Because people who know nothing about anything else still think that they know something about the movies, websites about that subject are beyond counting. Not all of them, however, are a waste of time. Some of the website proprietors are distinguished for their knowledge, and the rare bird who calls herself Self-Styled Siren adds fine judgment and a fluent conversational prose style to her daunting store of information. Because America is a democracy enslaved to gurus -- a paradox that de Tocqueville was first to spot -- it usually has room for only one big name in any critical field. Once, the movies were the province of Pauline Kael. In my estimation, the Siren has better judgment than Kael, and a wider range of appreciation, and loses nothing by having left the print medium behind, bringing nothing of it with her except its rules of discipline.
Indeed, almost the best thing about her is that she can enjoy the freedom of the web while incorporating all the virtues that used to be imposed by writing for a newspaper or a magazine. Keeping it brief, respecting the facts, she edits herself. If she had an editor, she might have been compelled to tell us who Max Ophuls was. As things are, she can just steam ahead and explain how his great movie Letter from an Unknown Woman was made possible by the influence, generosity and wisdom of Joan Fontaine. In the fifty years since I saw that movie, I had somehow never seen that fact in print anywhere. But suddenly there it was, on the web, along with miles of other stuff that the Siren knows about the actresses of the past, and the actors too; and the directors, and the costume designers, and… well, anyone and everything. In being so comprehensive, yet so easily readable, she is helping to set the standards of a new critical medium.
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