Friday, June 21, 2013

The Epic Saga Of Two Bitchy Film Geeks: My First Encounter With a Dedicated Fan

So, I've been blogging for a little over 8 months now, and of course, given my recent start and somewhat esoteric content and approach to things, I naturally assumed that my readership would level out at a pretty low point. I've actually been pleasantly surprised by my average daily hit count, which continues to rise every month or so and has already surpassed my expectations. Thanks to everybody who has found this site, regular readers and incidental ones, and I'll try to continue keeping up with the daily grind to justify your time.

One of the things I wasn't expecting to happen so soon is that apparently I already have a mortal enemy. I discovered this recently while on Facebook, and managed to have a very long and illuminating conversation with him concerning varying styles of film criticism, our general perspectives on life and how they differ, and most importantly, what a complete little bitch he is. Though I'm fully aware of how self-indulgent this is, I thought I'd post the thread here, which explanations of context and commentary, not to gloat or preen, but just because I thought it was really funny, a good insight into how I think and relate to people, and an excuse not to have to watch Snow Shark: Ancient Snow Beast just yet.

If you think this is silly or pedantic, I completely understand, but well, its my blog. Also, I don't have any relevant pictures, so I'm just going to randomly pop in pics of monkeys.

Anyway, it started out when I saw that a friend of mine on Facebook had posted on one of his friend's posts about the NSA leaker Edward Snowden. The specifics aren't important except to say I casually posted my opinion, and then saw a reply from the original poster, who I did not know (the name will be omitted, though you may be able to discern some clues later on, in the meantime, I'll just refer to him as Douchenozzle). Note the tail end of his reply, which has no connection to anything, coming from someone that, again, I do not know from Adam at this point:

Hey, glad you stopped by: I can tell you what a putrid, irritating writer you are to your digital face. Yay! 

So here, I'm kind of flabbergasted, because like I said, I have no idea who this person is. My first thought, perhaps a bit arrogant, is that he just happened to randomly read my blog, and it had such an effect on him that he couldn't help but express himself as soon as he saw me on Facebook. At first, I don't want to respond because we have a mutual friend that I don't want to alienate, so I wait a few hours until I am due to see this person, and ask him what this is about. Here is where I need to point out that our mutual friend is a guy named Nate, my podcast co-host, and editor on Picture Show Pundits, my sister website. From him I discover that this person isn't a blog reader, but rather a fellow critic from PSP, who I've not read and who goes by a pseudonym on the site, so I didn't make the connection with the name. Apparently, as I'm told at this point, he had some major problem with my review of The Master, among others.

So I respond:

Hey (Douchenozzle), sorry I didn't comment sooner, but I wanted to check with Nate first so I didn't alienate our one mutual friend before replying. Turns out he doesn't care, so just wanted to make sure you knew you could go fuck yourself, you cunt. 

Okay, I meant this as pithy, but I can totally understand where someone might overreact. Douchenozzle responds:

LOL Ben. That's just the sort of punk-buffoon reply I expected from an utterly useless writer. Thanks for commenting 

I take issue with Punk Buffoon. Buffoon Punk maybe, but this went too far. He posts this, then posts again, his second post noted as having been edited by him after the fact:

In fairness your response is maybe a notch down from the shit for brains mentality you usually espouse. i guess i expected a doofussy defense of your self-indulgent, clunky, juvenile, and sophomoric "reviews". instead you tell me 'fuck off' and reveal your basement nerd misogyny by rolling out the 'c' word. my bad!

Now, I don't want to leave the impression that I am just needlessly stubborn and hostile, but here I've been accused of misogyny, which I very much dispute, so I do so:

Perhaps I should have been more specific. I do not use the term “cunt” with any feminine connotation, but rather in a more esoteric sense to describe someone who would be so cunty as to respond to a completely innocuous comment with vile invective based on a grudge they have apparently been holding for sometime against someone they've never met and who never said anything against them. And I suppose it is the mark of a truly great writer to need two facebook posts to express his apoplexy, the second of which apparently needed to be edited, I assume to add a fourth pithy adjective to describe my “reviews,” and maybe to spell check doofussy. I'm sure the fact that you couldn't convince Nate to acquiesce to your butt-hurt cry baby bullshit over my review of The Master completely justifies the zeal with which you attacked me without provocation. 

