By David Poland firstname.lastname@example.org
Do Any Film Critics Actually Review Films Anymore?
Okay… so I am exaggerating from the top. I know that there are writers who actually review movies… and not the books or scripts or previous versions from which they were spawned. You just wouldn’t know it to read Variety. And since Variety has become the #1 embargo breaking website in the film world – and they are so anxious to be #1 in something, even if they have to act like #2s to do so – you will get to hear it from Variety first.
It’s time that all you “who reviewed first” worship blogs start paying attention to where those reviews are coming from and how consistently wrong they are.
(Note; There is no embargo on The Lovely Bones specifically.)
Che, Antichrist, Inglourious Basterds, Where The Wild Things Are, The Road… and today, The Lovely Bones.
The potential was certainly there in the book, which reminds of Dennis Lehane’s successfully filmed novels “Mystic River” and “Gone Baby Gone” in its devastating emotional trauma, but offers the distinctive perspective of the most entirely plausible omniscient narrator in modern literature.
a bit reminiscent of…
“The Road” reads extremely cinematically. Filled almost entirely by spare but vivid physical descriptions of a decimated United States in its death throes after an unexplained catastrophe, and with limited dialogue, the book serves up images and tense situations that practically leap from the page as potential movie scenes… Some things were obvious…
Are you are film critic or a book reviewer? Because it seems to me that the job is about looking at what the filmmaker produced and not what you, as a film critic, decided the movie should be.
I am sick to death of this crap. It’s not only lazy criticism, but it is destructive (especially when embargoes are being broken to be FIRST!) to films… particularly films that audiences actually will like, perhaps love. 90% of the people who will say, “I hear Variety hated it” won’t ever read the review or have any idea who at Variety reviewed or whether they were typing out of their ass.
I have always felt that Todd McCarthy was above turning long-form written reviewing into “thumbs up, thumbs down,” but this seems to be his default more and more often.
Can we all try to come to an agreement that a movie is a movie, a book is a book, and the job of a professional film critic is not just to tell people whether they personally liked the movie and what personal reasons they have for that position?
What makes me crazy about Todd’s smackdown on The Lovely Bones, which mostly comes down to complaints about what wasn’t in the movie that was in the book, is that he so clearly does not get… really… has no clue at all about… what Peter Jackson (with Walsh and Boyens) is after. There is nary a sentence in the review about the emotion of the film or the central theme of the measure of love. This is outrageous. We just get to read, repeatedly, about the book and the shots that McCarthy didn’t like as much as other shots.
Peter Jackson’s success or failure can be argued. (And I will make my argument later.) But reading this review, like reflecting on the reviews mentioned above, was like reading someone’s account about the greatest sex they ever had only to realize that 90% of the text was about the eyeglasses she wore because you didn’t know she needed glasses because she was wearing contacts when you met and glasses look great on some women but these glasses didn’t really suit her face and yadda yadda yadda…
And I see this more and more… and almost always on the most challenging, emotional, groundbreaking movies. Meanwhile, disappointing mediocrity gets a pass so often these days it boggles the mind.
I was having a conversation this morning about Scott & Phillips and why the show is completely respectable and not that exciting… and why Siskel & Ebert were great. It’s not because Roger & Gene were so much more insightful than Michael & Tony. It’s because Gene & Roger had real passion… they didn’t know enough to hide it… and movie lovers responded because those are the arguments they want to have over dinner or dessert or drinks after the movie.
So you would prefer The Lovely Bones with no effects images. Great! I don’t care. Tell me in some real ways how those effects change the dynamic of the overall movie. Did you even understand how the “changing wallpaper” relates to the emotional state of the character who is in limbo? Did you even consider trying to understand it? Or were you just sitting there with an anti-CG chip on your shoulder, waiting to find an excuse to smack down a filmmaker who just delivered another very successful audience movie?
Go back and try again… The Road is NOT about the apocalypse, Todd McCarthy… The Lovely Bones is NOT about seeing the murder or investigating the rape of that girl, Xan Brooks… Where The Wild Things Are is NOT a silly romp meant to speak down to children, David Denby… AntiChrist is NOT just about shocking the bourgeoisie, Owen Glieberman.
Analysis of what is better or worse, what one likes and doesn’t like are all fair game. But If you don’t get the basic idea of what the movie is trying to get to, trying to judge the work in any way close to objectivity is folly.
Be clear. I am not talking about differences of opinion. This is not, “Why did you like Star Trek sooooo much when it was just good?” This is not, “I love that film and whatever you say against it sucks.”
This is about a movie, in this case, where the recurring theme is love – parental love, love between children, the first hints of romantic love, and the peace of knowing where love stands – and the negative reviews are about not being graphic enough or not liking the computer graphics.
There will be plenty of people who don’t much care for this film and whose opinions I will respect because they are based on something connected to what IS on the screen. But I cannot abide reviews about what is NOT on the screen, unless it smartly speaks to the context of the filmmaking and some element that might have changed the dynamic in a real way.