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"See you next year at the halloween parade" - Lou Reed's New York at 25

Lou Reed's New York LP hit the quarter-century mark earlier this year. "Meant to be listened to in one 58-minute sitting as though it were a book or a movie," New York couples an unusually accessible rock style with some of most topical lyrics of Lou's career. "Protesting, elegizing, carping, waxing sarcastic, forcing jokes, stating facts, garbling what he just read in the Times, free-associating to doomsday, Lou carries on a New York conversation--all that's missing is a disquisition on real estate." - Robert Christgau

Get caught between the twisted stars, the plotted lines, the faulty map that brought Columbus to New York. [more inside]
posted by porn in the woods on Aug 18, 2014 - 38 comments

Climate change and contemporary fiction

"Novels are no use at all in days like these, for they deal with people and their relationships, with fathers and mothers and daughters or sons and lovers, etc., with souls, usually unhappy ones, and with society etc., as if the place for all these things were assured, the earth for all time earth, the sea level fixed for all time." [more inside]
posted by brundlefly on Aug 9, 2014 - 57 comments

But then I suppose we have all read the reviews. We can talk about those

"So what is going on here? Should we be reassured that critics are sticking loyally by a work they admire regardless of sales, or bemused that something is being presented as a runaway commercial success when in fact it isn’t?" Tim Parks: Raise Your Hand If You’ve Read Knausgaard. [more inside]
posted by RogerB on Jul 25, 2014 - 33 comments

No one wants nothing written about what they’ve written.

Look: it’s not that I’m a dick when it comes to this stuff. It’s that I like to think that I have standards based on exposure to the interdependent duo of lit and life. But if I decide not to wuss out and instead uphold my particular notion of standards, I’m a dick, and being a dick could lead to dickish reviews of my own stuff from Shane Jones, his friends, and friends of the publisher. George Saunders told us all to “err in the direction of kindness.” But is this essay/review I’m writing unkind? Is it selfish? Is it generous? Is a kindness policy maybe too simple?
Lee Klein worries about small-press book reviewing in an ambivalent, lukewarm take on Shane Jones's new novel Crystal Eaters (excerpt) that others have, all the same, called cowardly and dickish.
posted by RogerB on Jul 23, 2014 - 38 comments

I never master these skills, because I am the wrong man for the job.

I killed At The Movies. The dueling critics format outlived Siskel, the more natural on-air presence of the two. So why didn’t it outlive Ebert?
posted by Sticherbeast on Jul 17, 2014 - 38 comments

Daily affirmations from a time before this: a fanzine trawl

Do you miss the music fanzine culture of the 1980s and 1990s, when publications like Forced Exposure, Bananafish, Conflict, Superdope, Crank, Siltbreeze, Matter and Lowlife cataloged the under-the-counter culture? Fuckin' Record Reviews brings you highlights from all of these zines and more!

Check out the early writings of musicians like Steve Albini, Bill Callahan, Alan Licht and David Grubbs, as well as veteran rockcrits like Byron Coley, Gerard Cosloy, Tom Lax, etc.
posted by porn in the woods on Jul 2, 2014 - 8 comments

I'm not a sexbot, I'm just written that way

In case you are thinking otherwise, I was not scouring the text for these solecisms, setting out to set you up, but like all people who are preparing a review I was keeping notes throughout the reading. The protocols around a first novel by a young writer do matter. I kept noting all the bad stuff (much more than reported here), but I was looking for good bits with which to try to encourage you. I found none. It gradually dawned on me that I was wasting my time. Barricade was unyielding in its awfulness. It was a book I did not wish to write about.
Christopher Priest is less than complimentary about fellow science fiction writer Jon Wallace's Barricade. [more inside]
posted by MartinWisse on Jun 26, 2014 - 149 comments

Wes Anderson Analyzed

Seven video essays by Matt Zoller Seitz on Wes Anderson films. [more inside]
posted by hamandcheese on Jun 19, 2014 - 18 comments

Doesn’t your life feel like his?

This week sees the publication of the third volume of “My Struggle,” the thirty-six-hundred-page autobiographical novel by Karl Ove Knausgaard, the Norwegian novelist. It’s hard to overstate the strangeness of the book’s success. The six volumes of “My Struggle” chronicle, in hypnotic detail, episodes from Knausgaard’s life. There is no plot to speak of, unless you consider real life a plot. [more inside]
posted by whyareyouatriangle on Jun 3, 2014 - 31 comments

The view from the (far) left side of the balcony

What is it that the global pseudo-left in particular objects to about Lincoln and so values in Django Unchained?

