Thursday, July 12, 2007


"Chalk scraping across a blackboard for two hours." Name that film. Or that reviewer.

Somewhere, in the exciting discussion of TNY design that I engaged in at Emdashes (that somewhere along the line became a discussion of movie reviews and capsules), Emily wondered if TNY had ever given stars for actual theater or film recommendations. Interesting question.

Me, I don't see the stars idea working, at least for the films. The film capsules (more or less) seem, to me, to work through reference and analogy (maybe a legacy of Kael, maybe not) - a film is like this or that movement or style or director or sensory experience. If that's your thing, you go, if not, then not. Or maybe they just work that way for me, since I'm skeptical about their evaluations to begin with.

No, honestly. I think they don't and won't (for awhile) have stars - not even one - because you're supposed to know. The listings are supposed to be informative (with a bit of evaluation built into what's listed and what's not) and you're supposed to have the frame of reference (perhaps to recent issues of TNY) to know what you'd like. It's part of the snob appeal. Like a cookbook.

That said, the film capsule (above, and that's the whole capsule) that has inspired me low these many years is quite evaluative. As in, "I give it 3 sticks of chalk scraping across a blackboard!"

And I do think Goings On About Town appeals, maybe even primarily, to out-of-towners. I've always been one and I've always read Goings On and only recently has it occurred to me that I could use it as an actual (and not virtual) guide.



Blogger Raquel Laneri said...

I hate stars. I think they are a distraction, because it's tempting to look at the star rating and not the words themselves, and for a magazine that's so much about the writing, as the NYer ostensibly is, stars would be most out of place. In other words, I don't read TNYer reviews to see whether I should see a certain movie/listen to a certain album/see a certain play... I read them to to learn or to see things a different way or to understand or get an interesting take on something... or just for the language sometimes.

About the design thing...I like the TOC suggestion. I don't even look at the TOC now; it's too stressful.

12:08 AM  
Blogger zp said...

I'm with you on the TOC. In my comments at Emdashes, on the layout suggestions, I went into more detail, but I find the Table of Contents sort of un-useful now. It basically tells me who is writing in the magazine, but obscures what exactly they are writing about . . .

11:36 AM  
Blogger juniper pearl said...

such thoughtful, expansive posts these days, zp! i've been missing out in my desperate quest to get caught up on the magazine, so i would actually know what you were expanding so thoughtfully about. almost there . . .

stars are for lazy people who, i think, do not really care about movies or stories. and i love tny for assuming that we are not those people and would like to make a decision about whether or not to see a movie based on some of its elements . . . but it is very important to take the reviewer into account. fortunately, lane and denby get enough room with enough regularity to give us a sense of how and why they do or don't like movies, and to give us a sense of whether or not we agree with any of their reasoning. for instance, when anthony lane says that i shouldn't watch spider-man because the sandman is always needlessly changing size or shape, i know that what i really shouldn't do is pay any attention to any reviews of comic-based movies coming from anthony lane. still annoyed about that one, if you couldn't tell. but it carries, and carries and carries . . . i'm sure you know what i mean.

i despise the pixelated eustace who keeps cropping up all over the magazine these days, but i am slowly, if resentfully, adapting to the other new design elements. and when i look at the toc, it's only for the names, but i think the topics of pieces are usually pretty clear. i like it, actually. it's tidy and graceful.

11:45 AM  
Blogger zp said...

I agree, that pixilated Eustace Tilley is quite annoying!

12:53 PM  

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