Thursday, December 22, 2005

Somebody Shoot Me

This will probably guarantee I never get a "real" movie critic job, but I'll press on …
After tonight's Wizards game (they finally won, what a shock), I was just flipping around a little bit before heading to bed and for some reason came across "The Charlie Rose Show." He was sitting around a table with four other rather strange-looking people and it took about five seconds to realize they were film critics talking about the movies of 2005.
I've made it pretty obvious that one of my "dream jobs" would be reviewing movies for a living—unless it turned me into a version of one of these leprechauns. If I wake up one day 10 or 20 years from now and I look and sound like these circus freaks, someone, please shoot me.
Since I came very late to this depressing little party, I only caught two names: Lisa Schwarzbaum (Entertainment Weekly) and A.O. Scott (NY Times). Schwarzbaum actually was the most sensible and least pretentious of the four (also the only woman on the panel, but I don't know if that has any bearing or not). I typically trust EW's reviews more than most, and she seems to at least have her pinky toe in mainstream culture (evidenced by her "A" review of "King Kong").
Scott, on the other hand (a mousy little creep of a guy), was abominable. He came right out and admitted that the only movies he likes are the "small" budget films—that no one outside of New York or LA ever sees, of course. His top three movies of the year are two documentaries and one Italian film. Give me a freakin' break.
Look, I'm all for artistic expression and trying to raise the level of the motion picture above that of, say, "Cheaper By the Dozen 2," and I am certainly not a neophyte when it comes to "indie" movies. But I'm also a person who believes it's more difficult to make a big-budget film like "Spider-Man 2" emotionally resonant than, say, "In America" (which I LOVED). I have a love and respect for both types of films, and can enjoy them equally, if differently.
These self-absorbed windbags need to spend more time outside of darkened rooms with flickering lights, because they've lost all sense of relevance in mainstream culture. If you're so pretentious and arrogant that you can't bear to praise a movie that has a modest chance at becoming a hit, then I have no use for you (which is why I never read Scott's work).
And that is why I've tried to loosely model my reviews after Roger Ebert who, though I disagree with him as much as I agree, is one of the few critics who accepts movies for what they are, and judges filmmakers by how well they accomplished what they set out to do. That's why he can give the same rating to "Capote," "King Kong," and (gasp!) "The Passion of the Christ" (the only four-star review I found for this one, by the way, save for mine). He's one of the few big-timers that still gets it: Movies are allowed to be fun, and we shouldn't turn our noses up at those who do them well.
I guess I should have known better tonight, because when I found the show, three of the four (not Schwarzbaum) were trashing "Walk the Line" and continuing to praise "Ray." That tells me all I need to know.

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