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He's Mad as Hell at Turan

James Cameron Gets the Last Word on Our Critic's 'Titanic' Commentary

March 28, 1998

Turan's critical sensibility is the worst kind of ego-driven elitism. The illustration accompanying the article says it all. One tiny figure trying vainly to stop the juggernaut. But is that any sane person's definition of the role of the critic--to stand alone in complete opposition to the tide of popular taste?

Poor Kenny. He sees himself as the lone voice crying in the wilderness, righteous but not heeded by the blind and dumb "great unwashed" around him. It must be a great burden to be cursed with such clear vision when your misguided flock bray past you, like lemmings, unmindful.

Turan has forgotten, if he ever knew, the role of senior film critic for a large urban newspaper. When people spend their hard-earned money on a movie at the end of a long work week, all they ask is that their local critic steer them toward the good ones and help them avoid the turkeys. It's not too much to ask. And it's a fairly simple job, once you grasp it. You get to go to a movie first, before anyone else, and then come back and tell everybody about it. You even get to trash it if you didn't like it. What you don't get to do is grind on and on, month after month, after the audience has rendered its verdict in the most resounding of terms, telling everybody why the filmgoers are wrong and you are right.

Nobody's interested in the vitriolic ravings of a bitter man who attacks and rips apart movies that the great majority of viewers find well worth their time and money. Turan has lost touch with the joys of film viewing as most people would define it. He has lost touch, therefore, with his readership, and no longer serves a useful purpose.

When critics like Roger Ebert or Janet Maslin talk about film, they demonstrate a deep knowledge of and respect for their subject, a respect for filmmakers regardless of the specific blunders made on a particular film, and a genuine unwavering joy at the magic of cinema. Even when they don't like something of mine, I respect the source. They make me want to try harder.

Give us a critic who actually likes movies. Give us a critic who has at least some slight understanding of the toil and energy, the hopes and dreams that go into a movie, any movie. Give us a critic who shows respect for our chosen art, and whom we can respect in turn. And give us one who respects the paying audiences who look to him or her for guidance, not for lectures on how stupid they are for liking what they like.

Forget about Clinton--how do we impeach Kenneth Turan?


Santa Monica

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