This well-heeled social layer, conditioned by decades of academic anti-Marxism, identity politics and self-absorption, rejects the notion of progress, the appeal of reason, the ability to learn anything from history, the impact of ideas on the population, mass mobilizations and centralized force. It responds strongly to irrationality, mythologizing, the “carnivalesque,” petty bourgeois individualism, racialism, gender politics, vulgarity and social backwardness.

To such people, Lincoln is boring, staid and hagiographic, because it treats ideas and historical actors seriously and even admiringly. A film can hardly be degraded or “dark” enough today for these so-called radical commentators. The latter feel disdain for any expression of confidence in the best instincts and democratic sensibility of the American people, whom they view as always on the verge of forming a lynch mob.
The intellectually bankrupt defenders of Django Unchained and Zero Dark Thirty by David Walsh, longtime film critic for the World Socialist Web Site. [more inside]
posted by Atom Eyes on May 28, 2014 - 98 comments

Cultural Dealbreaker

The A.V. Club asks readers What’s your cultural dealbreaker? which they define as "cultural products that someone can profess to enjoy only while losing all of your respect."
posted by arcolz on May 10, 2014 - 211 comments

WHAT KINDS OF MINDS CREATE A STORY LIKE THIS?

DESPITE ANY GOOD INTENTIONS, SOMETHING IS GOING HORRIFICALLY WRONG HERE. AND AS A RESULT, WE'RE DEALING WITH A WOLF IN SHEEP'S CLOTHING. A BRAND OF VILLAINY MASQUERADING AS HEROISM. The Film Crit Hulk on the problems with The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and its approach to storytelling and character.
posted by dng on May 7, 2014 - 155 comments

The Silence of the Fannibals

NBC’s Hannibal is the subject of significant critical acclaim as its second season draws near to conclusion, with many describing it as the best show on TV. It’s been called better than True Detective, better than American Horror Story and The Walking Dead, and even better than The Silence of the Lambs. However, despite the confidence of the show's creator in a renewal, the show’s fate on NBC is in question due to low ratings. [more inside]
posted by dogheart on May 1, 2014 - 2098 comments

“So… do you… do you suppose we should… talk about money?”

Introducing Sociology: Tim Kreider's influential 1999 essay (previously) on how Stanley Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut uses sex and infidelity to cover up a story of greed and murder by the elite gets a brand new afterward by the author to introduce a new site for his non-fiction writing, TimKreider.com
posted by The Whelk on Apr 23, 2014 - 51 comments

Consuming Hannibal

"Hannibal exists in a world where all metaphors move from abstract to concrete and literal—they become embodied. Metaphorical vision and 'seeing' become a giant eye stitched from human flesh." The mind and the body in Hannibal. Spoiler heavy up to the most recent episode. [more inside]
posted by codacorolla on Mar 31, 2014 - 1812 comments

on literature and elitism

These days, the idea of being a “good reader” or a “good critic” is very much out of fashion — not because we believe that such creatures do not exist, but because we all identify as both. The machine of consumerism is designed to encourage us all to believe that our preferences are significant and self-revealing; that a taste for Coke over Pepsi, or for KFC over McDonald’s, means something about us; that our tastes comprise, in sum, a kind of aggregate expression of our unique selfhood. We are led to believe that our brand loyalties are the result of a deep, essential affinity between the consumer and product — this soap is “you”; this bank is “yours” — and social networking affords us countless opportunities to publicise and justify these brand loyalties as partial explanations of “who we are”.
posted by latkes on Feb 12, 2014 - 68 comments

Can It Actually Be THAT Good?

Maybe the creators are benefitting from really low expectations. "The LEGO Movie" is getting some implausbly positive reviews . [more inside]
posted by Ipsifendus on Feb 7, 2014 - 213 comments

Arrange to introduce a great fire

The 100 Greatest Painters in Western History (according to the editors of This Recording). [more inside]
posted by Iridic on Jan 30, 2014 - 63 comments

"This book fills a much needed gap in literature"

Buzzfeed may think that if you can't say anything nice you'd better say nothing, but Kathleen Geier knows better. Sometimes a good old fashioned hatchet job is not just preferable, but necessary. She lists a baker's dozen of the best negative reviews to prove her point. Featuring all your old favourites, including Matt Taibbi flattening Tom Friedman, Katha Pollitt demolishing Katie Roiphe's victim blaming book on date rape, Molly Ivins vs Camille Paglia and of course the New York Times carpet bombing flavortown.
posted by MartinWisse on Jan 23, 2014 - 45 comments

Good. Well, it's good that you're fine, and - and I'm fine.

