Nathan Rabin’s Year

Over at the Onion’s AV Club, Nathan Rabin has been putting on an amazing show with his feature My Year of Flops. The premise is simple as it is misleading: every week, twice a week, Rabin posts a detailed review of a film that was a box office disaster. So far he’s something like 35 weeks into the year and I think I understand what he’s up to. I’m a slow learner.

If you read a few, you’ll see that he’s doing an admirable job regularly posting humorous, pop-culture-riddled, light essays about some of the worst, most unusual, or plain crazy images and sounds committed to film. He’s engaging, energetic, funny and thoughtful. His audience has been receptive and vocal – the comments section is a delight to read.

Sounds like any goofy blog on the Internet. He’s picked a weird thing to write about and is doing it with elan. But that’s not really what’s going on here.

Nathan Rabin is putting on the most masterful criticism exhibition I’ve seen in some time. He’s doing the critical equivalent of playing a dozen simultaneous blindfolded chess games. He’s deliberately analyzing films that audiences met with indifference – the worst possible reaction to an artist – and finding something interesting to say about each and every one of them. Extracting and inspecting inspiration – even flawed inspiration – from art that the masses have dismissed with a shrug showcases the essence of a critic. It’s a remarkable way to showcase criticism as an art form, not to mention Rabin’s considerable powers in the area.

It would be one thing to lay down a dry analysis of these uniformly flawed films; Rabin is presenting careful, erudite analysis of these with the jaunty air of a world class raconteur holding forth. His infectious enthusiasm is addictive. Even though I know what’s coming, after I read each one I’m ready to sign up with the Boys’ Band (or buy a monorail). And when the dust clears, I realize he’s slipped some intellectual challenges into my pocket while I was laughing at his in-jokes.

It’s a perfect communication of the passion and insight that Rabin brings to criticism. Come on along and enjoy with the rest of us who are hooked.

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