Saturday, February 09, 2008

The art of the interview

Today on the NYT, there is a post on Dick Cavett's blog about his interviews with chess champion Bobby Fischer, who died recently after years of being terribly unhinged and reclusive. What amazed me was the interview itself. It seems like an ancient artifact discovered by archaeologists from an era when we had longer attention spans. The interview lasts about eight minutes, which is an eternity for TV. But what pleasure to see two people talking instead of just hurling oneliners at each other. Whatever you think of Dick Cavett, man, he was a great interviewer. Supremely relaxed, very charming, he made his guests feel much at ease, but then he asked really interesting questions. And cunningly, he alternated more general questions about the sport, with more personal questions about Fischer's primadonna behavior.
I'm just floored that we don't have anything like this today. This is a lost art. Just think of the bunch of sorry schmucks that do the job on TV nowadays, and the formats in which they work. Charlie Rose likes to hear himself talk and blow hot air. I cannot abide him. Brownoser extraordinaire James Lipton is pathetic and as I have kvetched before in this blog, when you go to live interviews with actors, the interviewers either gush or kiss ass or in the case of a recent interview with Javier Bardem, the interviewerette in question was pushing her boobs in front of the actor and acting like a schoolgirl. And then it doesn't help matters that the only reason why anybody is on TV is because they are shilling something.
Which brings me to this point. Our culture of celebrity has reached critical mass. When a publication like the New York Times Magazine devotes an issue to actors, (and I have nothing against actors and I love them and could talk about them forever) in an arty, pretentious spread, with arty, pretentious videos, I think it is going way too far. The editrix at large of this magazine is the same interviewerette who was hitting on Bardem while talking to him in front of an audience. No amount of pretentious photographs can disguise the fact that this is professional gushing. I'm sick of it.

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