In need of an entertaining cinematic podcast to meet your listening needs? Then tune into Fighting in the War Room! Previously known as Operation Kino, Fighting in the War Room features fascinating discussions between film critics Katey Rich (Vanity Fair), Matt Patches (Hollywood.com / Vulture.com), Da7e Gonzales, and David Ehrlich (Film.com), offering reviews of current films, as well general cinema related topics. [more inside]
posted by Atreides on Jan 6, 2014 - 5 comments

Look at all these people, liking a thing!

Criticising popular things: why is it so popular?
posted by Artw on Dec 23, 2013 - 118 comments

Some Essays by Hilton Als

This year's critical darling essay collection -- Junot Diaz's favorite read of the year (#), Michael Robbins's pick for best book of the year (#) -- is White Girls by Hilton Als. Mentions of Als are infrequent on Metafilter, so I thought I would share a Readlist collection of his stuff (that has a bit of overlap with the book).
posted by AceRock on Dec 16, 2013 - 3 comments

"People who tell you you’re awesome are useless. No, dangerous."

Raph Koster on getting criticism.
posted by Sebmojo on Oct 20, 2013 - 26 comments

That like totally ruined the movie for me

The Realism Canard, Or: Why Fact-Checking Fiction Is Poisoning Criticism. "Every work of fictional narrative art takes place within its own world. That world may resemble our world. But it is never our world. It is always the world summoned into being in the gap between its creators and its audience. " (via)
posted by octothorpe on Oct 12, 2013 - 112 comments

We are wallowing in an atemporal zone of cultural production

Habitually verbose pontificator Will Self reviews the latest tome from Mark Kermode - Britain's Rockabilly Ebert - and in doing so, reviews the changing nature of criticism.
posted by mippy on Oct 9, 2013 - 11 comments

When everyone has an opinion, what's the point of a professional critic?

Mark Kermode (previously) discusses internet anonymity, the popularity of negative reviews, and 21st century film criticism in an excerpt from his new book.
posted by figurant on Sep 29, 2013 - 26 comments

"The truth is that I intend never to write a negative book review again"

The very fact that reading and writing are in jeopardy, or simply evolving, means that to try to put the brakes of old criteria on a changing situation is going to be either obstructive or boring. In our critical age of almost manic invention, the most effective criticism of what, in the critic’s eyes, is a bad book would be to simply ignore it, while nudging better books toward the fulfillment of what the critic understands to be each book’s particular creative aim.
Lee Siegel buries the hatchet-job.
posted by RogerB on Sep 26, 2013 - 50 comments

eating out of the trash can

Slavoj Žižek on John Carpenter's They Live, from the upcoming film The Pervert's Guide to Ideology. Slavoj Žižek delivers a Q&A on the film at TIFF.
posted by Sticherbeast on Sep 25, 2013 - 26 comments

"I was highly suspicious of this book when I first started it."

V.V. Ganeshananthan at The Margins on writing outside of what you know and the literary establishment's willingness to suspend disbelief and praise authenticity of narrative. As Gracie Jin put it, "In a society masquerading as post-racial, it is still only the white man who can speak authoritatively for every man."
posted by spamandkimchi on Sep 22, 2013 - 14 comments

Why art should be publicly funded

Why Art? Australian ABC Arts critic, theatre blogger and author, Alison Croggon, looks at public funding of the arts - and argues for more of it.


