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Editorial - December 2006
by Gordon Van Gelder

I must introduce our new film columnist by noting that this month's piece appears here in spite of the objections of our esteemed film editor.

Mr. Ellison made it very clear that while he agrees with Mr. Shepard's overall assessment of the current condition of American culture, he feels that the opprobrium is misapplied towards this movie; he thinks it's almost as if Mr. Shepard approached the movie without any willingness to give the film its due. In Mr. Ellison's words, X-Men is "a perfectly good little movie" and "the best Saturday morning serial you're going to see." (Mr. Ellison also felt the piece was the sort of narrow, single-film review he came aboard originally to remove from the magazine.)

In the course of this discussion, I took it upon myself to see the film . . . and found my movie-going experience came much closer to Mr. Shepard's than to Mr. Ellison's. I think X-Men depends heavily upon the viewer's familiarity with the original comic books---those people who liked the film seemed to have brought with them a knowledge of and appreciation for the root material.

But the main thing I want to say here is that I don't think an editor needs to agree with a reviewer's assessment before publishing a review. Far from it, in fact---that approach has always smacked of cultural fascism to me. As an editor, I look for the reviews in this magazine to be thoughtful, insightful, accurate, and honest.

But what is the point of running film reviews that don't appear in print until six weeks after the movie has left the theaters (as ours so often do)?

It's the same as that of running book reviews months after the novels in question have been released. Although our consumerist culture likes to pretend otherwise, art doesn't disappear in six weeks to be replaced like a disposable razor blade. It lasts in various forms, and it's always new to the person who encounters it for the first time. My intention as editor is to give you columns that appreciate those works of art---steering you to good ones you might otherwise have overlooked, and chewing over the successes, failures, and implications of those you have encountered. A good review, to my mind, is as interesting to a person who has read or seen the work in question as it is to the person who has not.

With the addition of a second film columnist, I've decided to phase out the monthly science columns. Dr. Benford's contributions are always insightful and the team of Ms. Murphy and Mr. Doherty have given us lots of fun experiments, but for some time now, the columns just haven't felt very relevant to the rest of the magazine. Does this mean we're not interested in science any longer? Of course not (and besides, we couldn't find anyone to contribute a monthly column on aileromancy). But we felt it was time for a change.


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