Special Report By Casey McCabe
Are there any bad movies out there? Let's assume - for some perverse reason - that you were shopping for one. And to be perfectly random about it, I'll just pick up today's paper and flip to the movie section. We have our choices of "a flat-out masterpiece" or "the most wonderful and romantic movie of the year" or "one of the best movies of the year" or "a beguiling romance" or "a hilarious comedy, sexy and ingenious" or "an ideal movie for the entire family" or a film hailed simply as "Genius." There is a grand total of one motion picture without an effusive blurb from critics..."Superstar"....and I heard it was actually much better than might be expected.
But then, expectation management is not what the people who put blurbs in movie ads are concerned about. They really need you to drop the 8 bucks to find out if you agree with Sandie Newton of the CBS affiliate in Fort Worth, Texas that "Drive Me Crazy" indeed "Rocks!"
I'm not positive, but I seem to remember a time when the critic blurb was used sparingly. I'm not positive, but I wouldn't be surprised if a critic who pens "the disregard this film shows for its audience is stunning” wouldn't wake up the next day to find himself endorsing that very film as simply "Stunning." I have no proof, but rumors are rampant that some film critics happily trade superlatives for special favors from desperate studios. But one thing is abundantly clear: the words "brilliant" "triumph" "provocative" "indelible" and "sizzling" now have absolutely zero meaning in the English language.
Then again, maybe I'm being hypocritical. All those rides to exotic film junkets in Movie Magazine International's private Gulfstream. Those late night phone calls from Michelle Pfeiffer that yes, perhaps unwittingly, got me to soften a review. Maybe it's self-serving arrogance that makes me want to believe film goers afford critics much credence in the first place. Since we know it is statistically impossible to have more than one "feelgood movie of the year" we're all pretty much in on the scam.
But the totalitarian rule of the critic blurb has had an unintentionally useful side-effect for me as a movie-goer. I hate to single out any of my reviewing brethren, as they may be fine, decent people and not shameless publicity shills. So I'll call out two of them. Jeff Craig of Sixty Second Preview and Ron Brewington of American Urban Radio. These guys have apparently never seen a film that was less than wonderful. And not surprisingly, they can be found everywhere in the film publicity machine. Which is handy, since no one seems to know where or what Sixty Second Preview is. But for me, they've become the most influential critics in the business. Because every time I see one of their lone voices hailing the latest stunning triumph, it is a clear admission from the studio marketing department that the film howls like the neutered dog it is.
For the always sizzling and provocative Movie Magazine International, I'm Casey McCabe.
© 1999 - Casey McCabe - Air Date: 10/13/99
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