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Ignatiy Vishnevetsky
January 4, 2011 11:07 AM   Subscribe

Hearing him discuss films one day in the Lake Street Screening Room used by Chicago critics, Ebert said, "I was struck by the depth and detail of his film knowledge, and by how articulate he was." After reading his work online, Ebert was sold.
Ignatiy Vishnevetsky, 24, will co-host the revival of At the Movies with Christy Lemire. [previously]

Some representative samples from the Russian-born, Chicago-based cinema programmer, translator, video store clerk, Mubi columnist and Jackie Chan outtake afficionado:

Reviews of The Social Network, Invictus, Gamer, and Prince of Persia

"Tony Scott's Metaphysical Romances"

"The Human Voice"

"Griffith is Always Modern"

"Re: Renoir"

"68 Sentences"

"A Brief Note on the Ass"

"Landru's Beard" and "More on Fake Beards"

"A Dictionary of Accepted ideas, with Apologies to Gustave F."

"The Ontology of the Recorded Sound"
posted by Iridic (35 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite

 
Tangential: Armond White asserts in a single interview that "Roger Ebert destroyed film criticism" and that "there should be no film critics younger than 30. "
posted by Iridic at 11:12 AM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


If those four linked reviews are any indication, Vishnevetsky seems like a very un-Ebert choice, but maybe that's the point. I'm not a fan how he strenuously avoids ever sounding like he actually liked something, couching all his compliments in vague insults, obscure references, and plenty of ironic distance.
posted by theodolite at 11:15 AM on January 4, 2011


From A Brief Note on the Ass: "The ass, like the Citroën DS, the donkey and red couches, has a special place in cinema, and as the presence of Citroën DS, a donkey or a red couch is often the mark of a good film, so the ass, photographed shamelessly and for the sheer pleasure of its shape, often represents the most nakedly honest moment of a film (...)"
posted by boo_radley at 11:19 AM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


He's recommended some really great movies to me at Odd Obsession - though I didn't see this one coming. Nice work, Ignatiy!
posted by mike_bling at 11:21 AM on January 4, 2011


He seems like a good and interesting choice - he writes like an intelligent person addressing an intelligent audience, without sounding too pretentious, obscure, or un-fun. Ebert is not going the cowardly route for this show, that's for sure.

Also, 24? Fuck, I'm old. (I'm glad I had that reaction even before I saw the tags, too!)

Also, Armond White is an epic grand master troll. He lives in an underground lair along with Jim Goad, Ann Coulter, and Christopher Hitchens.
posted by Sticherbeast at 11:25 AM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Tangential: Armond White asserts in a single interview that "Roger Ebert destroyed film criticism"

Well, I would throw that accusation back at Armond White, but that would require people caring about Armond White other than as a laughingstock.
posted by kmz at 11:27 AM on January 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


The Dictionary of Accepted Ideas is pretty brilliant.
stagy: A terrible quality for a movie to have, even worse than resembling a TV show. Opposite of "novelistic."

[...]

zoom: Despite being something that can only happen in a moving image, considered "uncinematic."
posted by Sticherbeast at 11:27 AM on January 4, 2011


conservative: No good directors were ever conservatives. Good directors who say they are conservatives are all crypto-Leftists.
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 11:35 AM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Tangential: Armond White asserts in a single interview that "Roger Ebert destroyed film criticism" and that "there should be no film critics younger than 30. "

It's an interesting article. There's a bit in there where White gets quoted:

I do think it is fair to say that Roger Ebert destroyed film criticism. Because of the wide and far reach of television, he became an example of what a film critic does for too many people. And what he did simply was not criticism. It was simply blather.

I love Ebert and think that he is one of the rare film critics who is informed and honest "enough" to have his opinions valued above the others.

But there's a kernel of truth in White's slightly rant-y argument, namely that the Internet has facilitated a kind of review system that is aligned with the promotional goals of movie studios, and in some cases is indistinguishable from that promotional machinery.

