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.