A throng of spectators crowded the aisles and blocked the entrances to the Klingenstein Lounge in Egbert Hall at Ithaca College last night to hear A.O. Scott, the famed film critic from The New York Times, lecture about the evolving world of critical journalism. Scott’s lecture, entitled “Criticism as a Way of Life,” focused heavily on the new fad of fast-speed electronic criticism, known to the Internet-savvy as blogging.
Scott opened his lecture by evaluating blogging and questioning the critics who are fading away.
“What happened? Where are the great critics of yesteryear? You look around and you think, ‘Things are so bad now. What happened to the golden age of criticism?’” Scott said.
“You can find it on the Internet, on the blogosphere. They have proliferated and grown and spawned new forms of argument. It offers a symphony of wit and rage and snark and mischief, but also elegance,” Scott said. “You can drop into a conversation that is breathtakingly beautiful … I find this an intriguing development in the way that criticism can open itself up.”
Scott went on to emphasize the importance of blogs and how these Internet forums can bring people from all different backgrounds together to share their own unique ideas.
“At its best, [blogging] upholds an intriguing promise where anyone can find a community of like-minded people,” Scott said.
Scott defended the Internet critics by speaking of their adherence to the core principles of criticism. He delivered words of hope to the millions of bloggers found on the web.
“What does it matter whether you write for print or blog, whether you’re paid or not? It is the quality of your writing. Do you have anything to say? Do you have a point?” Scott asked. “I have found that this kind of argument about what criticism is and what it isn’t, about who’s right and who’s wrong is, in itself, a definition of criticism.”
Scott gave his own definition of what he believes a true critic to be and how a critic’s work should function.
“Who thought criticism would be a simple, orderly field of beneficent activity? A critic should be someone who can control disorder to clear through all the noise and clutter of the books we read, all the movies we see, the music, the shows and find a canon of judgment that will cut through that noise. But, at the same time, criticism is part of this noise, it thrives on this noise,” Scott said.
Scott also gave insight into his own career and how he approaches the films he critiques.
“I have to try to find the language to get my experience across and defend it because someone could have had the opposite experience. Writing is at its best when your whole self is in it. I hope, every time I walk into a movie, that something can open me up in this way,” Scott said.
Jennifer Bryan, a senior at Ithaca College who writes her own reviews for an online blog, said, “He’s one of my favorite film critics, and I think what he opens up is really a discussion … He isn’t afraid to go against public opinion.”
The renowned critic closed his speech by answering questions from the audience. When asked about the challenges of being a film critic, Scott spoke of the significance films have on society.
“The challenge of being a movie critic is trying to figure out how these things relate to the world around us … You have to think about how they relate to the things going on behind the screen,” Scott said.
Scott offered words of advice to the many film students in the audience. The film students were eager to listen to Scott because they were very familiar with his work.
“I came to the lecture because I was in L.A. and I had to look up movie reviews so I read his work for six months, so I thought it would be interesting to listen to him in person rather than read his articles,” said Jess Dayton, a recent film grad from Ithaca College.