NY Critic Denby to Talk Snark in LA

The New Yorker magazine's David Denby set to discuss his book "Snark" on Feb. 3

The New Yorker magazine movie critic David Denby is expected to speak in Los Angeles February 3, yet despite the date's close proximity to The Oscars, he's not scheduled to say a word about movies (woohoo!).

Daring as it would be for a New York film critic of Denby's reputation to appear on stage in the center of the entertainment universe (to love movies is not necessarily to love Denby), he takes it one step further by agreeing to appear at a WritersBloc discussion of his new book "Snark: It’s Mean, It’s Personal, and It’s Ruining Our Conversation."

Denby's take on snark is, to say the least, hardly something anyone who writes or talks about current events is likely to ignore.

Indeed, his tome has been summarily trashed in one of the publications that used to run Denby's movie reviews, back before the tilt of his upturned nose achieved the height requirement of The New Yorker magazine.

The January 5th edition of New York magazine features a review of Denby's book by Adam Sternbergh (some might remember him from Fametracker), who suggests it might as well have been titled "Why Flaming Bags of Dog Poop on My Doorstep Just Aren't Funny."

Rather than see snark as a societal response to a nation seemingly teeming with phonies — alleged Ponzi-schemer-of-billions Bernie Madoff, former Congressman and big-fat-bribe-taker Randy "Duke" Cunningham, the holocaust-exploiting author who invented the premise on which he based the book "Angel at the Fence" — Sternbergh suggests Denby "can only hear the hecklers, not the ridiculous act they're heckling."

In Denby's corner, however, are people like Edward Champion of Reluctant Habits (much to Champion's own surprise). Rather than misunderstand snark, Champion says Denby "bemoans websites and blogs that don’t bother to check or corroborate information, but that insist that they’re doing a better job than mainstream journalism while they simultaneously declare that they lack the time and the resources to fact-check."

The Los Angeles Times blog Jacket Copy did a Q&A with Denby last week, in which he confessed that he doesn't Twitter, but that he is occasionally snarky. "How could you not be snarky about Dick Cheney shooting his best friend in the face?" Denby asked in his exchange with Jacket Copy.

Not to snark, but, it feels wrong to give Denby all this attention without bashing him for a few of the movies he's unfairly trashed over the past year or so, particularly since even Denby's own Wikipedia page reminds us that we might not be the only ones who've noticed his views can be "out of sync with a general 'critical concensus.'"

The Dark Knight, for example. Denby didn't like it, though it notched a whopping 94-percent approval rating on the Tomatometer, which measures the percentage of positive reviews from dozens of approved critics -- including Denby -- at RottenTomatoes.com. (He also didn't like Batman Begins.)

Of the blockbuster Iron Man Denby said "... the clanking suit, when it’s finished, is a letdown." Most every other critic and moviegoer loved it.

And much as many of us enjoyed the pairing of Pearl Jam vocalist Eddie Vedder's music with actor/director Sean Penn's movie-making skill in Into the Wild, Denby labeled the result "cheaply lyrical."

Would Mr Denby consider it snarky if someone told him, in the words of Tina Fey, to "suck it?"

Or, more importantly, is it worth the $20 ticket to attend his event on February 3 and tell him in person?

-- TJ Sullivan

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