A look back at the year in film review blurbs
THE INTERNET AGE is cutting into newspaper biz, which is troubling on at least two levels.One, due to cutbacks, a lot of film critics are being phased out. Two, there are few joys in life as intense as thumbing through the entertainment section of a print newspaper and reading critics blurbs in ads for the movies. Which brings us to our annual awards presentation. Ever since we began this salute back in the 1990s, each column inspires at least one critic to express horror at being included. The wounded reviewers feel this roundup is only for quote whores. If that’s the perception, I have failed. This is intended as a tribute to the whole phenomenon of quote ads. FOR EXAMPLE, I love an enthusiastic critic. Richard Roeper of “Ebert & Roeper” saw “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” and said, “One of the funniest movies of the decade. I want to get down on my knees and declare my undying love for this movie … An instant classic. I laughed out loud 20 times… I don’t think I can oversell this, I loved it. One of the funniest damn movies I’ve ever seen.” Actually, I think he can oversell it. But I also get fascinated with the bravery of reviewers. Jim Ferguson of ABC-TV hailed “Speed Racer” as “One of the most exhilarating movies you’ll ever see” and “The Love Guru” as “Hilarious!” Am I mocking him? No. Hey, I liked “The Sheltering Sky,” so I’m in no position to question anyone’s taste. Peter Travers of Rolling Stone described “Pineapple Express” thusly: “This is like if ‘Superbad’ met ‘Midnight Run’ and they had a baby, and then ‘Pulp Fiction’ and ‘True Romance’ met ‘Freaks and Geeks’ and ‘Undeclared’ and they had a baby, and by some miracle those babies met — this would be the funny movie they birthed.” All right, I admit that one made me a little dizzy, but it’s pretty great. Travers was quoted in seven ads in the Oct. 5 L.A. Times Calendar section, while Pete Hammond of Hollywood.com was quoted in six. In those cases, it’s not the specific quote that draws attention, it’s the sheer volume that stirs appreciation. There are quotes that make sense only if you’ve seen the movie. Such as David D’Arcy of Screen Intl. for “Flash of Genius”: “You’ll never see your windshield wipers the same way again.” In this case, it’s not so much the quote, as the studio marketers’ conviction that, yes, a new perspective on windshield wipers is an irresistible lure for audiences. CLEARLY, I love critics. But even after all these years, I get confused. After all, ads over the past year have quoted folks who … well, who frankly are not critics. That list includes Rush Limbaugh, who in ads for the Ben Stein docu “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed,” enthused, “It is powerful. It is fabulous.” And Gloria Steinem thought “Hounddog” was an “important, unforgettable film.” The John Cusack starrer “War, Inc.” had praise from Gore Vidal, Bill Maher, Arianna Huffington, Diablo Cody, Sarah Silverman and Tim Robbins. All noteworthy people. But critics? I think not. And I am fascinated with the time perspective of reviewers. Mark S. Allen, CBS/CW Television Group, said of “Soul Men,” “perhaps the best buddy picture EVER!” Nick Digilio, WGN Radio Chicago, said of “George A. Romero’s Diary of the Dead,” “A masterpiece. It’s only February, but I bet I don’t see a better film in 2008.” I hope he did, though. Also in February, a quote popped up from Norm Wilner of Metro Toronto for that 2007 Daniel Day-Lewis film: “I really only have two words to say about Paul Thomas Anderson’s ‘There Will Be Blood’: ‘God’ and ‘damn.’ ” And so, dear Mr. Wilner, and all of you critics cited here, we have only two words to say: “Thank” and “you.” To you reviewers, and to our readers, happy holidays.