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The Things SOME Movie Critics Say & Don’t Do: Thoughts of a Movie Journalist (2011)

Posted by Joe Belcastro On November - 3 - 2011 2 Comments

Trust the critic with the blood-shot eyes. You know…the ones who stare at movie screens for countless hours a week. Not the ones who may have partaken in Harold & Kumar related activities. Although some could do both if they have the stamina.

Starting now, is when a critic/movie reviewer’s mettle is put to the test. Award season is upon us and that means the twenty-something critic associations – with an array of members (print, online, radio, TV) – are about to get an eye-full from studios via a number of parcel handlers.

It’s the time of year where we (reviewers) begin our morning with answering a knock on the door by a person in uniform for the next forty days (and no, this is not a porno). Sometimes the contents of the delivery are welcomed, while others baffle the hell out of us (Mars Needs Moms, The Tourist, Stone, etc.). In the end though, they must be watched.

And that brings us back to the title of this forthcoming Jerry Maguire moment; which in turn, will probably have me catching some flak from my fellow colleagues. Point is, my position is not just the right one…it should be the only one. If any other critic/reviewer opposes the upcoming stance if you will, well, chances are their eyes are probably still showing an ample amount of whiteness.

Now to be fair, some reviewers outside of these accredited critic circles are unable to view everything. And that’s fine to a certain extent, for the studios are not collecting their year-end votes. Now for the people involved in these privileged clans, we are usually asked to submit our lists/votes prior to Christmas Day. In turn, and to help compile a list of candidates for possible nominations in the over-saturated award show circuit, the studios make sure we see every possible contender throughout the year, with the majority of them hitting theaters over the next two months.

Granted, a few slip through the cracks (foreign language, short films); and when studios choose not to screen films throughout the year – because they usually will not be in the discussion – it’s impossible to see everything (though I still drag my ass out of bed on Friday mornings and head to the theater all while hounding the smaller distributors to get screeners. Yeah, I paid to see Skyline). I’ll admit it though; I didn’t see Sucker Punch this year (decided to interview Burt Reynolds instead) or I Don’t Know How She Does It (decided that Las Vegas was a better way to spend my time). Yet the products the studios do offer up should be seen barring unforeseen circumstances (in the hospital, death in the family, Montezuma’s revenge, vacation, grumpy editors don’t want to run it, studios slyly double-booking screenings, etc.).

Too many times over these last few years, I’ve read or have heard full-time critics, who are members of these stated associations, willfully skip films based on reasons such as, “no interest,” “it’s criticproof,” or my personal favorite, “it’s just more of the same crap.” Clearly, they are missing the point.

You are a movie reviewer. You must see everything within reach to validate your opinion that you project onto your readers! Especially since we are asked to vote on the year’s content, whether its garbage or not. Was this past February’s The Eagle going to land on the award season radar? Highly doubtful. That said, go see it and learn why it will fail to be a part of these year-end chats.

At times, there is so much arrogance coming from the realm of critics regarding what they choose to screen, it makes Rick “The Model” Martel look humble (Google him).

Now will Scream 4 ever be in consideration for a major award show in January/February? Probably not; but you never know. Will a Jennifer Aniston rom-com ever receive a nomination for acting? Chances are slimmer than today’s pathetic reality stars passing up a shameless appearance at a local club; but hey… you never know.

It all boils down the basic principle of voting for a candidate. If a person has any common sense, or integrity for that matter, they’ll want to hear all the candidates out to see who has the goods and who doesn’t. Same goes for films. If you don’t see everything that is offered up (not just “For Your Consideration”), then how in the bloody hell can you make an informed decision on what stands out in a given year? This gig (journalism) does not reflect the same work-ethic as say a doctor or a lawyer; where they’re allowed to focus on just a certain sector of their respective practice (they study all areas anyway). Sports writers don’t just analyze the team’s offense and disregard the defense right?

This is the life you chose people of my ilk. We chose to be slaves to a screen and suffer through Jim Carrey playing with penguins, Uwe Boll directing…and Rob Zombie’s Halloween II vision. We chose to splurge on Digiorno’s Pizza for dinner, drive our same cars from college into the ground, and only update our wardrobe every three years. Step-Up (how many of you skipped that screening by the way) and embrace it! Or as comedian Chris Rock once posed, “Commitment? Or n___ p____?” (a.k.a profession).

If this is your career; your passion; and what you want to do for the next 75 years (most modern-day journalists will not be filing for early retirement), then do it right. It’s not so much about the award contenders as it is about being loyal to the craft. Just because studios roll out the same fundamental horror and/or romantic-comedy formula 9 times in a row doesn’t mean #10 might not be different? And it’s not like you have to write about every movie you see (although if your editor allows it, then pound it out), but at least see the sucker; especially when we never have to pay for any of them the majority of the time!

So to close this out, it’s quite simple; if you’re going to pose as a film expert and attempt to guide your readers, listeners, viewers, etc., to worthwhile entertainment, much like life, you must make a worthy effort to experience everything to justify those said “expert opinions.”

This doesn’t reflect every full-time critic out there by any means, which have the access to the flicks; but there’s enough floating around to warrant this motivated rant. And just because they don’t write the volume as others do, does not suggest they are subpar writers; they’re just not complete movie critics/reviews/journalists (this line may lead to my Facebook friends declining just a bit).

And now to close my blood shot eyes and prepare for the backlash. And hopefully do not polarize myself a la Jerry Maguire. But like my movie review approach, I’m game for anything and everything.

Respectfully Yours,

Joe Belcastro
Member of the Florida Film Critics Circle

jerry maguire tom cruise The Things SOME Movie Critics Say & Dont Do: Thoughts of a Movie Journalist (2011)

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