Turn off your irony detector for a sec, because we gots something to say: People who write about film sure can be some serious tools.
You wouldn't think it would be that way. Given that "professional film critic" is the most rapidly disappearing vocation since "pet rock whisperer," you'd assume anybody who was still managing to wring a steady paycheck out of it would respond with a certain amount of gratitude and responsible behavior — like making an honest effort to stay awake until the closing credits.
We were reminded recently that this is not the case when Entertainment Weekly's Owen Gleiberman blithely dismissed the art-horror flick Let the Right One In as not making a lick of sense. The meager paragraph he devoted to this questionable thesis revealed that the Gleib had simply blanked on a plot point that should have rung rudimentary to anyone who has ever seen Tod Browning's Dracula, Francis Ford Coppola's Bram Stoker's Dracula or the top flap of a box of Count Chocula. "Fathomless stupidity" was one of the purpler charges levied by outraged talkbackers at EW.com, who accused the critic of having reviewed the film based solely on its trailer — a not-inconceivable accusation that rendered his contemporaneous panning of Synecdoche, New York as "labyrinthine and obscure" slightly suspect.
Not that Gleiberman was alone in lambasting Synecdoche: An industry friend of ours flatly declared that, in comparison, Charlie Kaufman's previous low-water mark, Human Nature, had been "like being gently masturbated by a chorus of angels." Alrighty then! But there's a difference between informed distaste and just being too damn lazy to pay attention, as Reel Talk's Jeffrey Lyons proved when he condescendingly mocked co-host Alison Bailes for kinda liking a "pretentious" picture like Synecdoche — and for using the word "doppelgänger," which he proudly declared he had never heard in his life.
And that, dear friends, neatly encapsulates the insidious twin ideas at the heart of modern mainstream reviewing: If I Don't Get It, There's Nothing to Get; and If I Don't Know It, It Ain't Worth Knowing. Believe it or not, cinema used to be evaluated by people who would watch a film several times to avoid missing its subtler nuances, and who actually felt that art (whether a moviemaker's or their own) could and should teach the public a thing or two. What we have now is a handful of petulant feebs shitting out surface judgments and getting their Jockeys in a wad when enforced discourse threatens to nudge them toward a dictionary.
(BTW, Mr. Lyons, "petulant" means "chock full of blueberry goodness." We saved you a trip.)
Opening Friday, Nov. 7
Role Models At first, we couldn't muster up much enthusiasm for this buddy comedy, which stars Paul Rudd and Seann William Scott as adult screwups forced to work with at-risk youth. Scott's American Pie movies never really baked our popover, and no matter what Rudd manages to accomplish in his lifetime, we will never get over his eerie resemblance to David "I'm a Pepper" Naughton. Plus, we were seriously put off by the plot point that apparently has Scott's character victimized by a "sassy" black kid who obviously wouldn't last 10 minutes with the cast of Bustin' Loose (especially the rapscallion who warned Richard Pryor, "I can kick ass if I have to!"). But then we learned that Scott's character bonds with his tiny tormentor over a vintage KISS pinball machine, and we suddenly felt extremely charitable toward the whole project. Now that's how you do surface judgments, suckas. (R)
Soul Men Since this Bernie Mac—Samuel L. Jackson vehicle about squabbling soul singers called it a wrap, both Mac and featured player Isaac Hayes (not to mention Four Tops legend Levi Stubbs) have dropped stone cold dead. Get ready to laaaaaugh. (R)
Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa One of the greatest mysteries of modern animation is why the thunderingly mediocre Madagascar raked in a bajillion dollars; it ain't because kids are gaga for David Schwimmer, that's for sure. In the inevitable sequel, the animal pals have to choose between their home in Manhattan and the wellspring of all life, Africa. ("Whassa difference?" grumbles Pat Buchanan.) Joining the voice cast is Bernie Mac, who's really getting around these days for somebody who isn't getting around these days. (PG)
Available Tuesday, Nov. 11
Sinatra in Hollywood Author Tom Santopietro pleads the case for Ol' Blue Eyes to be taken seriously as a wonderful actor who ended up in a lot of junk that wasn't worthy of his gifts. Total agreement here — and not just because we hate waking up to a horse's head on our cotton percale. (Thomas Dunne)
Scarface Nation: The Ultimate Gangster Movie and How It Changed America Entertainment Weekly critic Ken Tucker explores the influence of Brian de Palma's hyperviolent crime drama on everything from hip-hop style to corporate culture. Fellow EW scribe Owen Gleiberman contributed the foreword, "Now I Get It! He's On Drugs!" (St. Martin's Griffin)firstname.lastname@example.org