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Scott Tobias (#110 of 8)

Critical Distance: The Artist

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Critical Distance: <em>The Artist</em>
Critical Distance: <em>The Artist</em>

Sometimes it’s hard to separate a movie from the hype. Anyone who’s followed the nauseating Oscar prognostication over the last several months knew full well that Harvey Weinstein’s Michel Hazanavicius’s The Artist would win the Best Picture crown on Sunday’s telecast of the Academy Awards. Nonetheless, given its preordained victory, the critical dialogue about the film has become predictably antipathetic. As Scott Tobias observed recently, the political machine attached to frontrunners and winners often distorts our vision of them and renders reasonable discourse a challenge. Truth be told, these days the Oscar badge doesn’t hold much weight. The reason for this, Tobias concludes, is that Best Picture winners represent consensus over excellence. Oscar winners reflect more on the film industry’s own image of itself than the artistic significance of film. A.O. Scott articulates this in a recent piece in the New York Times, in which he and Manohla Dargis examine recent winners against the broader significance of the Oscars. Says Scott:

Down with the Sickness: In Defense of Green Lantern

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Down with the Sickness: In Defense of <em>Green Lantern</em>
Down with the Sickness: In Defense of <em>Green Lantern</em>

It’s not like critics weren’t given plenty of ammo. There’s virtually no motion Green Lantern doesn’t go through, no superhero trope it doesn’t blatantly exploit (Daddy issues? Christ figure? Check, check). Ryan Reynolds, whose career has been built upon the wry delivery of cheeky cracks (the heartthrob doing the sidekick schtick, as it were), is downright demure as the hero, leaving the question of how to receive him hovering like a bad joke. Cast as his underwritten love interest is Blake Lively, a slinky Gossip Girl vet who’s more red carpet mainstay than scene stealer, not to mention one of the easiest targets in Hollywood (even with her name, she’s asking for it). Enveloping the actors is an absinthe bath of visual effects, which kowtows to the fiercely modern philosophy of, “why try to shoot it when we can make it out of ones and zeros?” And, of course, there’s the shopping list of shameless product tie-ins (wash down your avocado Subway sub with some green-labeled Lipton Brisk) and that grab bag of handy nausea puns.

But did this chlorophyllic blockbuster really deserve to be such a pummeled community punching bag?

Lichman and Rizov “Live” at the Ritz-Carlton: Season 5, Episode 5, “Hipster Hitler Meets Hipster Rasputin”

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Lichman and Rizov “Live” at the Ritz-Carlton: Season 5, Episode 5, “Hipster Hitler Meets Hipster Rasputin”
Lichman and Rizov “Live” at the Ritz-Carlton: Season 5, Episode 5, “Hipster Hitler Meets Hipster Rasputin”

Hello Hot Chocolate City (again)!

We come to you “live” this time not from the hollow hall of Grassroots Tavern but downtown Washington, DC. For reasons beyond our mortal comprehension, our friend and fellow House contributor (along with being the invaluable “foreign correspondent” for a certain Ebert) Ali Arikan was briefly in town and graced us with his presence. So Vadim took a slow boat from Bushwick and joined us in a podcast at the Ritz-Carlton hotel bar. The bar so fancy, you can order on your iPad!

But as for what we discuss, the film talk gives way to debating Mad Men (note: recorded the day prior to the season finale) and the very nature of TV versus film criticism and appreciation that Noel Murray and Scott Tobias argued about on The Onion A.V. Club. We also namecheck Hipster Hitler.

And we have a very special closing song if you listen closely.

So as always if you happen to be in DC and want to buy us drinks at The Ritz-Carlton hotel bar, we’ll be more than happy to drop everything and produce your podcast. Or I will, since I’m stuck here. Vadim will handle the Bushwick end, which involves PBR, whiskey shots and The Rent Being Too Damn High. (JL)