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Critics’ love-hate affair with each other

BFCA Critics' Choice Movie Awards

Siskel and Ebert proved that just two passionate, highly opinionated critics can get quite heated when it comes to their cinematic likes and dislikes. Multiply that number by 130, and it’s some sort of miracle that the BFCA manages to arrive at any critical consensus about the year’s best films. Of course, that leaves plenty of room for intense disagreement between members who’ve either loudly championed films quickly dismissed by their colleagues, or happily trashed other efforts universally admired by their peers.

As broadcaster Jeanne Wolf of Jeanne Wolf’s Hollywood says, “It’s easy to feel out of touch when you love a film and people around you roll their eyes. ‘Warrior’ was one of the movies that most affected me this year. I told everyone who would listen about the two great performances of Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton as well as the rest of the cast. Nick Nolte! But ‘Warrior’ never took off. I heard (mostly from folks who hadn’t seen it) that the plot reminded them too much of ‘The Fighter.’ ‘Dirty Girl’ was another quirky fabulous film that just disappeared and I thought it was fresh and touchingly funny.”

But the much-praised “Page One: A Year Inside the New York Times” was “a huge disappointment” to Wolf. “Not a reporter at that paper I love and read every day would let a subject they were investigating get away with so little depth and revelation,” she states. “David Carr added the star power. He is a true character and a daring journalist. But here goes my credibility. Most people admired the movie, and make note — it’s nominated by the BFCA, my peers and colleagues, for documentary.”

Gayot.com’s Jenny Peters, who also writes for Variety, can’t understand the fuss over “Drive” and “Shame,” saying, “The development of Ryan Gosling’s careful, methodical character in the first half of the movie made absolutely no sense in the second of ‘Drive.’ As for ‘Shame,’ if I’m going to watch porn, I don’t want it to be depressing porn.” Conversely, she feels “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” was unfairly dismissed by many crix. “It got some attention, but I think it was really underrated. It’s a terrific film.”

Cleveland.com’s John Urbancich is surprised by the glowing reviews for “Young Adult.” “I thought it was awful and mean-spirited,” he says. “It was supposed to be a comedy, but there’s not much fun there. It just wasn’t entertaining.” He was also disappointed by “War Horse,” calling it, “a nice little kiddie movie with some great moments, but very inconsistent.” By contrast, he terms the largely ignored “Take Shelter,” “one of the year’s best, with a brilliant performance by Michael Shannon, and another one by Jessica Chastain who says more with her eyes than most actresses do with dialogue. I also loved the look of the film and the ending, which a lot of other critics hated.”

Patrick Stoner of WHYY TV Philadelphia is “very disappointed and surprised” that “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” failed to make the BFCA’s best picture nominee list. “I’d never seen the Swedish original or read the books, so I had no preconceptions going in, and I thought it was brilliant,” he says. “Rooney Mara was so charismatic, and should have been nominated.” Stoner is also “astounded by the tolerance” many of his colleagues have for “all this year’s comicbook films. They’re all so similar and follow the same formula each time — how can you possibly single one out? And yet critics manage to rave about them, as if they’re new and amazing.”

Maria Salas, WJAN TV Miami and Terra TV, says while she’s a big fan of Alexander Payne and George Clooney’s performance in “The Descendants,” the actual story was “disappointing, and I’m surprised everyone else is going crazy over it — maybe I need to take a second look.” Salas is also mystified that “The Skin I Live In” and “50/50” failed to generate more critical excitement. “I can’t believe Spain ignored ‘Skin’ for their Oscar foreign-language pick, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt gives one of the most amazing performances of the year, and should have gotten more recognition.”

KTLA’s Sam Rubin says he doesn’t “dispute the artistic merit of ‘The Tree of Life,’ but I … simply didn’t get it — at all. And while the performances in ‘Drive,’ especially Albert Brooks, are uniformly good, the movie was just way too violent for my own taste.”

Bill Diehl, ABC News Radio, New York, cites “My Week With Marilyn” as underappreciated by his peers. “The film itself did not get very good reviews but I loved it,” he says. “I think critics who didn’t like it did not see what a sweet, touching story this was. Yes, Michelle Williams was fabulous and made Marilyn come to life, but … the film stayed with me long after it was over. It was a magical trip back to another time when Marilyn Monroe was on the planet.”

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