Friday, June 22, 2007

The Value of Bad Reviewers

Thank God for Manohla Dargis!

Here I was trying to decide whether I wanted to watch A Mighty Heart or not, and unable to make up my mind. After all, it's directed by Michael Winterbottom (good) but stars Angelina Jolie (bad). It's bound to be tragic and mournful (good) but in a sentimental, idealistic way (very bad). How to decide, how to decide?

And then Ms. Dargis comes out with a review praising the film and my decision is instantly made. Manohla Dargis liked it - therefore it must be avoided at all costs.

See how important bad reviewers are.


Alok said...

effectively fashioned, as jolting as it is polished, as well as a surprising, insistently political work of commercial art.

so many contradictions in a simple sentence :)

did you see the review in the new yorker. really tasteless. such a serious and painful subject and the whole review is filled with jokes about angelina jolie.

km said...


If I wanted to see yet another spouse-goes-missing-in-an-exotic-city story, I'll rent Polanski's "Frantic".

@Alok: The subject of the movie and the movie review are not related, no? I mean, just because Daniel Pearl was killed in such a brutal fashion doesn't mean the reviews of the film have to be sombre.

DoZ said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
DoZ said...

As bad as Ms. Dargis is, let's not forget that this is the publication that called Knocked Up "an instant classic"... Bummer that the Times is a daily, and reviews often come out ahead of the New Yorker (although not in this specific case). As always, Lane's review is better than the movie itself.

km said...

@doz: While Knocked Up is not a *bad* film at all, even I was surprised by that description. Either that, or the definition of "classic" has changed.

Alok said...

km: no, but the movie seemed to me a right occasion for remembrance and mourning of Daniel Pearl's death. Instead what we get is this endless and vulgar fascination with a celebrity who has highjacked the entire story for her own celebrity-hood. I have nothing against jokes and flippant wordplays, which is the halldmark of Anthony Lane's style, in this context it just seemed wrong.

Szerelem said... don't like Angelina Jolie? I thought it went without saying that all men like her?
(Oh well, her acting skills are a completely different topic I guess. Did you see Alexander btw? Gosh was she awful in that.)

Falstaff said...

alok: I have to say I didn't mind the New Yorker review that much. My only trouble with it was that some of the jokes were very lame. I'm not a big believer in the whole 'bad taste' thing, and I tend to agree with km on the seriousness of the topic not requiring a sombre review. Also, to be fair, once he gets the Angelina jokes out of his system, he does actually give us a fairly considered review of the film. I guess I would have been more disquieted if he'd made jokes about Daniel Pearl - even I think that would be going too far - but making jokes about Ms. Jolie is okay with me.

Also, I have to say that my problem with Ms. Dargis is less the quality of her writing, which isn't necessarily worse than a lot of other critics, but the fact that her taste in movies and mine simply do not match. Every time I've watched a movie she's praised to high heaven (Munich springs to mind) I've HATED it. Which is why I've learned to stay away from movies she likes. Of course, the contradictions you point to means that figuring out whether she liked the movie or not usually means reading the entire review some four times, but that's a minor cost for knowing what films to avoid

km: Ah, good idea.

DoZ: Ya, I know. MR and I have a theory about that - we suspect that every six months the critics all get together and decide to praise a movie just to sucker people into watching it. It's their way of taking revenge against the world at large.

szerelem: Nah, she's not my type. Too bloated. Too obvious. Too overexposed.

Plus, it's not necessarily about how attractive I find her. It's about what expectations I have of a movie she's acting in. And unfair as it may be to judge based on that, her acting record so far does NOT inspire confidence.