Oh, that's another bit of context. This person didn't just dislike my review of The Master, he went out of his way to go behind my back to my editor and demand that it be removed from the site. This is why in retrospect I chose the name Doochenozzle to conceal his identity. Him again:

Haha, good lord you are lunkhead. I understand that. But your gleeful use of the word to me suggests someone a certain mentality (also, you have lessened a once much better site and prevented me from putting years of writing experience on my resume; so I say that I do have good provocation to call you out to your digital face). LOL I wasn't "butt hurt" about your review of The Master, ya clown. I was taken aback by what a meatheaded, abrasive stream of unedifying complaints you coughed up. I reacted with more alarm because it was a great film in my eyes, true, but your writing is so toxic and atrocious most of it garners a similar response from me. Ben, your writing is embarrassing, hostile, self-absorbed, and quite sad coming from a person above high school age (and I'll be amused once again that you don't defend your writing you just brandish the 'cu' word). I don't wish you any ill will---no more than a hand injury or a missing keyboard (fingers crossed!) 

Now, ordinarily I would have left it here, but as I read his reply, and specifically his incredibly non-specific criticisms of my work, I had to seek elaboration. Also, I had since gone back and read some of his work, and seeing how shallow and terrible it was, I couldn't just leave it without some comment. The first bit is a little much in my next one, but I think it worked:

I of course assume you mean that I AM a lunkhead, or that I am lunkheadED, and that I am OF a certain mentality. I know typically this sort of correction on facebook is considered pedantic, but as you've already challenged my relative strengths as a writer, I felt it might be justified. I do not defend my work because I feel it requires no defense and speaks for itself, and before you leap up in your chair screaming “Ah Ha!” and reply in mock agreement, I should point out that aside from implying that you disagree with my position on the merit of certain movies and have some general animus to my style, you have not cited a specific example of my work to criticize. Simply rattling off a series of synonyms for “it's bad” isn't in and of itself an argument, its a tantrum, which I Ironically speak about in my Master review in between all the dick jokes.

In any case, it is good to know that you feel your occasionally bi-monthly (if that) paragraph length, poorly thought-out missives actually merit a place on your resume, though considering how little respect you clearly have for our mutual friend and editor and the website platform he has given you for all these years, I'm surprised you would be so quick to add it. Remember of course that neither of us has the direct ability to update the website, and the final word on which posts are deserving suggests that we are considered equals and dare I say colleagues (or would be if I wasn't so much more prolific than you). In fact given the pace with which I submit reviews that are immediately allowed onto the site, as well as my presence on the site's current flagship podcast, I'm surprised you haven't left the site completely if you feel my content production is so offensive.

Oh, and if you want a specific example, know that I didn't have to go any further than your most recent review for The Great Gatsby. My review might have contained a level of language and immature metaphor that defies the grand tradition of pretentious piss ant online amateur film criticism, but at least by the end of it, you know what I thought of the movie. I defy anyone to read your mini-review aside and figure out just what you're ultimately trying to say without looking at the letter grade. “Um, the book was good, and so's Baz Luhrmann, except when he's not, and its not great, but see it anyway...” I'd call it a waste of time if it weren't so short and trifling. You employ the same level of meandering non-specific and often nonsensical babble in your approach to film criticism that you do in spitefully attacking your peers (and I can't wait for you to take issue with that term!) 

Okay, I'll admit it, I was the first one to break one paragraph, which would usually suggest an escalation which in turn suggests aggravation, but really, I'm just starting to have fun with this, and that's when I tend to get verbose. This is where our mutual friend and editor Nate steps in, always inclined towards smoothing over conflict, and tries to diffuse the situation.

Sigh. You boys don't have to like each other, you guys can actively hate each other, and I know I have no say here between two independent adults, but just stop. This is not accomplishing anything. Just stay away from one another. 

Now onto Douchenozzle, not acknowledging the third party olive branch:

On my review of the Great Gatsby, devastated, old sport. Leaving aside the fact that I've written for the site since early 2007 and have many reviews of varying length posted there (a novel concept: actually writing things that people will read instead of sheer word masturbation!) and elsewhere; yes, in fairness, there is truth to that. I am not very consistent with my output and that is a shortcoming of mine. You, however, are distressingly consistent. I'd rather be a sporadic presence than someone who vomits out the kind of drivel you do. I've forgotten better things than you've ever thought of. Also, I have a lot of respect for Nate. His association with you I find baffling (I've listened to your podcasts and the discrepancy in talent and insight is vast between you). So, in conclusion, highly amused that you've chosen to take the dumb populist route I figured you would (you're the brash, irreverent rebel and I'm the stuffy, pretentious critic striving for the New Yorker set, etc). I can tell from reading and listening to you that you're just one of those light-deprived fanboy nerds who thinks he's a hell of a lot more interesting than he actually is. 

