I know nobody really gives a rat's ass except other film critics, and even other criticsroll their eyes when I suggest that this signifies the inevitable decline of cinemas if not civilzation itself, but the axe has fallen on more of our colleagues. The "USA Today"'s Mike Clark and the "Las Vegas Weekly"'s Josh Bell -- according to "The Salt Lake City Tribune"'s Sean P. Means's'"The Departed" list tallying the casualties -- are the latest victims. That makes for 60 since 2006.
On the brighter side, at the same time I saw this depressing item I spotted this story on the "Telegraph" website about two film critics, "The New York Observer"'s Armond White and the sui generis Fiore Mastracci, who have been making a splash of sorts by offending the sensibilities of everyone else. White, God bless him, seems to delight in being a contrarian and provacateur. But he is also a smart guy and a fine writer and once you get past the initial outrage his opinions do have a rational, intelligent and coherent aesthetic justifying them. He's just wrong.
Mastracci, on the other hand, as the name of the "Rotten Tomatoes" forum "Fiore Mastracci is an Idiot" suggests, IS an idiot. Or is he? What could possibly possess someone to embrace, with pride, the epithet "excrement on celluloid!" and apply it to films like "The Road" (Rotten Tomatoes rating of 71%). Certainly he has brought a tea bag mentality to the process, rating films according to their adherence to a hysterical right wing point of view. Perhaps he is instead: a) deranged b) putting us on c) a diabolical genius. Maybe he's crazy like a fox (Mastracci on "Fantastic Mr. Fox," 92% in RT: "Pure excrement on celluloid...makes as much
sense as Obama's foreign policy.")
In other words, Mastracci, like Glenn Beck and his fellow shock jocks, TV demagogues, talking head ranters, Alaskan ex-governors and others, have plugged into therage, ignorance, paranoia, delusions of grandeur and grotesque narcissism that is the only thing that has been keeping the Republican party together these days. If it works for the GOP, why not for film critics? Both White and Mastracci certainly have stirred up the same kind of blind fury (615 comments on White's negative review of "District 9;") as their overtly political counterparts. True, this rage is directed not at their targets of disparagement but at themselves personally. Well, whatever increases traffic -- there's no such thing as bad publicity. Or hostility.
Moreover, the fact that Matt Drudge has lately headlined "Avatar" on his site (so much for that embargo) suggests that it won't be long before Beck, Limbaugh, O'Reilly and the rest will soon climb on the bandwagon themselves.