"In a survey that looked at participation in visual arts and crafts, music, dance, theatre and literature – that is, the key art forms supported by the Australia Council – 38 per cent of Australians describe themselves as art lovers, for whom the arts are an integral part of their lives. Only 17 per cent report estrangement, believing that the arts attract pretentious elites, and a tiny 7 per cent feel no connection at all. Overall, 93 per cent of Australians reported engaging with the arts in the previous year. In 2009, more people attended art galleries (11 million) than went to the football (10 million)."
posted by crossoverman on Sep 21, 2013 - 40 comments

Chaos Cinema

By employing directors with backgrounds in drama, the studios hope action-heavy films will be infused with greater depth. The catch, however, is that drama directors are usually inexperienced at, and thus incapable of, properly handling [the] material that is the film's main selling point .... "The Wolverine" is the latest example of this burgeoning trend. To name just a few examples from the past couple of years, "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" (dir: Gavin Hood), "Quantum of Solace" (dir: Mark Forster), "Skyfall" (dir: Sam Mendes) ... were all brought to the screen by filmmakers whose careers were predicated on dramas or comedies, not action. That fad remains in full effect this summer .... While no studio exec would dare hand over an Oscar-hopeful drama to Michael Bay, the opposite model—Hey, Marc Forster directed "Finding Neverland," so he's obviously the ideal candidate for a Bond film!—now reigns supreme.
Nick Schager writes about action films helmed by a director who is not an action director.
posted by Jasper Friendly Bear on Aug 10, 2013 - 59 comments

John Hodgman On Full Metal Jacket

"But The Shining speaks to what makes Kubrick such an interesting and, for a lot of people, troublesome filmmaker, because he does not give you what you want. At all. He does not give you a Vietnam movie set in the jungle, and he does not give you a horror movie that is just like Stephen King’s The Shining. He doesn’t even give you scares for a long time, [just] ominous foreboding. And it takes people a while to figure out, “Oh, maybe I don’t know what I want. Maybe this is better.” - Mefi's Own Jon Hodgman talks about Full Metal Jacket with Scott Tobias for "The Last Great Movie I Saw."
posted by The Whelk on Jul 12, 2013 - 75 comments

The camera never falls over during a scene. Actors are always in frame.

If Films Were Reviewed Like Video Games
posted by cthuljew on Jul 10, 2013 - 63 comments

The Cosmology of Serialized Television

Perhaps the most dangerous effect of the Big Crunch mentality has been to make television creators think of themselves as auteurs, to convince them that in spite of the massive interference with their work, they can somehow create a work of aesthetic integrity and sociological insight even if they don’t know where it’s going. Well, sometimes you get lucky, but more often, the result is disaster, and the effort spent toward that failure is redirected from where it would be better put: creating great trash. An essay on the challenges and pitfalls of writing serialized TV plots from The American Reader. [more inside]
posted by chavenet on Jun 23, 2013 - 48 comments

Maybe not the warmest color.

“This was what was missing on the set: lesbians.” [SLNYT] [more inside]
posted by MoonOrb on Jun 6, 2013 - 30 comments

A New Start

"Arrested Development's fourth season is triumphant when it's not completely falling apart." That seems to be the critical consensus, which sees the season as ambitious but flawed—a "hot mess", if you will. The American Prospectcompares Season 4 to the housing crisis; Daniel Fienberg simply calls the season's length "exhausting". But how has binge watching affected the critical response? Showrunner Mitch Hurwitz asked viewers not to watch the whole season in one glut: "[Y]ou can’t really laugh the whole time. You have to take a break. There’s so much material." Some critics agree with Hurwitz; others argue that this season is "essentially a 7-1/2 hour long episode" and that binge watching is the only way to appreciate the new show. (Sadly, Hurwitz's original plan—to have the new episodes be watchable in any order—fell through.)
posted by Rory Marinich on May 28, 2013 - 369 comments

"an inadequate title for this ragbag of lectures and classes"

Literature and Form is a series of four lectures by Oxford literature academic Dr. Catherine Brown. The lectures are on the themes of unreliable narrators, chapters, multiple plotting and what comparative literature is. You can listen to it as a podcast or through iTunes U. In this lecture series Brown primarily looks at some central structures of the novel as well as examining what the study of literature entails. Brown weaves in examples from world literature, especially English and Russian literature of the 18th, 19th and 20th Centuries.
posted by Kattullus on May 15, 2013 - 6 comments

Criticism of Criticism of Criticism

"One can almost hear the anticipatory echoes of something like Yelp in the context of José Ortega y Gasset’s The Revolt of the Masses (1930). The multitude, he wrote, once “scattered about the world in small groups,” now appears “as an agglomeration.” It has “suddenly become visible, installing itself in the preferential positions in society. Before, if it existed, it passed unnoticed, occupying the background of the social stage; now it has advanced to the footlights and is the principal character.” The disgruntled diner, now able to make or break a restaurant through sheer collective will. Against this leveling of critical power, the old guard fulminates. Ruth Reichl, the former editor of Gourmet, recently harrumphed that “anybody who believes Yelp is an idiot. Most people on Yelp have no idea what they’re talking about.”"—Star Wars, by Tom Vanderbilt, in The Wilson Quarterly [more inside]
posted by Toekneesan on May 5, 2013 - 38 comments

Andy Cohen is the Andy Warhol of the 21st Century.