Again, could have left it here, especially considering the plea from someone I actually like in this conversation, but this guy insists on continuing to mis-characterize my points, so I must clarify, if only for his benefit:

I don't actively hate (Douchenozzle), and in fact gave no thought whatsoever to him before he went out of his way to be a complete douche to me for absolutely no reason. And (Douchenozzle), given how impenetrably unreadable so much of your writing is at least based on my cursory study, accusations of word masturbation might be a bit of a glass houses situation. I'm not saying I'm not deserving of this criticism at times, but then the only difference between the two of us would be that your work is the literary equivalent of premature ejaculation. Maybe one of those great things you've forgotten is the bare minimum level of civility needed to refrain from spouting off angrily to people you don't like who, as I must once again point out, were never initially hostile to you in any way. What sort of mature adult does that? That's not a flaw in your criticism necessarily, though I might criticize your parents for not teaching you basic manners.

And am I trying to be a populist, or am I deliberately writing in a way people wouldn't want to read? Pretty sure those are mutually exclusive propositions. I didn't think I was actually accusing you directly of being the kind of stuffy pretentious critic you cite, but rather of holding me to a standard as if there is some set of rules saying I must be. But then, your automatic defensiveness against the accusation might indicate you know more about your motivations than I do, and might be protesting a bit too much. And thanks for providing me with the irony of accusing me of boxing you into a simplistic cliche, and then trotting out the most hackneyed of “nerd” stereotypes. Kudos for using “light-deprived” instead of the more obvious “basement dwelling.” Clearly, this is the sort of cleverness that sets you above all of your lowly fellow critics, though I can't help but mention you forgot the reference to Cheeto dust encrusting my T-Shirt. 

Here's where I begin to sense the “all in good fun” nature of this has given way to something a little more serious on my debater's part, but perhaps I am imagining it:

Okay, a couple things, Ben. First, you were clearly aware of my complaints about your The Master review, which is appalling and a perennial embarrassment to the site as long as it's posted. As you can tell, I don't mince words (and LOL: I comment on your writing and you fire back with insults, which is fine, but you forfeit any right to bemoan bad behavior). And frankly, I don't think your writing is worthy of any respect so I'm not going to pretend to be civil about it (if it was on someone else's site, I would never even think twice about it). So my question is, given the frank and harsh language I used months ago, why did you think I gave a hoot at all about your opinion here on this subject? I never cared to communicate with you in any other fashion or setting, so your initial comment seemed to be the ideal time to tell you how I feel. Honestly, I don't think we are in the same galaxy of writing, whatever my flaws may be. What irks me about yours isn't just its poor quality, it's the tone. You lack any sense of humility at all in your reviews. You lack any apprecation of economy or flow. Your sentences are pedestrian and bland when they're not vulgar and off-putting; your paragraphs crude and flabby. Most of your reviews I've bothered to peruse get bogged down in these thoroughly unrevelatory discussions of your taste and preferences (on your review of the Jackie Robinson movie I commented with a fake Ben Bailey review of Schindler's List that talked about how Jurassic Park was in your top five for the summer of '93, bitched about Hook, and then noted helpfully that you weren't alive during the Third Reich so if you're really curious see Shoah---that's you in a nutshell). You rehash the same points during a review. You end every review with a not-eloquent or funny explanation of why you should or shouldn't see it, which is amateurish to do every time (I did it with Great Gatsby, true, cause it worked in that case, but a good writer makes the point effectively throughout and can end on something more intellectually stimulating or fun to read then that). You were not born to write and seem to possess no intuitive talent for it. That's all.

Maybe it was the reference to his parents, which was admittedly a bit much, I don't know. The thing that amazes me about this is that here is where I suddenly realize that the reason Douchenozzle felt so comfortable stating his initial criticism to someone I assumed he didn't know is because he thought I knew who he was. Apparently he wrote a comment on some review of mine, and assumed I've been as obsessed with him as he evidently has been with me all this time, and he'd just been waiting for the opportunity to finally strike. Naturally, I can't refrain from inquiring about this:

I didn't know who you were until I asked Nate why some guy I'd never heard of went out of his way to insult me (I only saw the post because he posted on it, and he explained the Master gripe after the fact). And you didn't just comment on my writing, as if your initial criticism against me was somehow constructive and professional, it was a spiteful and juvenile verbal assault that belies the maturity and erudite nature you seem to want to ascribe to yourself and accuse me of lacking. That you've apparently been harboring this animus for sometime and I have been ignorant of it does not make it any less petty and vindictive on your part (though for the record, I find it very funny to think you actually thought I gave a shit and just never said anything). I don't see why my style or tone is so important to you. If you don't like my writing, why do you apparently read so much of it? I never read yours until I had a reason to in the past 24 hours. Your intense inclination to place yourself above other people is the kind of fanatical ego that has no place in film criticism, amateur or otherwise. Yes, I will often cite my own tastes as a way to place my opinion of a film in context, as in my 42 review, where my point was that I could recognize the appeal of the movie to its apparent target audience even though I was not a part of that audience, which I think might be a useful point to someone who actually reads reviews to see if they might like a movie. Its the same reason I try to concise my opinion down to a recommendation so often at the end, because if we're not saying whether or not the reader might want to see the movie, then what the fuck are we doing here? This isn't just an exercise in hearing ourselves talk and marveling at how intelligent we sound. That would just be word masturbation. But God forbid I treat the end of a review as a conclusion wrapping up its main points, just as, by your own admission, you just fucking did in your most recent review! 