For example, when Guy Ritchie's Revolver was released, printed ads featured a quote from an online reviewer: "Guy Ritchie back to his best!" It turns out the reviewer was not affiliated with the tabloid paper from which the quote was taken, but worked for a PR firm hired by the movie studio to promote the film.

On the other hand, Ebert was a screenwriter. He has seen thousands upon thousands of films though the kind of critical lens that this prior experience affords. He does not seem to be a studio shill. It's difficult to say that about other popular film critics.

If the field has been "destroyed", I wonder if building cynicism over the pull quotes people see in ads plays a part, when the reviews are gushing and the film (like Revolver) is an utter turkey.

With the progress of forms of media from radio, to print and television, all the way to the web, it becomes easier for anyone to represent themselves a "professional film critic", one who either gains access to the studios through a promotional writing style that does favors for access, or one who was actually a part of the studio system to begin with.

Perhaps it is less that there shouldn't be critics younger than a certain age, but that readers benefit by them being vetted by those whose reputation is generally reliable, like Ebert?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:38 AM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


If those four linked reviews are any indication, Vishnevetsky seems like a very un-Ebert choice, but maybe that's the point. I'm not a fan how he strenuously avoids ever sounding like he actually liked something, couching all his compliments in vague insults, obscure references, and plenty of ironic distance.

HELLO!! HE'S RUSSIAN. What did you expect?
posted by spicynuts at 11:47 AM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


theodolite: If those four linked reviews are any indication, Vishnevetsky seems like a very un-Ebert choice, but maybe that's the point. I'm not a fan how he strenuously avoids ever sounding like he actually liked something, couching all his compliments in vague insults, obscure references, and plenty of ironic distance.

Interesting thought, when paired with Armond White's interview, in which he says:
I do think it is fair to say that Roger Ebert destroyed film criticism. Because of the wide and far reach of television, he became an example of what a film critic does for too many people. And what he did simply was not criticism. It was simply blather. And it was a kind of purposefully dishonest enthusiasm for product, not real criticism at all.
I get the enthusiasm from Ebert, but I think it comes from really enjoying film, even pop films. With that said, it's interesting that Vishnevetsky is more critical than Ebert.

Again on White's interview, I wonder when it was last that there were really critical reviewers in Main Stream Media. I think true criticism faded out before the rise of the internet, because the majority of the movie audience doesn't watch movies as closely as critics do. The role of the critic as the educator faded, taken over by the critic as the barometer. Thumbs up or thumbs down, let 'em have it, skip the nuances.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:53 AM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


from Vishnevetsky's open letter to Abel Ferrara:
Assayas once said that Dangerous Game was one of the most daring moments in the history of cinema, and I'm inclined to agree with him, because it's a film that presents the audience filmmaking itself and then gives them the opportunity to deny it, to walk out and say that the whole thing just isn't worth it. It shows movies in all of their ugliness, and it takes a lot of faith in filmmaking to show them that way: as the exploitation of reality and of human emotions. People call you an art filmmaker (whatever that means) who started in exploitation movies, but I know you don't see a difference between the two, because the moment a director calls "Action!," someone gets exploited.

Damn, this guy is an interesting writer.
posted by heatvision at 12:10 PM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Tangential: Armond White asserts in a single interview that "Roger Ebert destroyed film criticism" and that "there should be no film critics younger than 30. "

Is there anything worse than a critic of a critic?
posted by inturnaround at 12:12 PM on January 4, 2011


Hey, he's my ex-stepbrother! It looks like I can give up competing with him now.

(This kid runs a mean D&D campaign, by the way.)
posted by nasreddin at 12:12 PM on January 4, 2011 [10 favorites]


Christy Lemire is also currently a regular on the youtube review show, What the Flick with a previous At the Movies alum, Ben Mankiewicz, who famously got saddled with a significantly less competent young reviewing partner (although Mank did sign on to the show after Lyons). I find her likable and I think this young fella* will provide a nice foil--it's clear in WTFlick that all of the regulars know and like each other, which provides a lovely congenial atmosphere, but I think she and this young guy will butt heads often enough that it'll be interesting to see.

