Anthony Lane - Feedback

grumble, grumble. I received this email from one concerned reader:
From: Dave Martin
Sent: Thursday, January 02, 2003 6:13 PM
Subject: I like your taste in books.

But you are a complete idiot.

I asked for clarifaction, which I got.

From: Dave Martin
Sent: Thursday, January 02, 2003 10:34 PM
Subject: I like your taste in books.

You don't merit more of a response, but here it is. These are two of may grievous things I read on your web pages. I focus only on the Anthony Lane grievances.
"oh I don't know. I can't remember his actual argument. And I'm not reading it again. I will do my best to summarize. It's something like 'People like 'The Sound of Music,' but it's a bad film. Chinatown is a good film. My name is Anthony Lane.'"

"I've not read Lane's comments on either film, but if he tried to say 'Schindler's List' was as good as 'Saving Private Ryan,' then that's ridiculous. Ridiculous. [followed by drivel that ends with the declaration that Matt Damon and color make Ryan a better movie]"
What bothers me the most about your commentary on Anthony Lane is not that it is trite (at least unapologetically so), poorly thought out, and poorly expressed. What bothers me the most is that it shows up as one of the first several links wrt Anthony Lane when one searches for him on Google. I guess a great point can be made here about the democracy of the web. I don't care to make that point. I love Anthony Lane. I recommend his reviews and opinion to many of my friends. Your attacks amount to the attacks of an eight year old bully when, based on what else you seem to have read, I would have expected more from you. After all, no expectation can rightly be made of me - I am just your reader. I have the right to think whatever the fuck I want about what you write. You published it for me to read. You exposed yourself.

Don't take it too personally. I know nothing about you other than what you've posted on your unsightly website. It really looks to me like you wrote most of your site while under the influence of some substance or other, then didn't have the common decency to go back and edit yourself before assaulting the world. You're like the sci-fi writer who begins stories with something like: "I came to in an empty white room with no memory of how I got there." You erase that shit afterwards when you actually have something to say. If you don't have anything to say worth spending some time and energy expressing it, why are you publishing it in the first place? Everybody's opinion doesn't matter equally. You have to earn my respect in order for yours to matter more. All you've done with your website is destroy any real hope of me taking you seriously or most anyone else that actually expects not to have their time wasted when they go looking for someone else's opinion.

And don't be too impressed with yourself for the large number of links. From what I can tell, your writing excels at one thing and one thing only: linkability. You sprinkle in enough random topics and images to make yourself halfway attractive to the million idiot search engines out there. Then again, you also seem like the kind of person who has a lot of other friends who like to entertain themselves by posting their own half baked thoughts on the web.

Whittle yourself down a little more. And pay attention to the actual interview with Anthony Lane that appears on the web - fact checking is good! His book was called "Nobody's Perfect". If you aim to be a web-based embodiment of the postmodern unreliable narrator, well congratulations! All you did was graduate to Dave Egger's shitty level of writing skill.

In general, I am annoyed by people who think they have to put every half baked thought they've ever had on the web. I am even more annoyed when they are surprised by the fact that they receive potshots as well as praise.
grumble, grumble.
Yes, I am aware that I just characterized my own criticism as a potshot.

Happy now?
I didn't merit any further responses, yet...
From: Dave Martin
Sent: Friday, January 03, 2003 6:21 PM
Subject: re: I like your taste in books.

It is good to hear that you were attempting facetiousness wrt Private Ryan.

"but he doesn't seem to take film as seriously as he should and at a fundamental level, he is (i personally sense) not completely honest about it. i (personally) suspect he writes more what he thinks will be good reading than what's really correct about films. and so my revulsion to him is based purely on an overwhelming love of cinema/film as an art form."
If you were right about this, it would be a noble enough objection. What irritates me the most is that you make such a bold claim on so little data: two to three of his reviews? And those not even read completely? I have read nearly every review AL has published these last two years, my opinion of him only increasing with each new piece. For example, have you read what he has to say about the films of Ophuls? Or his review of Shrek ("since when is verisimillitude the aim of cinema?") Or his book review of 'Some Like it Hot', documenting the Wilder movie of the same name? Heck, check out the recent interview with AL you'll now find on the web (, esp. when he talks about how much it depresses him that people refuse to check out movies outside of the commercial mainstream. Any one of these alone are enough to eliminate any doubt you ought to have wrt his deep love of (visual) literature.

And maybe that is your objection. You aren't sure whether film is really his first love. You question whether he is, in fact, just in love with words. Maybe he is writing primarily about film because he loves an audience. Because he knows his writing is beautiful and wants to be heard. Knowing that people just don't read anymore, he is pragmatically choosing to write about what they do "read". He wants to be relevant. He wants to count.

That's just what Laura Miller begins to suggest about him in reviewing 'Nobody's Perfect': "Why is this man, who writes of "the unpalatable truth that people are likely to be more expressive in what (and whom) they deny themselves than in their gratifications," reviewing movies?" (

Why indeed? If Anthony Lane is in love with words, then it certainly isn't only his own. If you are as you say you are, you ought to count Mr. Lane as the truest sort of kindred spirit.

who's the pretty boy?

film is not visual literature