Final Project Abstract – An Appraisal of Critical Appraisals: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Embrace Arts Criticism

In 2016, in an effort to devote more time and contemplation to the films I was watching, I started writing short movie reviews and sharing them to social media. I was hoping to both improve my own understanding of the medium and start conversations with others who were interested in film. I never considered myself a “film critic” – Arts Criticism was something formal, capitalized, and professional in my head. But every critic needs to start somewhere right? The more I contemplate the practice of arts criticism, the more elusive it seems to me. I think I naively hoped to discover a template, a solid understanding of what criticism should look like or focus on. I wanted to know how or if it was something loftier than what I was doing with my online reviews – if there was some kind of evolution or trajectory to follow from movie goer to cinephile to reviewer to film critic. I’m not sure why I ever thought there would be consensus in a sector driven by analysis and the expression of one’s opinion. There have been debates for centuries on arts criticism, and even though film is a comparatively young medium, those debates have informed thinking on film criticism as well. What is criticism? What are its functions? Who are critics speaking to – the general public, niche audiences, the artists, themselves? Who has the authority to be a critic and from where is that authority derived? And finally, is there a crisis in arts criticism – do the current crisis in print media and resulting job losses really signal the death of the critic?
To refine and hone my own approach to arts criticism, this paper explores these questions and their ensuing debates. Along the way, I explore the tendency towards elitism in art and arts criticism – a feature I find problematic. I note that current discussions and debates over whether criticism is in crisis and in danger of being “dumbed down” actually reflect the same rhetoric used at other pivotal moments in arts history, and may have more to do with asserting or re-asserting critical authority. I attempt to identify the functions of art criticism, many of which were born out of the major debates of those pivotal moments and “crises,” in the hopes of finding models to employ in my own work. And finally, I celebrate arts criticism as an artform in and of itself, an act of creation inspired by the creative work of others. In the end, I find myself still grappling with defining my own voice and approach to criticism, but better prepared for the work ahead.

Advertisements

One thought on “Final Project Abstract – An Appraisal of Critical Appraisals: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Embrace Arts Criticism

  1. Works Cited:

    Arnold, Matthew. “The Function of Criticism at the Present Time.”
    http://fortnightlyreview.co.uk/the-function-of-criticism-at-the-present-time/ Accessed
    April 27, 2017.

    Benjamin, Walter. “News About Flowers.” The Work of Art in the Age of Its Technological
    Reproducibility and Other Writings on Media. Edited by Jennings, Michael W., Doherty, Brigid, and Levin, Thomas Y. The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2008. 271-273.

    Benjamin, Walter. “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction.”
    http://web.mit.edu/allanmc/www/benjamin.pdf Accessed April 27, 2017.

    Berger, John, Bloomberg, Sven, Fox, Chris, Dibb, Michael, and Hollis, Richard. Ways of Seeing.
    The Viking Press, 1973.

    Dickinson, Peter. “On Long Division and Vancouver as an Arts City.” LS 819: Shadboldt Seminar
    – Travel Study in Your Own Hometown: Arts, Criticism, and the City. SFU Harbour Centre, May 2, 2017. Lecture.

    Fight Club. Dir. David Fincher. Fox 2000 Pictures, 1999. Film.

    Frey, Mattias. The Permanent Crisis of Film Criticism: The Anxiety of Authority. Amsterdam
    University Press, 2015.

    Frey, Mattias and Sayad, Cecilia, Eds. Film Criticism in the Digital Age. Rutgers University Press,
    2015.

    Kallay, Jasmina. “The Critic is Dead.” Frey, Mattias and Sayad, Cecilia, Eds. Film Criticism in the
    Digital Age. Rutgers University Press, 2015. 211-215.

    Lee, Chris. “How Hollywood Came to Fear and Loathe Rotten Tomatoes,” Vanity Fair, June 9,
    2017. http://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/2017/06/how-hollywood-came-to-fear-and-loathe-rotten-tomatoes Accessed June 13, 2017.

    Mertens, Susan and Wyman, Max. “Criticism Writing Workshop.” LS 819: Shadboldt Seminar –
    Travel Study in Your Own Hometown: Arts, Criticism, and the City. SFU Harbour Centre, May 17, 2017. Lecture.

    Pater, Walter. “Preface.” and “Conclusion.” The Renaissance.
    http://www.authorama.com/renaissance-1.html Accessed April 27, 2017.

    Sontag, Susan. “Against Interpretion” http://shifter-magazine.com/wp-
    content/uploads/2015/10/Sontag-Against-Interpretation.pdf Accessed April 27, 2017.

    Taylor, Greg. “Thumbs in the Crowd: Artists and Audiences in the Postvanguard World.” Frey,
    Mattias and Sayad, Cecilia, Eds. Film Criticism in the Digital Age. Rutgers University
    Press, 2015. 23-39.

    Wasserman, Jerry. “Vancouver Theatre and Theatre Criticism, Then and Now.” LS 819:
    Shadboldt Seminar – Travel Study in Your Own Hometown: Arts, Criticism, and the City. SFU Harbour Centre, May 10, 2017. Lecture.

    Wilde, Oscar. The Critic as Artist. http://www.online-literature.com/wilde/1305/ Accessed June
    17, 2017.

    Wosk, Josef. “Reflections on Cultural Commentary and Creative Criticism.” Program, The Max
    Wyman Award for Cultural Commentary Inaugural Gala. Vancouver Playhouse, April 18, 2017. 3-4.

    Wyman, Max. “Tips for Critics.” Program, The Max Wyman Award for Cultural Commentary
    Inaugural Gala. Vancouver Playhouse, April 18, 2017. 14-16.

    Wyman, Max. “The Crisis in Criticism, Part 1.” https://maxwyman.com/2016/10/11/the-crisis-
    in-criticism-1/ Accessed May 15, 2017.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s