TECHNOFILE 4

Criticism, like judgement, tends to be a conservative art. There have been few advances in the genre since rock journalism discovered invective in the late 1970s. So here's a pleasant surprise: out of the heady ferment of the Net comes a simple new idea that has nothing to do with hypertext or computers, and is actually of some use. Slate, the grown- ups' webzine, has decided that it's time to take a stand against movie- plots that don't make sense.

The problem of "plot holes" has become so acute that Slate has commissioned a screenwriter to write a column entirely devoted to the narrative logic of films, or their lack thereof. "Aesthetic judgments will continue to be rendered by our regular film critic," they reassure us. The division of labour is an intriguing one. Is narrative analysis merely a sort of public sub-editing? Or is it that contemporary film critics are thought to have altogether lost the plot?

The final straw seems to have been The Fifth Element, whose reported incoherence almost turned into a selling point. Its directorial foibles prompted Suck, Slate's fellow e-zine, to diagnose "Luc Besson's Disease", the symptoms of which included "persistent, yet mostly meaningless, intertextual commentary and a strong penchant for random pastiche".

We're all stricken, Suck claims, by an obsession with "connectedness" for its own sake. But perhaps it's closer to the truth to say that people have drifted away from narrative. They channel-hop on television, and from site to site on the Web. The idea of "connectedness" may be little more than a token substitute for the old idea that narrative makes experiences make sense.

If readers are so easily distracted, though, it seems like a gross strategic error to present your argument in the form of a hypertext, with opportunities to click off into a different site every few lines. The link from the word "semiotics" to a page called "Semiotics for Beginners" is one thing. But another one, leading to "What's Expected Of Seinfeld: The Aesthetic Reception Of A Situation Comedy" is something else. It fails to answer the big questions about the show: why the supporting cast demanded $1m per episode for the next series, why the actress who plays Elaine doesn't get her wages docked for gratuitous hand-gestures, and why it isn't called Kramer or Costanza. One is tempted to follow the trail of links to less theoretical Seinfeld sites.

Back at the text, there's an obvious booby-trap in the form of a photo of naked women. Sure enough, it leads to an art site inspired by the psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan. "Meaningless, intertextual commentary" links to another art project called "Placing". This features a catalogue of consumer items, and claims to be about how people "make meaning and significance of the multiple interdependencies between themselves, others, and name-brand products".

Web-writing doesn't usually lose itself in such follies, but it does often fall victim to the temptation of linking texts instead of discussing them. It's a lot quicker to put in a link to somebody else's site than to precis their views, and it saves space on one's own pages. But that can be a false economy, if it induces the readers to make digressions of their own. Slate and Suck both have genuine cultural bones to pick. Unfortunately, only one of them realises that the way forward is a straight line.

Technofile now has its own Web site: http://www.poptel.org.uk/technofile/

Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
Arts and Entertainment
J Jefferson Farjeon at home in 1953
booksBooksellers say readers are turning away from modern thrillers and back to golden age of crime writing
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Hewer is to leave The Apprentice after 10 years

TV review Nick Hewer, the man whose eyebrows speak a thousand words, is set to leave The Apprentice

Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says

film George RR Martin owns a cinema in Santa Fe

Arts and Entertainment
Clued up: John Lynch and Gillian Anderson in ‘The Fall’

TV review

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
News
Shenaz Treasurywala
film
News
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars Director JJ Abrams: key character's names have been revealed
film
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams won two BBC Music Awards for Best Song and International Artist
music
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

    Panto dames: before and after

    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

    Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
    The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

    The man who hunts giants

    A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
    The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

    The 12 ways of Christmas

    We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
    Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

    The male exhibits strange behaviour

    A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
    Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

    Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

    Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

    The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
    Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

    Marian Keyes

    The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

    Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

    Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
    Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

    Rodgers fights for his reputation

    Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
    Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

    Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

    'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
    Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick