Beyond the Blurb: On Critics and Criticism. Published by Cow Eye Press
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Well said!


Could you explain just how do you think it's cause is just?
Is it killing women and childen via rocket fire. Is it destroying a persons home. Is it refusing to accept an elected govenment cause you don't like it.
If any of the above happend to you would you still "think it's cause is just?"


although i actually tend to agree more with wieseltier, at least along the lines of munich being sort of a crap movie, i really liked your essay. very well written. i write movie reviews on my blog--well, they're somewhere between reviews and essays. i tend to ramble. the older ones are longer; i've been trying to be more concise in my postings. anyway, pls. stop by and check it out sometime.

Tony Christini

"Ambiguity is something Wieseltier apparently cannot abide, especially when it comes dressed up as art, but of course ambiguity is the very essence of art."

Ambiguity is about as much the essence of art as it is of life. It is, except when it isn't (which would be often). Others claim beauty as being the essence of art. Or irony. Or power. Or morality. Or aesthetics. Et cetera and so on.

"Without it, literature in particular becomes just another form of moral or political discourse..."

False either-or choice. Furthermore, you're stating that no clear unambiguous moral acts can be artistic, not essentially, or rendered artistic, aesthetic. That's odd. A young mother and father helping their child up from a fall, the both of them lit up by the sunset and their own care and concern. Nothing necessarily ambiguous there. It sure seems beautiful, artistic to me. But not in "essence"?

"Leon a self-satisfied and self-righteous moralizer whose air of smug superiority hovers over every word he writes. 'The only side that Steven Spielberg ever takes is the side of the movies,' he proclaims, as if this was an appalling moral failure. But if the alternative is to accept the harsh and colorless conditions of Wieseltier's world, I'll sign up with Spielberg."

That's a big if. But in the meantime, it seems obvious that you signed on to Wieseltier's world a long time ago.


I honestly cannot comprehend how the Weasal achieved any stature at all in the world of letters—maybe I have caught him on the downside of his, uh, career arc.

His so called review strikes me as being at the level of dinner table banter (as in provoking a heated argument) and also another one of his literary Stalinist screeds torching Spielberg, Tony Kushner and (while he's at it) David Mamet.

And get Comrade Leon attacking Tony Kushner "he is one of those people who never speaks, but only speaks out." Nothing the oracular LW could be accused of, right?

Rodney Welch

I tend to be a Spielberg defender, mainly because when you're that big, when you're a virtual industry unto yourself, you become a very easy (and often justifiable) target of everything that's wrong with movies. People are so quick to leap onto Spielberg's shortcomings that they miss his very real talents; the power of his film-making gets short-changed.

Despite this, I was a little disappointed by Munich, and certain of Wieseltier's comments struck a chord with me, one of which you quote: "Spielberg knows how to overwhelm. But I am tired of being overwhelmed."

Alas, the most powerful and suspenseful scenes in the film are only overwhelming in the moment; the film doesn't reverberate after you've seen it, the way great war films by David Lean or Akira Kurosawa do. In fact, I didn't really feel all that much after Munich except a kind of small, residual admiration for its technique; I didn't really get some great sense of the costs of retribution, by which I mean I don't think it had all that much aesthetic or emotional punch to it -- the kind you get where you feel you've really seen something. You mention ambiguity -- well, ambiguity can itself have great power (even, as in say Bunuel's film Nazarin, a great thundering power) and this is not what I got from Munich. I had no impulse whatsoever to ponder its meanings or its point of view or to replay scenes in my mind. It is an overwhelming film, but I think that's all it is.

I think you have a point though regarding Wieseltier's dislike of ambiguity and I think it may have something to do with the way he views the world and the way he writes. He can be a very powerful writer when it comes to politics, Israel, nuclear proliferation, mainly because he doesn't equivocate a lot. He has a very stark sense of this is right, this is wrong -- it makes him a superb editorialist and maybe not always the best critic. You point out the review of Nicholson Baker's Checkpoint -- I think there were deeper issues that book raised than he was really willing to deal with, namely the way a particular politician (Bush, in this case) can inspire you to do something completely counterproductive and morally vile. Also, it quite intrigued me the way Baker shaped that would-be assassin; he was by no means a typical radical, and at one point in his diatribe he talks about how out of touch he is with the left, mainly in his views of abortion. There's a scene where he's at an anti-Bush rally and he thinks to himself how everyone in that knee-jerk liberal crowd would hate him if they knew he was not pro-choice. Interestingly, it's because he is pro-life that he is anti-Bush.

While I'm on the subject, let me point out one other matter that puzzled me regarding all the reviews of Checkpoint, or most of them: no one (or hardly anyone) brought up either Robert Coover's The Public Burning or Philip Roth's Our Gang.

Those were really, truly savage political satires -- they were outright mean, like Byron's Shadwell-bashing masterpiece "Vision of Judgment," where frustration and personal ire fuels broad, vicious comedy. Roth's book is an outright assassination fantasy, where Nixon gets killed and everyone in the country wants to claim credit for it; then he goes to Hell, where he campaigns to oust the incumbent Satan, who is way to soft on evil. Then there's Coover's book, which among other things ends with Nixon getting buttfucked by Uncle Sam.

Checkpoint isn't anywhere near this level of meanness (maybe because it wasn't so pronounced a satire) but everyone acted like it was some outrageous act of literary terrorism.

Jimmy Beck

LW reminds me of Leon Kass, castigating (Kasstigating?) the masses for having the audacity to eat ice cream in public.


re, Rodney's comment: "Alas, the most powerful and suspenseful scenes in the film are only overwhelming in the moment"

You hit the nail on the head. I found the movie compelling and moving (if a tad contrived) while I was watching it. But it did not leave any real lasting impressions.
It's certainly not a film that I would go out of my way to recommend to others.

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