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Time's Schickel Out of Date

Thsparrow2_1 Every summer you can count on The New Yorker's David Denby to do a rant on how dumb the summer movies are. And in that vein, Time's Richard Schickel recently complained about how Pirates of the Caribbean had too many VFX, which got in the way of Johnny Depp's comedy thesping:

These are ripoffs, not homages, but they are also emblematic of a movie that is essentially a special-effects extravaganza. It is, I think, a universal truth of movie making that effects are never funny. They can sometimes wow you, but they can't make you laugh, and Depp cannot stand up to the hubbub they create. No actor can. He can only serve them, which involves him in derring-do that any actor could do about as well as he can.

Yikes. Like, he entirely missed the point of why Depp's sparring with the movie's ingenious effects might wow enough people to stay number one at the boxoffice for three weeks running. This is not a question of age. It's a question of sensibility. Some people stay tuned in to the zeitgeist and some don't.

Is Schickel feeling the pressure of younger critics nipping at his heels? Check out his latest snit, which appears in his lede to an LAT book review (in which he goes on to praise estimable music critic Gary Giddins):

TO write seriously about topics — movies, jazz, popular fiction — that many people regard as peripheral or totally irrelevant to their lives is among the least gratifying of occupations. That's particularly true now, when the pendulum seems to be permanently stuck at the burbling end of the spectrum, where the bloggers — history-free and sensibility-deprived — weekly blurb the latest Hollywood effulgence and are rewarded by seeing their opinions bannered atop movie display ads in type sizes elsewhere reserved for the outbreak of wars and the demise of presidents.

Enough. If you're too outmoded to understand today's movie aesthetic—or the existence of many blogs that feature excellent film criticism, along with the ones that don't—stop writing about current movies. Schickel is a terrific book writer, documentary filmmaker and voiceover artist. There are plenty of worthwhile activities to keep him busy.


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  • Risky Biz blog takes a deep, daily look at the film industry's ups, downs and deals from around the world and the heart of Hollywood. It is edited by media and entertainment journalist Steven Zeitchik, with contributions from The Hollywood Reporter's worldwide team of film editors and reporters. Zeitchik is a Los Angeles-based writer for THR and also has written for The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times.

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