Thursday, December 20, 2007

On Bloggers and Blogging

Warning: this post contains cathartic rants. I've spent a lot of time online for the last few years and as will happen, friction has resulted. I'm no saint - I'm terribly stubborn and have a perverse tendency to insist on contact with some of the worst people online. After a perfect storm this week of online clashes, it felt like a good time to have my own personal say about certain personalities. What's interesting to me are the different personas that people choose to display online, which may or may not be accurate depictions of themselves.

First up is David Poland of Ever since becoming independent several years ago on his own site, Poland has developed a specific online persona: the uncorruptible White Knight of the entertainment blogosphere. While he serves a useful purpose (certainly the world of journalism can use some self-policing), he has an unfortunate tendency to ride an incredibly high horse, which wouldn't be a big deal if he wasn't also an occasional hypocrite. Today's example: this post, which I would sum up as "I know a secret, but I'm too good to tell you what it is. Have I mentioned how high my ethical standards are lately?" Dude, when you know a secret that you aren't comfortable spreading around, the appropriate thing to do is to just keep your big fat mouth shut, not advertise your self-proclaimed virtue.

Next, Jeff Wells of Hollywood Elsewhere. Wells knows that in most respects he's kind of a slug, but he does cling to an aesthetic superiority complex, which combines with a certain low-grade fascism to produce a thuggish critical viewpoint. Wells has a number of irrational hatreds for various filmmakers such as Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson, which he shamelessly exploits for site traffic on posts like this one. Mostly, though, the strangest thing about Wells is the archaic, affected lingo he likes to use, things like "ayem", "boyo", "hubba-hubba" and so on. He's a living Damon Runyon character.

Poland and Wells both fancy themselves as crusaders for moral and artistic standards in a debased world; fair enough, most of us do. Fighting this crusade like a modern-day Travis Bickle is Daniel Zelter, who trolls Wells's site with a never-ending series of snide posts targeted at those he disagrees with on political and movie-related subjects. It's a rare post from him that isn't about something that he hates, be it Quentin Tarantino, Harvey Weinstein, the Republican Party, the Arclight, living in Los Angeles, or the people who pretend to be his friends (his words, not mine). Zelter is especially frustrating to deal with because of his total lack of any sense of humor or irony. I have to assume that he has some form of Asperger's Syndrome because that's the only way to make sense of his rigid facade of obsessiveness and his total disinterest in social engagement. He also reminds me of my younger brother, except that I knew that, ultimately, my brother was just screwing with me. Zelter, I think, honestly believes all of his crap.

You'd think Hollywood megaproducer Don Murphy would have better things to do than troll movie web sites, and sometimes he does, but sometimes he doesn't. Murphy posted for a long time under the nom de blog "Spam Dooley" and picked a lot of consequence-free fights with pretty much everyone. For reasons unknown to me earlier this year he decided to attack me viciously under his own name, which was curiously honest of him. I did tell him that he was a bad producer who had only made one movie that I thought wasn't essentially garbage (Natural Born Killers, where I suspect he had little control over the final shape of the film), and I'd tell him the same to his face. Murphy's online persona is of a coked-up rageaholic, but I have to assume this is a joke on his end - I find it difficult to believe that someone as full of bile as he appears to be could have any kind of sustainable career in Hollywood. I see Murphy as the human equivalent of a bighorn sheep, ramming head-on into other people in a weird kind of alpha-male struggle for respect.

Last but not least is Hunter Tremayne, who has thankfully vanished for the last several weeks after posing as 'Ian Sinclair', a character from a clearly-horrible play that he wrote. Tremayne's persona is that of an asshole for sport. He delights in bullying people for his own enjoyment, which made it uniquely ironic that he initially went after me for my enjoyment of the Hostel movies. He's probably the single worst person out of this little group, because he has never produced anything of value to anyone else in any of his online conversations. Daniel Zelter is obtuse and ignorant but to his credit he actually thinks of himself as a good, productive person. Tremayne has never had any goal beyond his own giddy enjoyment.

So: my little rant. And now, a shoutout to those online folk who actually are genuinely interested in talking about movies in a productive and ego-free manner: Noah Forrest, Craig Kennedy, Sasha Stone, Christian Divine, Kris Tapley, Luke Y. Thompson, Matt Zoller Seitz and his teammates, "Actionman", "Wrecktum", and more. Even Josh Massey and "Mgmax", whose real name I don't know, are to be commended for their intelligence, taste, and intellectual honesty even though they're Conservatives.

So to you folks: Happy Holidays and thanks for not being assholes and sorry that this post had to exist in the first place (but I feel better).

Sincerely, Jeff McMahon


Steven Santos said...

Reading these sites for awhile, I have noticed these same characters popping up again and again. I can also relate to how you feel dealing with them when I tangled with an insane person two weeks ago on the Hot Blog over the trailer of Speed Racer.

Sometimes, you need to just ignore them. Basically, I stood back and let the guy make an ass out of himself while he spewed curses at me. Your post tallying up the curses did make me laugh.

I generally post very little at MCN or HE. The best place to discuss movies is at The House Next Door. Even when opinions become heated, it never lowers itself to the level of personal insults. It forces you to bring your A game when discussing movies.

You also don't have to deal with Poland's self-righteousness and Wells with his random demonization (or jealousy) of great directors.

John said...

Here's my addition to your rant. All due respect.

Luke Y. Thompson is a mouth-breather, who has no business reviewing films under the warm of aegis of "Village Voice Media." I'm sure his blogging is painstaking and rigorous--his criticism is slack and useless.

Wilonsky sucks too...he's not a blogger, I guess, but a critic, at least I think he's a critic. All I know is, he snatches up high-profile releases, then proceeds to outwit himself with a series of chummy nudges to the reader. He's like Elvis Mitchell without any viewpoint. I imagine he writes reviews while staring into a fine cut-glass mirror.

Here's my vote for saddest whimpering death this year: the near-complete dissolution of the Village Voice (and I'm speaking of THE Village Voice, the one that started in the Village, the one that isn't just a stand-in for a lame alternative conglomerate) as a force in film criticism. Now pretty much anyone and everyone can write for it, wherever they may be.

Along with the Voice, the concept of a "local" critic has fallen by the wayside, which is a shame--places matter. A Minneapolis critic can fine-tune pieces to Minneapolis taste. I really believe that.

Also, playing devil's advocate here, as congenial as The House Next Door is, it's also unruly and kind of nerdy-democratic. Really, how many blow-by-blow commentaries does one need on Torchwood? Does the blog really FOCUS on anything? Isn't that what a blog is for, after all?

And what is Torchwood, by the way?

Noah said...

Thanks for the kind words, Jeff. Keep fighting the good fight!

cjKennedy said...

Jeff you are indeed a stubborn one and this probably causes you more frustration than any of these folks you mention deserve credit for...but damnit there's a fine line between stubborn and just plain RIGHT. When you're right, you're right and 97% of the time, I'm on your side.

Despite my overwhelming ennui resulting from Wells' ceaseless schtick, I keep going back. Why? Because of the handful of commenters you mention including yourself who far outweigh the errant douchebaggery of folks like DZ and Hunter "If that is your real name" Tremayne.

Murphy is a bit of a puzzle to me. In that one Lunch With Blowhard he did, he came off as a reasonable human being, but in his posts he's a bully and a loudmouth. I understand people acting up under assumed names, but being a prick under your own name? Strange.

Anyway. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. I look forward to seeing you around in 2008. Today I'll be watching the soon-to-be holiday classic: Sleep in Heavenly Peace. 'Tis the season after all.