How the Real Housewives Have Made America Better, by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. "Watching these housewives scramble to suture up their tattered personas is both anger-inducing and heart-wrenching. That's what literature is supposed to do: make us angry at certain behavior; then when we recognize ourselves in the characters we so harshly judge, to change our behavior."
posted by Phire on Apr 29, 2013 - 63 comments

Carter is Dead

His deluded music of the eternal present will sadly have little future.

Daniel Asia writes an inflammatory screed taking on the prolific composer Elliott Carter
posted by Bistle on Apr 26, 2013 - 35 comments

International Art English

"The internationalized art world relies on a unique language. Its purest articulation is found in the digital press release. This language has everything to do with English, but it is emphatically not English. It is largely an export of the Anglophone world and can thank the global dominance of English for its current reach. But what really matters for this language—what ultimately makes it a language—is the pointed distance from English that it has always cultivated. " - Triple Canopy magazine on why do artists' statments and press releases sound so utterly odd and confusing.
posted by The Whelk on Apr 26, 2013 - 45 comments

They're not the same men

Mad Men Season 6 (and simultaneous saturation coverage) begins again tonight. As the show winds down, along with the decade that defined it, the 1960s, critics are wondering "What's the best ending for the best series on TV? Can it survive the onset of the 1970s?"
posted by Potomac Avenue on Apr 7, 2013 - 1408 comments

He is interested in confusion

‘I am a phantasmagoric maximalist. I like things to be overwhelmingly strange and capacitous. I want what I write to live; it isn’t about something, it is something’— Michael Cisco. [more inside]
posted by misteraitch on Apr 3, 2013 - 4 comments

"It’s like Kate Bush if she knew how to write a good song."

What makes the music critics at Collapse Board more interesting than the ones at Pitchfork or Rolling Stone or the AV Club? Well, for one thing, they have more fun: witness The Audacity of Barry Manilow, or their take on Kimbra's "Vows", written as a response to the outrage they received after a negative Gotye review. When they love something, they love it with relish – they think Micachu understands 2012 like no other musician, argue that Nirvana was the biggest thing since the Beatles, and think Lana Del Rey is more interesting than her lips. And when they dislike something, they make no qualms about disliking it – they rip into Titus Andronicus something good, describe a Matt & Kim album as "an excellent litmus test for weeding out fluff-eating imbeciles", and express more ambivalent opinions about My Bloody Valentine and The Mountain Goats. They also, predictably write frequent critiques of music criticism.
posted by Rory Marinich on Mar 21, 2013 - 87 comments

We, The Aliens.

In Defense Of Spielberg's War Of The Worlds
posted by The Whelk on Feb 19, 2013 - 197 comments

With malice, toward none

Lying in State: Advice for American Poets [more inside]
posted by Potomac Avenue on Feb 19, 2013 - 7 comments

Invasion of the Literaries

We might not get laughed out of the room, but the question is: would we want to be stuck in it with some guy who would ask: Since we already have Aristophanes, who needs Kurtzman? Since we have Erasmus of Rotterdam, why would we want Steve Martin? With Wagner still available, who cares about the Firehouse Five? Furthermore, would we let that guy organize the party music?

What appears at first to be taking a more stringent view is in fact applying irrelevant criteria. It dismantles the idea of a comic and leaves the parts hopelessly undone.
Eddie Campbell on fallacies of comics criticism.
posted by rollick on Feb 7, 2013 - 18 comments

Literary magazine throwdown

n+1 picks a fight with: [more inside]
posted by eviemath on Jan 8, 2013 - 23 comments

"You might not have the talent you need. Success may no longer be available to you. Time will bury everything you care about."

Movie critic Matthew Dessem (previously) considers Edward Ford to be the greatest unproduced screenplay in Hollywood.
posted by Rustic Etruscan on Jan 5, 2013 - 11 comments

The more I look the more I see things that make me want to look away BUT I CAN’T.

Lousy Book Covers
posted by dobbs on Jan 5, 2013 - 86 comments

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