Friday, April 13, 2007

Critic bashing

Here's a recent e-mail about our critic. I get a lot of this sort of thing.

Mr. Epstein,
Why is it the Gazette's movie ratings/reviews are so consistently misleading? It is obvious to anyone with half a brain that the McClatchy-Tribune News Service is the pandering tool of the movie studios. When I need a laugh these days I share the Gazette's film "ratings" with friends and family around the country.

Two such blatantly lopsided reviews appear in today's GO section, Perfect Stranger and Pathfinder are both given a B-. To see what the majority of reviewers actually think of these movies check: and

I pity the poor souls who actually rely upon the Gazette's rating system to decide which movie to see. You do both your readers and yourself a disservice by continuing to publish these untruthful unpaid advertisements for inferior films.


I'm a little confused about your e-mail. You complain about the movie ratings/reviews being misleading and "lopsided."

I think what you mean is that Roger Moore's opinions about movies don't square with your own, and therefore, Moore must be in the pocket of the film industry. I can understand why an outsider might make such assumptions. After all, some critics are "quote whores." They get wined and dined and taken on trips by the studios in exchange for gushing quotes for movie ads. Roger is not one of these people. He works for the Orlando Sentinel, a reputable paper and would never take anything from the studios in exchange for positive reviews.

In fact, on the whole, Roger's reviews tend to be more negative than the Rotten Tomatoes or imdb averages.

But that's not really the point. I don't judge critics on how often I agree with them or how often their opinions are in line with what other critics are saying. In fact, I almost always disagree with my favorite critic, Tom Shales of the Washington Post. But I read him because he's fun to read, and, like the movie or hate the movie, he gives me insights about the film that other critics don't.

I've enjoyed Moore's reviews. I thought his reviews of "300," "Grindhouse" and "Pathfinder" were particularly well-written.

Still, we're planning to introduce our own critic in May: Brandon Fibbs, a former intern here who's now attending graduate school at NYU. You may find his opinions more in line with your own ... but, again, that's not the point.

Warren Epstein
Gazette A&E Editor

I love when people disagree with our critics ... but it always bugs me when they feel a critic's opinion is somehow "wrong." That's just crazy talk.


At 2:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

In my opinion, Roger Moore's reviews have always been more favorable toward "main stream" films. I hate it when you (the gazette) run Moore's reviews for independent films, because people trust the grade on the side of the review like they trust commandments in the bible. But they are not commandments written in stone, they are just someone's opinion and should be questioned as such.

I think the Gazette should implement and new grading system for reviews involving duck icons or a color system, to be printed on black and white pages only, therefore, making your readers actually read the review and allowing them to form their own opinion.

At 7:50 PM, Blogger LadyBronco said...

I have to completely disagree with mister anonymous.

I totally ignore whatever any critic says about a movie (sorry, Warren.)
I go to movies to have fun, and I can generally ignore semi-bad acting or a semi-weak storyline if I am enjoying myself despite those flaws.
Most of the folks I know feel the exact same way about critics in general.

I can usually count on enjoying a movie if the critics hate it.

At 4:22 PM, Blogger Warren Epstein said...

I apologize to that letter-writer. She was talking about the letter grades not being consistent. That's my fault. Roger gives his grade, but I often monkey with it to better fit the tone of the review.

At 7:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ladybronco: I was being very sarcastic in my comment. I agree that readers should ignore critics’ opinions and go out and enjoy films. I mean, isn't that what the majority of films are, an escape from reality. However, there is always an exception to every rule. In example, "Iraq in Fragments" is not an escape from reality but the prospective of others' reality.

However, critics do help weed out horrible films... like any film with Tom Green, or Godzilla (the new one).

At 8:29 PM, Blogger Brandon said...

Wow. I don't know which comments I find more hostile—the original letter or you guy's! :-) I do find it odd that you say you ignore the critics but still seem to always read them...

My philosophy has always been a simple one: critics are just like anyone in the audience any given night of the week. Sure, they may have seen a lot more movies than you and they may have some education in filmmaking and film theory, but still, when it comes right down to it, they are just as nuanced and opinionated as anyone else. They are not some sort of monolithic block that always agrees with each other—far from it.

My advice has always been, find a critic who best consistently reflects your opinion on past and current films and stick with them. Sure, you'll disagree from time to time, but it is great to have the sort of feedback that can validate your preconceptions and illuminate your blind spots.

I hope I can be that guy for you, but if not, it's a big Internet--go get 'em!


Post a Comment

<< Home