New York Magazine is now at the bottom of the list of silly publications that think anyone can be a film critic after replacing their celebrated critic, Peter Reiner, not with a gender or race motivated hire, but with another white middle aged man whose primary value was that he was less qualified for the job.
But Ken Tucker embraced the worst of all criticism with his review of Gunner Palace last week, going into full Alice in Wonderland mode. You see, because filmmakers Michael Tucker and Petra Eperstein showed the truth of what they found (subsequently confirmed in military screening after military screening) and did not make a film about how evil the Bush Administration is, Tucker felt the film was a failure. Films are much better with the political context in which he believes, apparently, assuring that audiences don't have to waste their time thinking for themselves.
For me, this is as close as you get to evil in film criticism. Quote whores are meaningless in comparison. Any critic whose take on their beat is "this better fit my world view or not only will I say I don't like it, but I will pillory the filmmakers as irresponsible fools." To hide that position behind the critical veil of "bad filmmaking" is really low.
Of course, when confronted about this by actual soldiers who disagree and took offense, both at the characterization of the film and of the soldiers in the film, Tucker finally responds by trying to weasel out of what he said. You see, he claims, the view of the soldiers that he found so distasteful is not a reflection of how he perceives reality, but of how the filmmakers made the soldiers appear. It's not that this snob, who then deigns to explain that another doc is much more accurate when as far as I know he has no point of reference for that determination other than his opinion, just finds the rank and file of the army distasteful... that he is uncomfortable with the realities of who is fighting for his country in Iraq. It is someone else's fault. And of course, it is all George Bush's fault... all negativity must be all Bush's or it is bad negativity.
The last time I experienced something this infuriatingly stupid in this way was a decade ago when I saw one of Michael Moore's first films, Blood In The Face, which showed American Neo-Nazis' daily lives and half the Sundance audience of Facist Liberals (a specific group) raged at the filmmakers for not being clear enough that Nazis were bad. They didn't trust other audiences - they were smart enough to get it, but those people... - to figure it out for themselves. So they would prefer silencing truth to risking the nightmare of letting people make up their own minds.
I seem to remember liking Ken Tucker at EW... nice guy... but I don't like or respect this kind of thinking and I am embarrassed for our profession. We are, I thought, supposed to be in the work of considering the work with both objective and subjective tools. And this is, for Mr. Tucker, a clear failure.