4.10.2010

To The Trenches, Critics

A website called Red Letter Media (hereafter RLM) has published a pair of epic 90-minute reviews of the Star Wars prequels. I've watched episodes I and II in their entirety and they're marvelous.  The slow, monotone drawl of the narrator juxtaposed with the insightful, biting criticism is thoroughly enjoyable to watch. You can check out the review of Attack of the Clones to see what I'm talking about. 


Sadly, the reviews are plagued by cutaways to tasteless-- and most offensively-- unfunny female torture.  These scenes are one-note, female abusing, perversion. This isn't your high-quality Silence of the Lambs "It puts the lotion on its skin" stuff either.  It's tiresome, monotonous, and bad.  It was in my underwear on a Tuesday afternoon I became puzzled about the art world.  

Intellectually, I prefer bad art to intrepid criticism, though in practice I am quite the opposite. I would much rather watch the RLM reviews than suffer through the colossal prequel mess.  How could you not? They're entertaining as all hell.  Ripping apart Lucas' blasphemous Gollum is immensely enjoyable. Aside from the torture scenes, the reviews are a blast, but contribute very little to the art community. The prequels, though massive failures as films, still represent some form of creativity and a contribution to the world of film. It is this dichotomy that perplexes me. I present my ambivalence as two independent Nicks.


Pretentious Art Fag Nick:
The RLM reviews are unnecessary; everyone already knew the prequels were awful. Though articulate and detailed, the reviews have little value otherwise.  It's not like RLM has a convincing proof that The Shawshank Redemption is a bad movie. Moreover, the act of criticism itself is derivative.  It adds nothing new to the art world and amounts only to saying "no" to someone's creation.  


The art world benefits from new creations. Imagine what RLM could have done if they'd spent the time and effort creating three hours of original material. The brief moments of creativity are unbearable. Watching RLM revisit the same uninspired torture scenes is a bigger drag than the Lucas' lightsaber show. I want to see a sci-fi epic that succeeds where Star Wars failed. I want the bar raised. JJ Abrams' Star Trek reboot is where you'll find criticism at it's finest . It is the movie Lucas was trying to make. It internalized the flaws of the prequels and made a real Star Wars movie. 

The irony of writing this essay on criticism advocating the abolishment of criticism is not lost on me. Still, watching RLM fail to make a creative product is further evidence that great criticism is easily achieved while creating even mediocre art is exceedingly difficult.


Nick as Enjoyer of Regular Shit That Isn't Totally Up Its Own Ass:
The reviews are fun, not art.  They're Internet goofs. Bottom line: they are more fun to watch than the Star Wars prequels.
There's room enough in the world for YouTube and Shakespeare. The RLM reviews are on Digg, not at the MOMA.

Final thoughts as the unified Nick:
Criticism, especially brutally funny and apt criticism, is fun and useful.  Still, we should be careful not to blur the lines between critic and artist.  Trying to create art that stands up to discerning audiences is humbling.  It means to fail and to fail publicly. The world has no need vultures who survive off the failure of others. 

The critic does not create; he disassembles. I want to stick the landing, not cackle like a vulture when someone doesn't. I want to be an assembler. 

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