Quis custodiet?

Put that thumb up your ass, will you?
I am amazed, amazed, at the outpouring of grief this poor gnome’s passing has evoked. Really, is there any occupation more loathesome than ‘critic’? Who needs these people? Can’t we see a movie, or read a book, and experience our pleasure or displeasure on our own?

The history of criticism has probably been written, though I haven’t read it. I suspect the genre arises from bourgeois status anxiety — the same source that gives us etiquette manuals. But correct me if I’m wrong.

Nowadays, of course, ‘criticism’ is also a kind of muted, muffled, bloodless blood sport, like American Idol. Siskel and Ebert even made the blood-sport parallel explicit with that horrible thumbs-up, thumbs-down thing they did: Rogere atque Eugiene Caesares, morituri vos salutamus!

Caesar in this case is not of course Caesar himself but rather some fairly quick-witted drone in a cubicle whom Caesar employs to provide a kind of second-order entertainment, deriving its livelihood from entertainment proper, like a lamprey in the trout fishery.

A kind of court jester, and therefore of course, the funnier-looking the better.

15 thoughts on “Quis custodiet?

  1. My sentiments exactly. Not only second-order entertainment, but really industry publicists. Each fancies himself bringing an idiosyncratic viewpoint, but really a herd of independent minds, feeding at the trough of free screenings and popcorn.

  2. I like people reflecting on things, critics, as you say; and I say that without spilling so much as a drop of my opinion of Ebert, for whom I really couldn’t care less. God bless ‘im and all that. I see the ommatidia of humanity as a blessing, probably assessing its next predatory strike; yeah, well; diversity of voices!

    Personally, I like David Lynch. He goes too far, or probably not far enough.

  3. It’s not so much the criticism I object to , but our being forced to read it. Even after I moved the California the goddam cops would bring me a copy of the Sun Times and stand there until I finished Ebert’s reviews. The sight of an upraised thumb still gives me the willies.

  4. I recall Tolstoy accused talking about art the most useless pass time. While I don’t strictly agree, and am a big proponent of useless pass times, after serving four years on a liberal arts course–for which I have only myself to blame–I tend feel where he was coming from.

  5. Did not even recognize him when I first saw the photo — age drives quite quickly at a ‘certain’ point.
    He and his buddy were [I hate to say this] geared towards the working class as imagined to be, were they not? Or, added stupification.

    • I don’t think Thatcher gets enough credit (blame) for her influence on GHW Bush. She called him up and whipped him into shaped WRT the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait when Bush’s initial response was rather bland. From this has flowed almost 25 years of direct US military involvement in the Middle East with all the carnage and corruption that that involvement has entailed. Good work, Iron Lady.

      Too bad that Britain couldn’t have plotted a more independent course during that time. If it had so plotted, it might have achieved a slight rebalancing of power vis a vis Uncle Sam. But, no, the loyal Lieutenant has participated in its penny ante way with every blundering criminal step that the USA has dreamed up. And finds itself today on the verge of economic ruin and social upheaval. I am sure the funeral and the media retrospectives will be grand nauseating affairs. I hope Smith can do them justice here.

  6. um, so not to be a killjoy on the pissing on dead people parade today, but i personally think that a lot of people are eulogizing ebert more for his bravery in the face of horrible cancer, and essentially having his face cut off and then rebuilt from scratch over the past 5 years. he also spoke eloquently about overcoming addiction. as an addict, and as someone whose mom went through similar surgeries to ebert, i dunno, it just kinda seems tacky the way you guys are piling on. yeah, he was a film critic. ok. i don’t think i’ve read a single one of his reviews, but i still think that he seemed like a good dude, from what i’ve read on his blog. yeah, he sure was “funny-looking.” just plain hilarious… http://www.esquire.com/cm/esquire/images/wC/roger-ebert-jaw-cancer-photo-esquire-0310-lg.jpg

    • I only remember him from the early days, when I lived in Chicago. Couldn’t stand the guy. Nobody I knew ever mentioned his name once I moved to New York, which it turned out was one of many good reasons to move to New York. (It was also a lot easier to get, well, laid.)

      I didn’t know him personally, so whether he was good and brave and so on, when he got ill, I have no idea. Very likely he was. People often are. Amazingly often.

      We only know the public persona of public people. I deeply distrust the managed and manufactured image, and tend to rely on my own gut response.

      Whatever. He’s God’s problem now, not mine. As a general thing, I hope God lives up to his reputation and is more merciful to Ebert and me than I am to either.

  7. @pseudonymousblogger,

    Thanks for the info – I did not know he had been suffering from cancer [and the surgeries] — But all is well now [Death would be/is one hell of a subject, seemingly so far beyond yet tightly embraced]

  8. ”DON JUAN —————————————– But men never really overcome fear until they imagine they are fighting to further a universal purpose – fighting for an idea, as they call it. Why was the Crusader braver than the pirate? Because he fought, not for himself, but for the Cross. What force was it that met him with a valor as reckless as his own? The force of men who fought, not for themselves, but for Islam. They took Spain from us though we were fighting for our very hearths and homes; but when we, too, fought for that mighty idea, a Catholic Church, we swept them back to Africa.

    THE DEVIL [ironically] What! you a Catholic, senor DON JUAN! A devotee! My congratulations.

    THE STATUE [seriously] Come, come! as a soldier, I can listen to nothing against the Church.

    DON JUAN Have no fear, Commander: this idea of a Catholic Church will survive Islam, will survive the Cross, will survive even that vulgar pageant of incompetent schoolboyish gladiators which you call the Army.

    THE STATUE Juan: you will force me to call you to account for this.

    DON JUAN Useless: I cannot fence. Every idea for which Man will die will be a Catholic idea. When the Spaniard learns at last that he is no better than the Saracen, and his prophet no better than Mahomet, he will arise, more Catholic than ever, and die on a barricade across the filthy slum he starves in, for universal liberty and equality.

    THE STATUE Bosh!

    DON JUAN What you call bosh is the only thing men dare die for. Later on, Liberty will not be Catholic enough: men will die for human perfection, to which they will sacrifice all their liberty gladly.

    THE DEVIL Ay: they will never be at a loss for an excuse for killing one another.


  9. un pocito mas –

    ”DON JUAN What of that? It is not death that matters, but the fear of death. It is not killing and dying that degrades us, but base living, and accepting the wages and profits of degradation. Better ten dead men than one live slave or his master. Men shall yet rise up, father against son and brother against brother, and kill one another for the great Catholic idea of abolishing slavery.

    THE DEVIL Yes, when the Liberty and Equality of which you prate shall have made free white Christians cheaper in the labor market than black heathen slaves sold by auction at the block.

    DON JUAN Never fear! the white laborer shall have his turn too. But I am not now defending the illusory forms the great ideas take. I am giving you examples of the fact that this creature Man, who in his own selfish affairs is a coward to the backbone, will fight for an idea like a hero. He may be abject as a citizen; but he is dangerous as a fanatic. He can only be enslaved whilst he is spiritually weak enough to listen to reason. I tell you, gentlemen, if you can shew a man a piece of what he now calls God’s work to do, and what he will later on call by many new names, you can make him entirely reckless of the consequences to himself personally.”

Leave a Reply