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Patrick Goldstein and James Rainey
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Dark Knight' mob attacks defenseless film critic

Darkknight Not that it matters of course, when it comes to a pop-culture tsunami like "The Dark Knight," but so far most of America's much-maligned film critics have embraced the Christopher Nolan-directed film, which is due to set all sorts of obscure box-office records this weekend. (Is there, for example, a record for biggest July opening during a presidential campaign year?) But there's always a skunk at every wedding. When it comes to "Dark Knight" fans, the skunk is New York magazine critic David Edelstein, who had the temerity to slag off the new Batman film, calling it "noisy, jumbled and sadistic."

And that was just the beginning: Edelstein hooted at the action scenes ("spectacularly incoherent"), the director ("Nolan appears to have no clue how to stage or shoot action") and the movie in general ("it's all fits and starts, fitfully suspenseful, fitfully scary... with jolts of brutality to keep you revved up"). "Dark Knight" loyalists did not take this lying down. Edelstein has been bombarded with so much e-mail abuse since his review posted that he felt obligated to respond to the vitriol. (The New Yorker's David Denby didn't like the movie much either, but he's somehow escaped being tarred and feathered by the angry mob, perhaps because everyone was more enraged by the Obama cartoon on the cover of this week's magazine.)

I'm not going to get in the middle of this maelstrom, since sadly, I'm such a cultural slacker that I haven't seen the movie yet. But I feel a pang of sympathy for Edelstein, who notes that the Batman fanboys seem to want to have it both ways--calling him a snob for taking the movie seriously, then mocking his pretentiousness for offering more than a "Wow!" as a critical response. The ranting and name-calling all takes us back to the primal question of today's moviegoing age: Do critics still matter?

You should read Edelstein's entire response, but here, in a nutshell, is his argument, which is worth pondering:

"There has been a lot of chatter in the last few years that criticism is a dying profession, having been supplanted by the democratic voices of the Web. Not to get all Lee Siegel on you, but the Internet has a mob mentality that can overwhelm serious criticism. There is superb writing in blogs and discussion groups ... but there are also thousands of semi-literate tirades that actually reinforce the Hollywood status quo, that say: 'If you do not like "The Dark Knight,'" you should be fired because you do not speak for the people.' Well, the people don't need to be spoken for. And a critic's job is not only to steer you to movies you might not have heard of or that died at the box-office. It's also to bring a different, much-needed perspective on blockbusters like 'The Dark Knight.' " 

Photo of Christian Bale as Batman in "The Dark Knight" from Warner Bros.

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God Bless Our Planet And Be Good To All Others AS Time will Pass To The End Of Time FRom Nunzio Bagliere Syracuse N.Y EMAIL [email protected]

Armond White of the New York Press (he's a listed as a Rotten Tomatoes critic, but not "top critics") is getting it much, much worse than David Edelstein (who I usually agree with, but certainly not on "The Dark Knight") or even Stephanie Zacharek and a few others who have given DK a negative review (it's their right, their opinion, but I gather that beyond the hype and the initial rush of seeing this film, history will prove them to be quite wrong). The vitriol (somewhat racist mind you) that Mr. White is getting on his opinion of the film is staggering... fan boys and cineasts seem to be out for his blood on this one. Rarely have I seen so much ardent anger and umbrage given to film critics over what amounts to a movie (no matter how shockingly good it is). Edelstein may be right in his assessment of the critic's role in the web-driven world, but then many in traditional print and other media have serious issues with the democratization of journalism in general.

What the mob won't admit to is that their primary interest is to see Mr. Ledger's performance to determine if he was on drugs during the shoot. That is the lurid whispering campaign happening outside of the film's primary marketing machine. All of it gets bodies into the seats, in the end that's all that will matter to the distributor. Hooray for Hollywood!

I don't know who writes the headlines here, but it seems a bit much to say that a "defenseless" person was "attack[ed" by a "mob." Apparently the author of a critical review received some critical (and none too articulate) e-mails and comments. Not quite the same thing.

Hmmmm --interesting thought. What IF Heath Ledger was seriously on drugs during all of his on-camera acting as The Joker. Would his performance be truly his own? If Ray Milland was completely drunk during The Lost Weekend (he wasn't) would he have deserved his Oscar? The Joker character is certainly mad --drug induced?? If so, how far should method acting go? Thoughts???

I have to say I appreciate the irony.

The critic bristles that the mob doesn't believe in criticism. He knows this because off the criticism he receives.

Criticizing the critics's critics's critics.

I'm going to go stab myself with a yoga ball.

i love batman

118 good reviews. 9 bad. i think that speaks for itself why he's conjured such animosity toward his review. if the movie is everything he says it is then why don't more critics fall in line behind his opinion. early negative reviews for spiderman 3 were greeted the same way until it became obvious from the sheer large number of negative reviews that spiderman 3 would disappoint. not the case with the dark knight. the overwhelming majority is praising this film, and this guy is saying they are all wrong and he's right. i seriously doubt it.

Sniff sniff.. boo hoo hoo... for critics. It's part of your job to take criticism just as much as to give it. Unless the mob ends up at your office or lurking behind you on your ride home, what does a few sentences really matter. If anything Edelstein should be happy that so many subscribers have seriously read his article, and so many more might start reading him even more. One does have a choice with emails and blog comments, to just not read them and to easily just delete them if it tickles your fancy. The position of a critic will never die out, jobs just re-invent themselves, theres always a name and a face or more so now an addy.

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