I do agree with theodolite's complaint--you can admit to liking things, it's ok!--but like the fact that we'll maybe get some blood sport back into At the Movies. Ebert and Roeper didn't argue as much, or as vociferously, as Siskel and Ebert (who would yell and bellow); during the Ben & Ben years, the blood sport was incredibly one-sided, with Lyons being outmatched by Mank, while Mank was trying to give little Ben a fair shake while becoming increasingly frustrated with his reviews ("IT'S A HORROR MOVIE!"); and Scott and Phillips may have disagreed at times, but their arguments still always sounded like friendly bickering and were always of such a high level that, well, it could sound like two academic colleagues bickering about minutiae in manuscripts over a nice lunch.

*Yes he's older than me shush
posted by flibbertigibbet at 12:16 PM on January 4, 2011


Is there anything worse than a critic of a critic?

Carelessly made tea.
posted by everichon at 12:26 PM on January 4, 2011 [8 favorites]


I'm not a fan how he strenuously avoids ever sounding like he actually liked something, couching all his compliments in vague insults, obscure references, and plenty of ironic distance.

So, he's a young Anthony Lane, then.
posted by hippybear at 12:39 PM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Anthony Lane is dreeeeeamy. <3 <3 <3
posted by everichon at 1:02 PM on January 4, 2011


I really don't understand the objection that he is cagey about whether he likes things or not. Film criticism, when done with the level of dedication and intellectual commitment Iggy brings to it, is not about the number of fucking stars you put on your review. I don't know if you've read any literary criticism, but I assure you people are not going around giving Thackeray "two thumbs up."
posted by nasreddin at 1:03 PM on January 4, 2011 [4 favorites]


I was unaware who he was until this post but I am very, very glad that the person who wrote this has been given this opportunity:

It's good to watch an American independent film that doesn't make you feel as though you're doing the filmmakers a favor by staying through to the end—but then that small pleasure gets soured by the realization that you're watching the sort of movies where the ability to hold your attention is a virtue and not a given, and you begin to wonder why it is that we ask so much of Hollywood films and are always disappointed and ask so little of independently-financed productions and then condescendingly pat them on the back.

(Emphasis mine.) That and the Dictionary of Accepted Ideas (where most definitions made me smile, if not laugh) make this seem like an inspired and great choice on Ebert and company's part.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 1:37 PM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Definitely an interesting writer. The linked articles hold the attention and are fairly short, which suggests that he would do well on a TV show.
posted by Kevin Street at 1:49 PM on January 4, 2011


I like the choices. Sure as hell gotta be a lot better than that show with Ben Lyons and Ben Mankiewicz (barf) or, worse still, A.O. Scott (that oh-so-orotund NYT critic) and Michael Phillips.
posted by blucevalo at 1:52 PM on January 4, 2011


I always had trouble believing that Aaron Sorkin really thought of Zuckerberg as one-dimensionally as he seemed to describe him in interviews - as merely a kid who couldn't get dates and builds a tool to interact socially because he couldn't do it in the real world, when the character I saw on screen had so many more levels to hi, but the review here says that David Fincher was the one to contribute all the depth to Zuckerberg's character. I can believe this - in how he would deliver his zingers in a way that reallly did seem to be killing blows - that's great directing that can turn Sorkin's one-liners into argument-winning barbs just by how they're delivered and how the other characters react on screen to them.

Really great review, the most insightful one I've read so far of it.
posted by Space Coyote at 2:04 PM on January 4, 2011


I liked his review of The Social Network, but I think it missed a fundamental point of the film.

There's a moment where Eduardo calls Sean Parker "deluded," because Parker claims he won the battle with the record companies. There's irony at play in that moment - Eduardo thinks he is right because the record companies won in court, not Parker, but Eduardo has completely missed the point. Parker created a sea change for music distribution and technologies like Napster have been, fairly or not, hailed as the reason why record stores have mostly failed. Parker even says as much in a quip ("do you want to buy a Tower Records?"), but Eduardo doesn't pay attention to this remark, let alone understand it.

