Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Valerie Strauss is not an expert on documentary films

Whoops. In a rush to gloat over the exclusion of Waiting for Superman from an Oscar nomination, Washington Post in-house anti-education reform propagandist Valerie Strauss makes a pretty embarrassing error today.

Strauss writes that the pro-reform documentary's Oscar snub was due to the Academy's discomfort with its "fake scenes":
The snub to Davis Guggenheim’s tendentious film was well-deserved, given that classic documentaries are factual and straightforward, and don’t, as did 'Superman,' fake scenes for emotional impact.
Right! We should applaud the academy voters for their rigid adherence to strict "classic documentary" values!

That's a fine way to score points on a political enemy, but anyone with even a passing familiarity with the films that were nominated knows that it makes no sense. I am pretty sure that Exit Through the Gift Shop was not nominated for how "factual and straightforward" it is.

Strauss hates Waiting for Superman. We get it. But her embarrassingly context-free, evidence-free gloating here does not inspire confidence in her ability to make a good-faith argument against the film -- or more to the point, against its message of reform.

P.S. ... On the actual merits of the "fake scenes" issue, you can read this NYT post and decide for yourself how serious an issue it is to you. To me it is not nothing -- I am with the Hoop Dreams producer quoted in the post -- and also not so troubling that I'd toss out the entire film.

P.P.S. ... By the way this response post Strauss links again today, "What Waiting for Superman got wrong, point by point" is breathtaking in its arrogance. I think every one of its points is simply an arguable proposition presented as a factual error. Annoying.

1 comment:

Saxdrop said...

Gah! I couldn't even make it through the response post. The usual tropes that I had thought were fully discredited by this point.

BTW, a lesser quality but at two points equally moving documentary on school choice and lotteries is "The Lottery." At one point, the administrator of Promise Academy (I believe) is being harangued by a neighborhood councilwoman about the supposedly selfish and elite school program she runs in Harlem.
"Do you even live in Harlem?" the councilwoman asks.

"Um, yes, Ive grown up here and lived here all my life."

"Well, Ive never seen you. What's your address?"

"I have two small children and I don't feel comfortable giving out my address in a public forum."
Is this what it's come down to?