Don’t be too chagrined you missed the brand new panel at the SBIFF, a gathering meant to investigate The Future of Film Journalism. Believe me, if this panel is any indication, said future is bleak.
Right off the bat the panel made its Grand Theme obvious, handicapping the Oscars. After they handicapped it, they talked about how pointless it was to handicap it, then returned to handicapping it by debating whether the scientific versus or the self-directed method was better, and, once they caught their breath, the unmoderating moderator, Christian Science Monitor critic Peter Rainer, assured the crowd they would soon change the topic of the conversation and open the room to questions and then asked the group another leading question about handicapping the Oscars.
I don’t know how you feel about it, but to cop a line from Kanye West, I think the whole Oscar obsession thing is fuckin’ ridiculous. The panel admittedly is made up of people around the spectrum of blogtopia — though the absence of anybody from the very influential Ain’t It Cool News (they always attend SBIFF) revealed its boojie predisposition: Most were either from more conventional Web sites that employ bloggers (like Pete Hammond, a genial old school reporter who often hosts big tribute nights for SBIFF), but some were also wildly independent folk like Sasha Stone of Awards Daily and the ubiquitous Jeffrey Welles, who distinguished himself at the Writer’s Panel by asking David Seidler (The King’s Speech) why he made a film about an anti-Semite (although that’s not the way he remembers it).
Why do intelligent people, who hold down jobs in what is allegedly the cutting edge of journalistic practice, spend a whole hour fretting about an awards ceremony — which Stone aptly described as something that only held any validity for a few years tops — instead of thinking about another topic that might define their craft in the decades to come? It reminds me of the scene in The Player where the Tim Robbins character asks why a group of grownups can’t think of anything but the movie business to talk about. Everybody freezes painfully for a second, then laughs, then goes back to talking about Hollywood. Except these panelists never stopped talking about whether The Social Network or The King’s Speech would triumph. Here they are in the middle of a film fest representing a zillion films from a trillion countries and Oscar is the story they want.
The future of film journalism? It’s crap, apparently. Eventually some people did ask questions and the panel took its collective head out of its self-regarding scientific collective butt and became a little helpful, though discouraging to newcomers.
But don’t think me bitter. I finally did see Nostalgia for the Light the same day I watched Christopher Nolan. Both moved me in ways little golden statuettes and Hollywood stars routinely fail to do. I now believe in science and poetry — and the right of every filmmaker to be both thrill-ride producer and intellectual. It’s up to you not to heed Oscar’s call up.