A reason why Zuckerberg bonded with Parker so much is because Parker saw his work as being part of the larger culture around him. Parker enjoys the money and the fame, but more importantly, he enjoys being a Big Deal. Zuckerberg is very similar. Their programs are extensions of the egos, and not merely projects of theirs or business plans. Zuckerberg is even more extreme in this view; this is why attempts at buying off Zuckerberg (or letting him into an "inner circle") only offend him.

Facebook is enormous, but not because Zuckerberg likes money for its own sake - money is merely a symptom of the fact that Facebook is enormous. In a way, both Parker and Zuckerberg are trying to be as punk rock as the Dead Kennedys music cue during the party scene. Writing off Zuckerberg's detachment as simply symptomatic of Asperger's or just general aloofness makes the same mistake Eduardo makes.

At any rate, I thought that moment, and that point, was central to why the film was any good at all, and so to the extent that I value that point, I disagree with Vishnevetsky's review, even though I found it interesting to read and a welcome change from the usual generic adulation over The Social Network.
posted by Sticherbeast at 2:21 PM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


nasreddin: "(This kid runs a mean D&D campaign, by the way.)"

Please, go on.
posted by boo_radley at 2:25 PM on January 4, 2011


that would require people caring about Armond White other than as a laughingstock.

I can't say I like all of his reviews and I disagree with a lot of what he writes, but I wish there were more critics like Armond White. /my2c

Film criticism, when done with the level of dedication and intellectual commitment Iggy brings to it, is not about the number of fucking stars you put on your review.

Hey, did Armond White get a MeFi account?
posted by mrgrimm at 2:35 PM on January 4, 2011


I can't help but think that this will be like what would happen if Slavoj Zizek and Katie Couric co-hosted a cable news show.
posted by eschatfische at 2:37 PM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


I can't help but think that this will be like what would happen if Slavoj Zizek and Katie Couric co-hosted a cable news show.

I WANT THIS.
posted by AdamCSnider at 3:12 PM on January 4, 2011


MTV should bring back TRL and get Slavoj Zizek to host it.
posted by Sticherbeast at 3:19 PM on January 4, 2011


Japanese cinema: Contemplative, because of Buddhism or Shinto or whatever their religion is called.

He is bang on here. "Contemplative" is about the last word I'd ever use to describe the kinds of gory, loud, cartoonish and goofy movies I've seen come out of Japan. +++ points for calling out critics for alluding to religion all the time when reviewing Japanese movies. I once read a review complaining about the lack of a Shinto context in the American remake of The Grudge. I didn't notice this context ever existing in the original, possibly because it's not there, but also because it's just a creepy ghost story.
posted by Hoopo at 5:01 PM on January 4, 2011


From The Human Voice;
"We talk about the human face, but almost never about the human voice."

Whereas I realise these short essays are a type of glancing intervention into a given subject, he might care to know that an entire book has been written on exactly this, Michel Chion's The Voice in Cinema.
posted by Wolof at 9:31 PM on January 4, 2011


'm not a fan how he strenuously avoids ever sounding like he actually liked something, couching all his compliments in vague insults, obscure references, and plenty of ironic distance.

I'm sorry that some people don't see the role of the critic as consisting in giving a thumbs up or a thumbs down to a movie, but in teaching their readers how to watch films.
posted by outlandishmarxist at 8:28 AM on January 5, 2011


I love the "Dictionary of Accepted Ideas." Highlights:

French cinema: A genre.

handheld: How we see the world.

posted by outlandishmarxist at 8:38 AM on January 5, 2011


Also, Armond White is an epic grand master troll. He lives in an underground lair along with Jim Goad, Ann Coulter, and Christopher Hitchens.

Just imagine the fucking.
posted by atrazine at 11:41 PM on January 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Also, Armond White is an epic grand master troll. He lives in an underground lair along with Jim Goad, Ann Coulter, and Christopher Hitchens.

Just imagine the fucking.


atrazine, are you going to come clean this vomit out of my keyboard or do I have to do it myself?
posted by MCMikeNamara at 11:45 AM on January 6, 2011


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