The best of the best, and the rest

FOR 15 YEARS NOW, we have been writing a year-end celebration of critics quotes — but, mysteriously, some folks are under the mistaken impression that we’re mocking these blurbmeisters.

Why would they think that?

Every day, newspapers carry film ads that include critics’ one-liners intended to entice the reader to drop everything and skedaddle to the nearest multiplex. Given the many other entertainments competing for consumers’ dollars, they are offering a valuable service to the film industry, so we salute them.

Who cares if these are folks you don’t know, representing publications, websites and organizations you’ve never heard of? These critics offer a multitude of reasons we should embrace them — so we herewith present the honor roll for 2007.

  • Critics can put a film into a historical perspective.

Shawn Edwards of Fox TV praised “No Reservations,” “Resident Evil: Extinction,” “Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium” and “I Am Legend” as, respectively, “The most delightful movie of the year!” (July 22), “The most exciting movie of the year!” (Sept. 28) “The most magical movie of the year!” (Nov. 11) and “The best movie of the year!” (Dec. 15).

  • Critics warn viewers about the medical dangers of a film.

Peter Travers, Rolling Stone, on “300″: “Prepare your eyes for popping — they just might fly out of their sockets!”

Gene Shalit, “The Today Show,” “The Simpsons Movie”: “You’ll laugh till you can’t breathe.”

David Edelstein, New York Magazine, “The Good Night”: “The jokes hit you from behind and underneath while the bleakness smacks you in the face.”

  • Critics can be poets.

Wesley Morris, The Boston Globe, described “Romance & Cigarettes” as “A karaoke fantasia possible only if you’ve smoked Fellini’s ashes.”

Gene Shalit, “Today,” “Death at a Funeral”: “It reminds us that the first three letters of ‘Funeral’ are F-U-N.”

And Mike Gianakos from High Times wrote of “Air Guitar Nation,” “Pack your spandex, stuff your crotch and press on your temporary tattoos, we’re going to Finland!”

(Interesting that studio marketing folks were convinced that this was the quote that would lure people into the theaters…)

  • Critics see things that ordinary filmgoers might miss.

Leonard Maltin, “ET” “Love in the Time of Cholera” — “This is the best movie I’ve seen all year.”

Carrie Keagen, NGTV.com, “Hot Rod,” “The funniest film I’ve seen in years!”

Scott Mantz, “Access Hollywood,” “30 Days of Night,” “The most terrifying vampire movie in years, if not decades!”

Ben Lyons, E! “I Am Legend,” “One of the greatest movies ever made.”

  • Critics have a way with words.

Lou Lumenick, N.Y. Post, on “There Will Be Blood” — “The best movie performance of the century.”

(It’s certainly snappier than saying “The best movie performance of the past eight years.”)

  • Blurb experts can find endless ways to express themselves.

Richard Roeper, the multi-talent of the Chicago Sun-Times and “Ebert & Roeper,” described “300″ as “a nonstop thrill ride,” while “The Mist” is “A thrill ride” and “Beowulf” is “A lusty 3-D thrill ride!”

  • Critics work as a conscience to the studios.

Though the Hollywood majors have claimed that filmgoing is a year-round business, the blurb bunch were quick to remind them that no worthwhile films opened in the first six weeks of 2007.

Suddenly, on Feb. 18, “Amazing Grace” was “The first must-see film of the year!” while “Bridge to Terabithia” was “The first must-see movie of 2007!” and “Starter for 10″ was “The first must-see movie of 2007!” (according to, respectively, Paul Fischer of Dark Horizons, Susan Granger of SSG Syndicate and Scott Mantz of “Access Hollywood”).

BY THIS TIME, you may suspect that perhaps I am mocking blurbmeisters. Get that thought right out of your head!

For example, I have known Pete Hammond for years and I think he is the nicest guy in the world (though I haven’t met Nelson Mandela or Deepak Chopra, so I might change my mind.)

Pete (who just this week exited his post as reviewer for Maxim) pretty much likes every film he sees, and that enthusiasm carries over into blurbs. He enjoyed “The Heartbreak Kid” (“This ‘Kid’ hits the comic bullseye!”), “Evan Almighty” (“Every bit as much fun as it’s meant to be — times two!”), “Reign Over Me” (“One of the most powerful films in years”) and “The Water Horse” (“The most wondrous film of its kind since ‘E.T.’ “)

Would I mock him? Of course not. Nor would I mock any of these other folk. No, ya gotta love these people. Congrats to this year’s blurbmeister winners. Long may you flourish!

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