Saloonside Sermonizing

Clickbait cinephilia has nothing to do with a love of movies and everything to do with a love of what millennial media meat-puppets call ‘content.’ It’s about jockeying for relevance, wielding listicles for mass appeal and lobbing think-pieces about our ‘cultural moment’ to curry misdirected respect. Ideally, the cultural moment—in film and in everything else—should be interpreted by our dwindling stock of legitimate intellectuals and not by industry analysts and film studies majors and fanboys of all stripes. Industry analysts should crunch numbers, not pretend at prose. Film studies majors, please keep ascending your theory-gilded staircase into that great Deleuzean lecture-hall in the sky. Fanboys, learn that you can consume talented folks’ cultural output without having to write anything about it.

The cinematic zeitgeist, as with any zeitgeist, is a dead end. Just peer into the virtual piranha tank of Cinephile Facebook, toss in a morsel of maybe-news (uh, Roger Deakins weighed in on the film vs. digital dead horse) and watch the most bloodless feeding frenzy in history unfold before your unenthused eyes. So many adolescent film critics chomping away in all directions, intaking little of any importance and spewing out topical ‘film writing’ that’s even worse.

But, hey! There is a way to produce meaningful writing about film without the cognitive malnourishment of ‘Remember Clueless? We can make that movie into a think-piece, right?’ And it’s so easy. Just invert the nervous sexual tension of wannabe film crit relevance—and that is exactly what it is: jittery, charmless kid writers who over-rely on auteurist/academic/Ebert-populist modes of audience address the same way inexperienced teens nervously overdress for a casual date—into a confident self-indulgence that knows exactly the subjects with which it is compatible and exactly how to write about them so that all parties walk away satisfied. There is no zeitgeist to be exploited or listicle to be forged out of the immaculate comedic gifts of an Edward Everett Horton—and all the better for it! I can pour out my love for that genius in my corner of the web that nobody will ever read and, in so doing, will have brought more actual JOY into this world than any of those counterfeit Taste of Cinema best-of lists designed strictly to validate the styrofoam taste of its lunkhead readership.

The greatest film site on the Internet today is written by a near and dear—well, dear, anyway—friend of mine with an audience of zero people in mind. His site is so allergic to readership that I will not do it the disfavor of publicizing it by name. But it contains writing that is so genuine, manic, maddening, exhilarating that it shames the musty old Andrew Sarris catechism a thousand times over.

Cinephilia is a church whose elders swear by moldy old thought-models and whose acolytes have poisoned online film discourse by perennially fishing for the latest newsworthy inanity to wax pretentious about. We need more heathens in our midst! The kind of people who stay home from the Sunday service to actually watch movies.

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