidbordwell.net/blog/?p=7356

    Oh, and while you're at it, check out my film review site, the candler blog: http://www.candlerblog.com I'm incubating a response to all this talk about film criticism. This post definitely helped get some thoughts in order, so thanks so much for that.

  • http://www.candlerblog.com/ Jonathan Poritsky

    Wow, thanks! I missed the panel (first time at SXSW, clueless about figuring out my schedule) so this is a huge help.

    This stuff is very thought provoking, perhaps a bit disconcerting. I'm one of those “unpaid” (I've been paid in movies) cats who calls himself critic. It's weird because I'm in a place where I think like a critic (and a writer) but don't have the resume to back up the title.

    It's been a very odd month for critics, who have come under fire from their own (Richard Schickel and Armond White), from a filmmaker (Kevin Smith) and harshly from an academic (Thomas Doherty). In a way, I think we have to re-learn what film criticism is and can be. For one of the most complete explanations on that matter, check out David Bordwell's response to Doherty:

    http://www.davidbordwell.net/blog/?p=7356

    Oh, and while you're at it, check out my film review site, the candler blog: http://www.candlerblog.com I'm incubating a response to all this talk about film criticism. This post definitely helped get some thoughts in order, so thanks so much for that.

  • http://www.articleshout.com/ submit article to the

    I can see how you can get frustrated with many of these article directories. It sure would be nice to have a list of article directories that instantaneously posts my articles.

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