Monday, August 14, 2006

an idiot savant's guide to: film criticism

so, i am totally an important film critic. i write for a college newspaper's film and arts section. i even edit it! (read:I make sure grammar is basically right before I down a fifth of whiskey and start screaming "penis flower" around the office. Then I normally go home because I'll run out of beer, or our e-i-c will realize that i'm mixing some 8-month old red wine that's turned bad into my pepsi. I am so productive.)
and i fucking hated "Rushmore." Max Fischer isn't a hero, or even some sort of anti-hero designed to show you how to get what you want in life. He's a coniving, evil son of a bitch writer who uses those around him to further his own goals. He wants to push limits and test buttons just to get a rise out of people. In general, he's a stalwart son of a bitch.

So, for those reasons, he's the best concept ever of a film critic. Let's go down the rabbit hole.

The Idiot Savant's Guide to Film Criticism and not killing yourself

part 1: hm, i sure do write that 'not killing yourself' thing a lot. I wonder...oh, wait, right. film criticism. yeah, that'll do it.

part 2: Normally, a publicist will send out an e-mail or a letter to you or your publication concerning a new film. It includes a brief synopsis, screening times and contact information for you to give in order to RSVP.
part 2a: Sometimes, in the case of more indie films, you'll even have a DVD/VHS screener sent to you. In the case of really indie movies, you'll have the director/producer send you the film!
part 2b: Most of the time, if you're a college publication, you tend not to get bigger movies. In fact, I can proudly say tha--wait a second, I lied! Turns out we got invited to "Talladega Nights" and "Accepted." And I opened the invitations two weeks too late. So, I suck. Moving on. Oh, and we got send an electronic press kit (or EPK, if you want to sound like a douche) for Stick It. That has been nothing but fucking hilarious and now everyone has a background from the movie as their desktop. well, they did.
part 2c: Also, be socialble with your PR reps. Granted, they don't remember you but it never hurts to be nice.
part 2d: Seriously, these people get yelled at and have critics giving them shit all day. You should be really nice to them. I mean, I'd fucking buy them drinks and candies and chocolates...but I'm not that rich or famous. I mean, I'd aspire to be "Martin Sargent" level of Interweb famous. (that would be the most awesome level, because it'd mean I could hang out with dudes that know kung fu and pray to the whiskey god for whiskey rain. new york rain only tastes like crap filtered through shit, with a touch of lychee nut for flavor.)

part 2d: I am never sociable. I also masturbate to lure Domo-Kun out of hiding so I can kill both him and the kitten.
part 2e: That was a joke.

part 2f: kind of.

part 2g: but seriously, though. those EPK discs? you can glue them all together and make a disco ball. not that we have. we're just's a very inventive way to use them for something other than work. especially if you're waiting for a story to be put through copy.

part 3: attend screening, read press release. Do keep those releases handy as they drop such bits of knowledge as who the gaffers are, what music video the 2nd unit A.D. worked on and what production of Shakespeare in the Park the hot dog vendor did in that scene when Famous Male Actor walks by with Famous Female Actress/Love Interest.
part 3a: BANTER! Yes, film critics enjoy banter. They discuss everything from what new film they've seen to what films are going to tank to what bastards some production companies can be. Best of all, sometimes you'll get to hear them bitch about better-known, well established writers. There's nothing quite like hearing, "A.O. Scott is a pretentious..." coming from a random dude who goes on to discuss the intracicies of Ben Kingsley's performance in "Bloodrayne" and how he saved the movie.
part 3a: Uh, for the record, I haven't seen Bloodrayne. I'll watch it on Sci Fi in a few months, I reckon.
part 3b: Also, bring a book. Shit can be backlogged hella long and nothing passes the time better than a good book, crossword puzzle or game of Mario Kart.


part 5: Case in point: at the recent screening of "Clerks II" (that i still wish would be 'Passion of the Clerks'), Good Morning America film critic Joel Siegel ran out screaming during a particular scene involving a donkey and a woman. (Listen to Kevin Smith, Opie and even Anthony ask Joel Siegel why he did what he did here.) and Siegel claims it was because he was offended.

now. to rant. as opposed to what most blogs do, which is bitch.

I am in the camp that you have no right to say something even remotely negative about an artistic endeavor unless you sit through it. (This, of course, does not apply to "Bloodrayne," "Passion of the Christ" and most films made by the Internet's personal bitch, Dr. Uwe Boll.)At the same time, there's Eric Snider's rather excellent story of I was a Junket Whore and his follow-up, where he finds that Tim Nasson of pretty much lied about some quotes at the Seattle junket. As a note, WAM notes that the feature is compiled from over the last year. And that's fine. But Snider shows that quotes from the junket are used and completely rewritten to serve the writer (but as I'd love to hear the original tape just to prove that's right. Or Nasson explaining the story further.)

Entertainment journalism sucks. Music writing sucks. Theater writing sucks. It's 75 percent kissing ass with 15 percent venting all those frustrations in a type-medium. Most people are cool. Most writers are as nice as writers can be (...ain't saying much, but still.) However, a good critic mixes equal parts journalistic integrity of taking an assignment and then they add their own critical input. Sometimes, this means a writer is biased toward certain films (...seriously, I'd rather watch a film about ninjas over the latest flick from Croatia) but if you go to review it, you do your damndest. I for one wasn't a fan of Agnes and His Brothers but I grew to like it over the next few days. (Yeah, and "German Sex Comedy" isn't how I would market that particular film, either. "German Drama with Darkly ironic overtones and will most likely ruin your afternoon if you thought this was a comedy" is more fitting, but too long. There is a bitchin' cover of "Happy Together" in it though.)

anyway, where was I? film critics must accept great responsibility with their slight power? junket journalism must be controlled for it is a necessary evil? i really fucking like that one screening room on broadway because it's fucking sweet and has a water cooler?

hell yeah.


part 6: Go home and write your review. Space it out. Synopsis, Intro, Characters, what was good, what wasn't. It's weird to see that people don't comprehend structure for a while. Shit, when I first started my first reviews were like a point-by-point presentation that was in six different languages. In fact, my first editor added what I have come to think is the best line ever ("didn't completely suck king kong donkey balls") into a review i wrote. Oddly, I was reading some of his stuff earlier when I was at the office and remembered him. I think that all half-assed writers think alike when they start drinking in manhattan. He had his donkey balls, I have my penis flower. brilliance. suck on that funny-haired man from GMA...joel siegel mor, clearly not drinking here.

part 7:submit review to editor. yell about your references to stuff you read in the Onion, YTMND and other obscure references.

part 8: see it in print. rejoyce.

part 9: repeat.

part 10: fight your writers for the plumb movie screenings.

yes, following that guide, you too can be an expert film reviewer/interviewer/editor like I am...yep. "expert." i mean, you'll be just as good as some dude with a website. Or something. I mean, where am I? Christ, i got lost on the interwebs again. I don't know what the heck is going on here anymore. I just have a copy of "Happy Hollows" and some $20 sippin' whiskey. and i'm off to watch more naruto on youtube.


Anonymous Martin Sargent said...

You don't want this...

12:31 AM  

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