Monday, December 04, 2006

"I give it two thumbs up your nose."

Why do newspaper movie reviewers feel the need to hate life - and movies - so much?

I college, my boyfriend and I noticed this trend - the "I am so superiorly smarter than everyone, I find everything stupid and beneath me" approach to movie reviewing. There was one particular critic for the local paper who was so ridiculous in his reviews, we knew that if he trashed the movie, then we should go see it. However, if he gave a movie a favorable review, then we skipped it - a good review from that pompous prat meant the movie was some sort of pseudo-intellectual, boring-as-bathroom-tile, long and dragging, pointless and meandering excuse for a movie that pompous prats were afraid to denounce as what it was - the lack of clothing of the Emperor.

From my experiences in those days, I learned to avoid movie reviews, especially newspaper ones. (Every now and then I subscribe to Entertainment Weekly, and their reviews - alas! - are sometimes... positive... Now, it can't be that hard, can it?) Then again, it's not like I'm at the movies every weekend, either - I wouldn't have much need for reviews even if I were inclined to read them. However, last week, out of boredom (I was at work), I opened the link from the email I keep getting from one of the local papers leading me to their movie reviews. The caption under the photo of the first movie reviewed trashed the movie. That was that for that review.

The first full review I read trashed the movie. The second review did, too. Just as an experiment, I clicked on the link to the third review.

Alas! The word on the screen were - dare I say it? - complimentary! This was unprecedented! A positive movie review! My faith in journalistic humanity was about to be restored. I had been wrong, after all. They do care! Critics are people, too!

*sheds tear*

Then I got to the end of the review. Even though the story was good, the acting was good, the theme and message were good - the film was overexposed, the camera work (or something else) was shoddy, other technical aspects were not up to par. "You'd do better watching this on DVD, not on the big screen."

Say whut?

You liked the movie, but you're still telling me not to go see it?

I guess it must be a law, that newspaper movie reviewers cannot write a positive, encouraging review. Because, seriously - what was that? One thing would have been just to say, "Some technical aspects of the film left something to be desired," and let the reader/potential moviegoe decide on his own whether to pay the $10 to see this on the big screen, or wait until it became available on Netflix.

Is the newspaper reviewers' union mad at the movie theater runners' union? Is there some underground war of which we, the newspaper-reading and movie-watching lay people have not been made aware? Why such venom spewing from the newspaper reviewers? What did the dude running the movie theater ever do to you? HUH?

Doesn't it seem that the newspaper movie reviews, along with, well, pretty much everything else you would find in the newspaper, would be there to help inform We The People? Your job, as a movie reviewer, is not to show off how much cooler you are because you find Jack Black to be "potty humor" (really? You think? Now, what exactly tipped you off on that one, Stephen Hawkins?), but rather to provide a service and inform the potential movie-goer and help her make a choice as to her plans for the weekend.

Perhaps the problem in this equation is not the reviewer himself, but the editor. I find it hard to believe that finding someone who likes mainstream movies would be such a challenge, but perhaps there lies the problem. Maybe movie reviews are the new obituaries - they start their journalistic career stuck in that department, and that gives said reviewers a sort of snippy attitude, which taints their reviews.

Perhaps the problem is the editors insist on assigning certain genres to reviewers who happen to love movies, but hate that particular genre. Not every movie will be Shindler's List. Accept that fact. Embrace it. And relish in it, because if every movie were like that, we'd have a lot more slit wrists in this world. Sometimes, you feel like watching a mindless action flick - but there are good mindless action flicks, and there are bad ones. There are good fluffy romantic comedies, and there are bad ones. There are good stupid movies, and there are bad ones.

If you truly were as smart as you think you are, you pompous prat, you would be able to tell the difference. And you'd be able to tell the action fan, the romantic comedy fan, the stupid movie fan, if the movie is good or bad. You might even be smart enough to provide enough information to your reader to let her decide if this is the kind of action movie she'll enjoy - how much action, how far you have to suspend your disbelief, so on.

I know there is a massive amount of manure being tossed on movie screens lately. But, a) not all of it is manure; and b) somebody is eating up that manure, because movie producers are still making money. One of the first things I teach my sixth graders when they start writing - know your audience. Write for and to your audience. It shouldn't be that hard a concept for the newspaper movie reviewers to grasp, should it?

Dear Mr. Newspaper Reviewer: If you hate your job, your life, and movies that much, I will be happy to do your job. Send me an email, put me in touch with your editor, I'll take over your duties, and you can go on to find something that better suits your grumpy, pseudo-smart airs.

In other news, if you are a movie fan and would like to write one of your own, consider this site. Let the Frenzy begin!


  1. Anonymous10:29 PM

    I was about to suggest that you could be a movie reviewer on the side for extra cash. ; )

    ps- I'm convinced that Mullholland Drive is one of those Emperor-has-no-clothes kinds of movies. I've had people tell me they thought it was brilliant. I do not know how.

  2. Anonymous9:18 PM

    (I wrote a reply to your comments on the "mom jeans" post on my blog)

  3. Anonymous6:54 PM

    I find that if my mom likes it, I will hate it, if my dad loves it, I will love it. Other than that, I ignore the official reviews.

  4. I think part of it is that movie critics have to see all the movies, even the really, really bad ones. After awhile I think that tends to make one a bit cynical.

    And I think another factor is that newspapers know that bad reviews are more fun to read. Kind of that "if it bleeds, it leads" thing with TV news (don't get me started).

    What I have done is find a few critics that seem to share my movie tastes, and only read their reviews. It isn't foolproof, but it helps.