The new edition of Slate's annual Movie Club, in which five film critics serially dish at agonizing length on the year's cinema, includes Manohla Dargis of the L.A. Times. Her presence seems to bring a testy sort of energy to the crew, which includes David Edelstein of Slate, A.O. (Tony) Scott of the New York Times, J. Hoberman of the Village Voice and Sarah Kerr of Vogue.
Some (much-compressed) exchanges:
Edelstein: "Your first entry and already I want to use my repressive patriarchal mockery to curb your sassy feminist ire."
Dargis: "First, glad to oblige, David. Since you insulted me not once, but twice, in your first dispatch, I thought it only appropriate to take, gobble, and immediately disgorge your bait. (I do love the idea the idea of a smackdown between your Patriarchal Repressive Mockery and my Sassy Feminist Ire, even if the latter sounds like a bad shampoo.)"
Edelstein: "I feel, Manohla, that it's only fair to tell our readers that my 'insulting you not once but twice' in my first dispatch must be seen in the context of having begged on the cyber equivalent of bended knee for you to honor the "Movie Club" with your presence, and I hope that my opening provocation will be regarded as a spirited ice-breaker."
Scott: "In October, when I pointed out, in my review of In the Cut, Jane Campion's habit of using nonwhite men as signifiers of sexual danger and/or exotic eroticism, I received an e-mail chastising me for holding Campion and her characters to too-stringent standards of political correctnessan e-mail I bring up now only because it came from my pal Manohla Dargis."
Dargis: "First, Tony, remind me never to share anything with you (including my irritation) without first indicating that what I'm writing to you is off the fucking record. If I'd known that you would share what I wrote to you with the entire Web, I would have phrased my argument more carefully and with greater intellectual precision. As it stands, I read your review, got irritated at you for dismissing one of my favorite filmmakersin the New York Times, no lessand fired off an e-mail."
*"So, I'm back from our Sundance strategy meeting. Hold the presses: We decided that the vast majority of American independent films suck and that far too much attention is paid to this festival, therefore, we are not covering it at all. Nothing, nada, rien. Kidding! OK, I've had three cups of coffee and am a bit giddy. I guess I really am trying to pretend that I'm just writing these dispatches for the entertainment of four movie-crazed colleagues and not the entire Slate readership and beyond. (Which is a feeble pre-emptive attempt to excuse/rationalize/justify any factual error, spelling mistake, and off-the-cuff, what-the-hell-was-I-thinking comment.)"
*"My own politics are a big confusing jumble, which means that I don't look at movies through a specific political lens. Yes, I'm a feminist (surprise!), which just means that I believe that women should be treated equally, and I think that the richest country on Earth should feed and house every one of its citizens, but that's about it. But when I look at movies, I don't check my sense of ethics or vague politics at the doorhow could I? So, for instance, I was offended that at the end of Bad Boys II the two stars drive a Hummer through a Cuban shantytown, mowing down one shack after another. I noted that this was certainly a remarkable image of American capitalism mowing its way through the Third World (and received the usual hate mail as a consequence), but I didn't write that the two stars also use the word "faggot" liberally throughout the film. Was I a coward because I didn't write that I was offended? Maybe. But I never want to write a review with some sort of (political) checklist in hand. I also think you have to pick your battles and reserve your outrage, and then there's the fact that I also enjoyed a lot of the movie. (I'm a sucker for blowup movies in which sweaty men run around shooting guns.)"
It's been a good read so far. New dispatches are filed daily.