Stephen Metcalf at Slate writes that John Ford's The Searchers is wildly overrated, calling it "the worst best movie." While Mr. Metcalf is certainly entitled to his opinion, he pulled off the neat trick of managing to alienate me completely within the first few paragraphs, calling it (derisively) "a film geek's paradise" and sneering at "film studies" (which he inexplicably surrounds with scare quotes) as a "discrete and self-respecting academic discipline." Hey, what's wrong with a little self respect? Anyway, Metcalf does his best to skewer the film's reputation, but it's clear that he's not interested in anything more than a straightforward shoot-em-up Western. I would recommend Stagecoach to him, but seeing as how film geeks seem to love that one too, maybe he'd better steer clear.
Apparently Metcalf also has an axe to grind with cultural studies, throwing up those old scare quotes again around the word "problematized" and regarding race and gender issues with what amounts to an outright dismissal. He also has a problem with using the word "subvert," which, again, he surrounds with scare quotes and claims is a "film studies byword." Are film scholars the only people to ever mention subversion in art, culture, media, etc.? It's clear that Metcalf has a problem with "film geeks." I'm not sure how he manages it, but he interprets John Ford's quote "My name is John Ford. I make Westerns" as the most "laconic a kiss-off to one's nerd-cultists [...] one could imagine." Maybe I'm missing something from the original context, but where's the kiss-off, Metcalf?
Overall, his tone is extraordinarily dismissive of film studies and academic scholarship in general. This seems to be a common problem; popular critics like Metcalf have little concern for 'problem films' and are rarely willing to engage the flaws of a work in a meaningful fashion. Often these flaws, over time, become the most intriguing and endearing parts of a text. He seems to be right on the same page with the commenter over in the discussion forums who thinks Vertigo is overrated and not entertaining. Maybe it's just because I'm a discrete, self-respecting film scholar, but you'd have to be an idiot to dismiss one of the greater films of the 20th century because it's not as "entertaining or properly constructed" as other works. Apparently only popcorn movies with tight, conventional structures deserve the critical accolades.