Yeah, I know I said my reviews need no defense, and I still believe that, but when a specific example is cited, I feel I should respond. He begins his rebuttal with an obvious lie, and then a slip of his ego at the notion that I wouldn't have read anything he's written, as if I was under some obligation to do so:

LOL I really haven't read that much of your writing, Ben, please don't flatter yourself (unlike you though, I guess I have some curiosity as to what's going on in sites I contribute to; your comment that you've never read any of mine is astounding). I've taken the time to read a few of your puke fests and I'll occasionally persue, but I don't believe in self-violating my 8th Amendment rights. I ended my review of Gatsby with "You should see it anyway" because it was snappy and so the fucktard Ben Baileys of the world who think having anything less than a blaring "This rocked!" or "This sucked!" assessment would understand what they were supposed to do (as you by your own admission found it oh so murky). The point about your review of 42 was that it was a movie about a great American and you start in typical fashion with a pissy, self-absorbed pasage about sports and movies about sports (the fuck cares! hence my satirical Bailey Schindler's List review that starts with you complaining about how boring period pieces are. I don't feel the need to place myself above everybody, Ben. Believe me, in my time at PSP I've seen writers of widely varying skills pop in and out. None of them have been quite as obnoxious and dickish as your "writing" (makes me think of what Capote said about Kerouac: "that's not writing, that's typing"). None of them have written reviews that curse out the director and make an absolute mockery of the site. I don't care a whit what you think about my writing because we aren't in the same league and there's nothing you can illuminate for rme and your juvenile, coarse contributions make me more apathetic still to your notions of how a film critic should act. Thanks again for stopping by. 

I very much doubt he was laughing out loud when he wrote this last comment, and if not, the allusion is disingenuous. Note the last sentence, clearly a thinly veiled passive aggressive appeal to me to stop responding, because he knows he's out of his element now. He has no point beyond his impulsive dickishness and he knows he looks like an asshole in a public forum. Me again:

I naturally assume you spend most of your time re-reading your own reviews while masturbating to your own perceived genius, at least based on your assumption that I would be similarly self absorbed enough to have re-read my own old ass review and seen your comment, and thus been aware of your weird dickish vendetta against me. And yes, clearly, revealing one's personal context with a genre in order to establish a point of view would have no relevance whatsoever in a review. That's what makes you such a genius after all (feel free to lube up again). And just for the record, the lack of self-reflection on your part to call anything I've ever done obnoxious and dickish is what is truly astounding. I cursed out a director or two, people who I assume are well set in their lives enough not to give a shit what I think and with good reason. You didn't just fail to keep your shitty opinion to yourself, you went out of your way to demand of a mutual friend that he take my work down from a website after said friend personally asked me to contribute, and approved my contribution. Forget about me, what position do you think that placed him in? Did you even give that any thought? Or do you just have no problem with it, because you're so certain that you're right, and that's all that matters, and you can be as big a dick as you want? Don't get me wrong, I take that stance often myself, but I at least try to confine that impulse to things like reviews or other areas where actual people I interact with would not be affronted. Because I'm an actual fucking human being.

And that was the crux of the issue for me, not the criticism of my work, which is perfectly fine as everyone is entitled to having and expressing their opinion, even if I think it is ill-informed. What bothered me ultimately was the casual indifference to civility and friendship coupled with the implication of his moral superiority. You can think you're better than me, but you can't do it while at the same time demonstrating how morally reprehensible you are, at least not without me pointing that out emphatically. He ends the conversation limply:

All right, Ben. You are a complete tool. That's enough from you, seriously. 

Translation: “Please stop schooling me up and down my own Facebook wall, because I just can't take it anymore.” Perhaps re-treading all of this here is a little rude, but in light of the invective levied against me, I'm past the point of caring, and its enough that I took whatever steps I did to keep this mostly anonymous. At the very least, I wanted a record of it, if only to demonstrate the impact I've already had since I started all of this less than a year ago. I had fun at least, but then, I'm a putrid, irritating something or other too stupid to recognize the genius of Joaquin Pheonix and Phillip Seymour Hoffman's homoerotic adventures in the land of tedium, so what do I know.
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