Old MCN Blogs
David Poland

By David Poland poland@moviecitynews.com

In Praise of Brief Reviews

What do movie fans hate most about movie critics?
1. Spoilers.
2. Genre haters. If you’ve never liked video games, horror, sci fi — don’t review those movies. We know what you’re going to say.
3. Plot-summarizersIf a review’s nothing but synopsis, that’s a good sign that the critic has no opinion at all.
4. Unstoppable typists. A review shouldn’t take longer to read than the movie takes to watch. 5,000 words on CLERKS II? Why?
Slate praises the New York Times television film-capsule writers, especially the late Howard Thompson, whose forty years of miniature reviews still run in the TV listings. A couple of samples:
THE GUNS OF NAVARONE. Allied commando mission. Strong on scenery, but it weighs 10 tons.
MATILDA. A boxing kangaroo. What the world needs now.
His successors include Times TV editor Jody Alesandro, Anita Gates, and Lawrence Van Gelder. I love this review for HALLOWEEN 4: THE RETURN OF MICHAEL MYERS “The usually holiday fare”
The web site Four Word Film Review lets readers compose ultrabriefs, but nothing delivers the icy blast of the true Times snub: “Not reviewed by us.”

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2 Responses to “In Praise of Brief Reviews”

  1. prideray says:

    J, if you were referring to my interview with Mr. Smith about CLERKS II, it was closer to 7,000 words. Transcribing is far more painful than mere typing, yikes. R.

  2. I know that pain. Maybe I’m still bitter about being made to edit another reporter’s 45 page Q&A with Smith.

Quote Unquotesee all »

It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon