February 15, 2016 7:30 pm.
At the Ann & Jerry Moss Theater at the Herb Alpert Educational Village at New Roads School. 3131 Olympic Blvd., Santa Monica 90404.
Everyone’s a critic. You and everyone you know. Before you buy your movie tickets and brave the traffic to the multiplex, you listen to opinions of friends and family and commentators. And you read the reviews of what movies have landed in town, and what may or may not be worth your time and fortune.
A.O. Scott and Manohla Dargis are the Chief Film Critics for the New York Times, and are among the most provocative and entertaining writers in the field. They provoke us to think about the broader cultural and artistic themes from the film in question. We engage in the conversation that they start in their reviews, and can choose to agree or disagree. What makes these critics tick? What makes them respond the way they do? Can they go too far?
The purpose of the critic, as A.O. Scott explores in his brilliant book, Better Living Through Criticism: How to Think about Art, Pleasure, Beauty, and Truth, is complicated and rich. Is the critic a “priest of good taste,” or a hack? Ideally, criticism is an insightful, intellectualized approach to art, to our collective cultural consumption and experience. Criticism, Scott tells us, is simply argument. Thought. With the sheer, exhausting amount of stuff out there to see, to consume, to experience, a good critic can filter and sort through the overwhelming glut for us. A good critic can direct us, and provide context and framework for what’s available. A critic triggers interest in others, by inserting him/herself between the art (in Scott’s and Dargis’ case, the movies) and us, the audience. The good critic launches a conversation about a specific cultural experience through the acts of scrutiny and analysis. Scott and Dargis have built a trust with their audience not only because of their wit and intellectual discourse, but because they have made their scrutiny and analysis valuable to us— avid consumers of art and entertainment.
Photo credit of Mr. Scott: Carmen Henning
Photo credit of Ms. Dargis: Kathleen Clark