This essay presents me with problems, because I agree with its hypothesis, but not its premises or its conclusion, so, er.
I’ve said before that snarky writing is weak writing, after which a conversation with Holly led me to reduce my stance to “snarky writing is comorbid with weak writing.” Ebert and I concur on this. He goes on to state that blogs devoted to pure snark are dumb, and that gasping about the “gayest Oscars ever” because Hugh Jackman sat in Frank Langella’s lap is equally dumb; this is also true.
Then he defends Joaquin Phoenix’s current performance art spectacle as an “accomplishment,” and as “committing himself as an actor.” Sorry, Roger, but acting isn’t art in and of itself, and acting like a bewildered person with nothing to say, without letting other people in on the joke, is no achievement at all. (I have similar problems with Andy Kaufman, but at least he brought a Duchamp-like duplicity to the exercise.)
More essential to his argument is his assertion that the snarkers should leave! Oscar! Alone! Sorry again, but a critic of all people should understand that you don’t get to just declare that it’s not for you. Joaquin Phoenix and the self-righteous pomp of the Oscars deserve no better than snark, because they’re functioning on the same level. Scrape away the ornamentation, and there’s nothing worthwhile underneath.
But that doesn’t mean that snarkery is a noble satirical endeavor. Sumana (via John Hodgman) provides a better argument than Ebert: snark is just “meh” without the benefit of brevity.