The MRC's Tim Graham has a bad habit of ascribing political motives to arts reviewers, claiming that the only reason they would praise a liberal-themed production is because they agree with the message, or would pan a conservative-themed production only because they disagree with the message. For instance, we've noted that Graham has criticized reviewers who like the radical rap group the Coup, suggesting that the only reason any reviewer would give the group top ratings is out of sympathy with its left-wing politics.
Graham serves up more arts criticism -- and criticism of the critics -- in two recent posts. In an Oct. 26 post, Graham complained that Washington Post reviewer Desson Thompson gave the film "Bella" -- being touted in conservative circles for, in the words of the MRC's Brent Bozell, being about a woman who considers abortion but "decides to carry her baby to term" -- "was picked to pieces as a cheesy bore" and "panned as an 'endless' fiasco," suggesting this was solely because the film is "vaguely pro-life." By contrast, Graham asserted, Post reviewer Stephen Hunger was "boosting the liberal documentary 'For the Bible Tells Me So' as not only moving but superbly thought out," adding, "Perhaps this is Hunter's way of strolling away from the office heat over his Michael Moore bashing" -- a reference to Hunter's negative review (as praised by Graham) of Moore's film "Sicko."
But doesn't Hunter's negative review of "Sicko" indicate that, in fact, he's driven by the quality of the film, not the message? And isn't Graham a bit too obsessed with a film's political message to give an honest review of a film's overall quality? Indeed, Graham continues: "But couldn't Thomson's criticism be applied to the gay film? Christian families in a liberal film struggle with a gay family member, and they all reconcile and agree the Bible's outdated. Where is the surprise, the dramatic tension in that?" He then praises the New York Times for "pann[ing] the film's artlessness, even as it endorsed its identity politics."
Graham did claim that "it's important that newspaper film critics review a movie first as a work of art, and then perhaps assess the political or cultural or moral messages within" -- which suggests he has a basic understanding of the role of the critic -- but then claimed that the reviewers' reactions to "Bella" and "For the Bible Tells Me So" "seemed to be based strongly on political criteria." Yet Graham offers no evidence to support this claim or to contradict anything Thompson and Hunter stated in their reviews.
Meanwhile, in a Nov. 5 post, Graham suggested that anyone who liked NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams' appearance on "Saturday Night Live" was a member of the media elite (read: liberal media). While Graham's own somewhat tepid assessment of Williams was "solid, not hilarious," TV critics "swoon[ed]" and were "chummy."
Again, Graham seems to be projecting his own personal opinions before a genuine artistic assessment. In a July 21 post, Graham mocked Williams as a "pompous snob" after Williams criticized bloggers as "a guy named Vinny in an efficiency apartment in the Bronx who hasn’t left the efficiency apartment in two years." Graham likened Williams to a "snobbish, pompous jerk who thinks he's bringing the gift of his enlightenment to all the rubes in their efficiency apartments."