In an oddly roundabout way, the recent announcement of At the Movies' cancellation introduced me to A.O. Scott's writing. I don't mean his movie reviews; I'm talking about his columns on films.
Thanks to "following" Scott and his soon-to-be former co-host Michael Phillips on Twitter, I've been introduced to thoughtful, well-rounded articles by Scott on the imminent demise of the TV show as well as the portrayal of violence in Kick-Ass.
There was a point in reading the column on the cancellation where I started cheering. Not because a quality television show was going off the air. Rather it was how Scott explained that the fears of film criticism's death have been professed before. Many, many, many, many times before.
Referring to a 1990 piece by Richard Corliss called “All Thumbs, or, Is There a Future for Film Criticism?,” Scott wrote, "The threat Mr. Corliss identified has migrated to the Internet, where self-credentialed commenters snark and snipe and where the simple binary code of the thumbs-up or thumbs-down voting that Mr. Siskel and Mr. Ebert trademarked has been supplanted by the crunched numbers of the Metacritic score."
I don't know about you, but it sure is nice to read somebody who isn't yelling essentially the same cries as Shaggy and Scooby-Doo towards the end of almost every Scooby-Doo episode: "We're goners!"
Basically, the archetypes and stereotypes stick around over the years. They just change shapes over time.
In regards to the violence in Kick-Ass, whether it's offensive or cartoonishly over-the-top, Scott reminds readers that people were outraged with the violence in Bonnie & Clyde and The Wild Bunch when they were first released in theaters. The context of the day is key, and that's something that is too often missing in discussions like this.
I will admit tremendous bias because I'm quite the fan of writers who go about writing this way. This approach is by no means an admission that "nothing" is "new." Instead, it's something that calms people down before they decide to jump in bed with despair.