Sunday, November 22, 2009

Levinson vs. Stanley

I'll state my prejudices up front: Alessandra Stanley, columnist for the New York Times is one of the dimmest and most pretentious culture vultures of our time. That she is usually wrong is not the issue--it's that she often ASTONISHINGLY wrong.

Recently she drubbed director Barry Levinson for his film Poliwood, an indictment of the intersection of politics and entertainment. Just about everybody with eyes, ears and common sense applauded the film. Not Stanley, of course.

Levinson responded to her yesterday in The Huffington Post.

"It may be true that I am overly sensitive to her critical writings ever since reading a review she wrote some time ago about a Walter Cronkite documentary that was part of PBS's American Masters series. I had nothing to do with that project other than to see it and to read her review, which began, "There will never be an anchorman like Walter Cronkite. And thank heaven for that." It was a shocking opening line -- an assessment that I would certainly disagree with -- but nevertheless, she is allowed to express her own opinion. However, the line that really caught my ire for its blatant inaccuracy was what she said about Cronkite informing the nation about the assassination of President John Kennedy: "He informed and consoled the nation with stoic grace. But it's hard to imagine that anyone in that chair at that moment, wouldn't have been just as memorable, simply because he was there."

Anyone in that chair! Anyone? The impression you get from Ms. Stanley is that there was only one network and one person reporting this event back then. Is she suggesting that Walter Cronkite was the only reporter informing us about this assassination? The reality is there were three networks and they were all reporting the event, and Walter Cronkite is the only one we remember. Why do we remember Cronkite as he took off his glasses on that tragic day and reported that the young president had just been assassinated? According to Ms. Stanley, it had nothing to do with Cronkite's unique ability as a newsman or his special ability to connect with an audience. It was because he was the only one there, reporting. To defend her thesis she had to carefully eliminate two networks from history -- and two chairs. Yet this is what Ms. Stanley does: she alters reality to fit her thesis. It is blatantly inaccurate and deceitful. It is a bogus sentence, illogical, and fraudulent. That is not valid criticism, and should have no place in such a respected paper as the New York Times. But it was written, and it was printed."

Ed here: That was Stanley at her snottiest and worst.

Levinson: Now I come back to Poliwood.

Ms. Stanley states, "In politics, the only thing worse than no access, is too much access." She goes on to say, "At its core the film is a screed about everything that was wrong with politics and media during the 2004 election, carried over and misapplied to the 2008 campaign."

For the record, the film essay has nothing to do with the 2008 campaign. That's why there is no footage of the candidates leading up to the conventions, and no footage of them campaigning on the road, leading up to the election. There is also no footage of the candidates stating political positions. No footage of strategy sessions. No discussions with the political operatives of either side. No footage of the fears or anxieties, the second-guessing, and the tiresome campaign trail. I only cover the two conventions and the inauguration merely as the backdrop for the intersection of politics, media, and entertainment as the cameras followed the journey of the Creative Coalition through these events."

Ed here: How Stanley got her job is just as mysterious as how she's managed to keep it.


Peter L. Winkler said...

"Ultimately, for all its good intentions, "Poliwood" is too unfocused and self-involved to have much impact, with most of its central figures proving less than scintillating in their commentary (Daly, Burstyn and Sarandon are notable exceptions). It says something when the most reasonable figure onscreen turns out to be Tucker Carlson."

Todd Mason said...

The NEW YORK TIMES has managed to offer clowns important (Judith Miller, with her taking down exactly what Dick Cheney, et al., wanted her to) and trivial (Dave Itzkoff on sf and Terrence Rafferty on horror, and William Vollmann recently allowed to spurt his typical bodily humors over the front page of the NYTBR--to be sure, their subjects aren't trivial, but their ignorant blather in each case is), so this bit doesn't surprise me at all...

Todd Mason said...

Yes, POLIWOOD isn't extraordinary, but that doesn't make the column in response any better.

Ed Gorman said...

I've only read two or three reviews and they were positive. Levinson's relatives you think? :)

Todd Mason said...

Well, it's about as non-deep as WAG THE DOG. The kind of thing that Lenny Bruce would tag as stuff to make you think it's trying to make you think, but still not characterized correctly, as Levinson complains. I should take another look at it, as I was pretty sleepy when I had it on.

Brendan DuBois said...

Ed, Stanley is one of the dimmest bulbs at the NYT, which says a lot... and when Walter Cronkite passed away, her appraisal on his life and careeer had seven errors in it, including having the wrong date for Martin Luther King's assassination and the wrong date for the moon landing.


And I think the reason she keeps her job is that her best friend at the NYT is Maureen Dowd, another no talent who repeats herself every column...

But hey, what do I know... I'm from N.H.!