It's been far too long since MGM was on the defensive over Valkyrie, the campaign for which uncomfortably started in its own office lobby but has since found decent enough traction in theaters and on TV. So! Right on cue, and apparently just for old time's sake, a high-ranking New York film critic has found something new to whine about.
Stateside critics have finally seen Australia, and the reviews are in! Kind of, anyway; we've mostly been sorting through first impressions, rough blog sketches and less-then-soaring anti-summaries ("Some kind of lethargy virus had taken over my system," wrote Jeffrey Wells), but we think we have enough to go on to figure out where Baz Luhrmann's epic may sit among this fall's most anticipated releases. Your one-stop cheat sheet follows the jump.· It's... OK! Todd McCarthy has the most substantial review so far in Variety, starting off:
Twilight is likely critic-proof, but that's not stopping Summit Entertainment from enforcing a punishable-by-death review embargo until 12:01 a.m. on Friday. Which would explain why today — two days after its chaotic premiere, the morning after the first press screenings, and in a period of seemingly open rebellion against those oppressive studio strictures — not a single official review has yet emerged anywhere online. (UPDATE: In the last hour, embargo-exempt Variety begged to differ!) Unless you count a couple of critics who've backdoored their ways into saying it's pretty much the hormonal goth trifle you'd imagine.Michael Phillips first teased readers with his "non-review" late Tuesday, which seemed review-y enough to us:
Always the type of man to make the best of a bad situation, Roger Ebert has now spun his recent Reviewgate scandal into a deeply constructive thesis on movie critic ethics. And by "deeply constructive," we mean "a point-by-point indictment of Ben Lyons" — that proven archenemy of taste, restraint and decorum in an ever-thinning field of trained professionals.Nearly all of Ebert's rules seem like common sense to our minds — "Provide a sense of the experience," "No freebies," "A trailer is not a movie" (though the "Avoid trailers" rule seems a little dire for even our purist sensibilities) — but one in particular stands out toward the end:
Cosmopolitan Times restaurant critic Frank Bruni: "Taste is personal. For instance, I love the texture and consistency of lamb hearts, and for some reason the idea that they’re hearts doesn't bother me emotionally or intellectually — doesn't give me any pause. I love the custard-like richness of brain, though I admit that for some reason I have to make a bit of an effort to edit out my consciousness (and I’m not making a cute joke here) that it’s brain I’m eating." Fine, just put down the knife and we'll bring you whatever you want. [NYT]
We said it once, but it bears repeating in streets and valleys far and wide: It's opening day for Beverly Hills Chihuahua! ZOMG, right? At least we thought so, but despite our all-consuming anticipation and lobbying on its behalf, Defamer's fevered attempts to break down the Disney wall for an early viewing were met with repeated, unappreciative radio silence. And because the world's first review — a rave, natch — seemed suspiciously exempt from the studio's embargo, it's only now that we can reliably study the critical spectrum. And just as we thought: It's almost half-good! Or, more realistically, the reviews catalogued at Rotten Tomatoes are just about split, but that can't deter our optimism — even the slags after the jump have us clamoring for quitting time:
Manny Farber, 1917-2008: One of the liveliest, stroppiest and most influential film critics the medium ever knew, Manny Farber died in his sleep Sunday night at the age of 91. Before giving up criticism and teaching for an equally (if not more) accomplished painting career, Farber elevated popular conceptions of B-movies and other forsaken cinema in seminal contributions to The New Republic, Time, The Nation and ArtForum. His prose read almost three-dimensionally — decades' worth of proper nouns and principles, infinitely folding over and burrowing into each other, mimicking those subjects chronicled in his 1962 essay "Termite Art vs. White Elephant Art" (and later gathered in his classic anthology Negative Space): "Good work usually arises when the creators... seem to have no ambitions towards gilt culture but are involved in a kind of squandering-beaverish endeavor that isn’t anywhere or anything... It goes always forward eating its own boundaries, and, likely as not, leaves nothing in its path other than the signs of eager, industrious, unkempt activity." Ray Pride's lovingly assembled obit is a must-read today, as is Franklin Bruno's own Farber study from 2004 — no thumbs up or down around here, we're afraid, and no stars, Tomatometers or numbers. Just words, virtually all worth giving thanks for. [GreenCine Daily]
The backlash to the Dark Knight backlash isn't exactly news — not after two weeks and almost $400 million dollars silencing even the most vehement of the film's critics. But today we direct our attention to the more disturbing phenomenon of physical threats against some of those same critics, a few of whose lives have even been targeted by rogue fanboys with a taste for reviewer blood. We hardly believed it ourselves until an unsettling taxonomy of freaks coming after reviewers Jürgen Fauth and Keith Uhlich showcased the worst of it:
What is a loud, developmentally disabled summer action blockbuster to do when even Hollywood's biggest quote-whore critic won't endorse it? That's the dilemma facing The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, which, at this time Thursday, was packing a 0% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. What a difference a day makes, however, with a glint of support finally peeking through the mounting opprobrium. In the spirit of fairness and equal time, after the jump we salute some of the independent thinkers and/or drunks brave enough to stand up for Rob Cohen's crapterpiece — even including a Pulitzer Prize winner!
Unless it results in an extra getting thrown off the set of Transformers 2 for lunch crimes against Michael Bay, we're not generally in the blog-comment monitoring business. But some flame wars are so spectacular (and some news days so implacably slow) they defy ignoring — especially when obvious intoxication is involved, and especially when the offending party himself is the only one around to catch fire.
Ramiro Burr, a longtime music writer and columnist at the San Antonio Express-News, has resigned from the paper in the face of "allegations that he hired a ghost writer to produce more than 100 stories and columns since 2001." Wow. Didn't it used to be that only journalism's upper crust muckety-mucks hired ghost writers for their columns, like when Mort Zuckerman got Harry "Mr. Tina Brown" Evans to work on his columns in US News & World Report? That sort of thing is expected amongst the elites. But the Latin music critic in San Antonio? Where's the amusing elitism in that? The ghost writer came forward only looking for bylines, and gave a binder full of proof of how he would crank out columns and then pass them on to Burr. And Burr's half-ass non-denial on his own blog makes him sound pretty guilty:
Frank Bruni is pissed! The New York Times' omnipotent restaurant critic (pictured) today reviews a new Tribeca restaurant named Ago, which is owned in part by actor Robert De Niro. And Bruni's experience there is proof for the entire restaurant business that no matter how popular, expensive, or exclusive your place is, it is still quite possible to receive a terrible review if you act like an idiot. Please: Learn some lessons from Ago's fiasco. Here is what not to do when your restaurant is being reviewed:
Music superstar R. Kelly's criminal trial for taping himself having sex with an underage girl has been so bland and subdued, we've just been waiting for a newsworthy reason to cover it. And now we have it: there's a legal issue in the case that affects a member of the media in some way! Why, this is almost as exciting as a music superstar's kinky child sex tape scandal!
So Tina Fey's new movie Baby Mama comes out today! It's a very important movie because it will once and for all decide if she is the funniest woman in America or absolutely no one. Yes indeed. And in doing so, Tina Fey will finally determine for all of us if, in fact, women are funny. You see this isn't just a comedy with a woman in it. It's a comedy starring a woman! A woman with her own TV show! And her costar is a woman too! Not since Gloria Steinem wrote and directed the Cameron Diaz vehicle The Sweetest Thing has there been such an important comedy film for and about womyn (that was written and directed by a man). This is the most important 96 minutes of Ms. Fey's career, but also in the history of our gender war. It's important that we go into the theater informed, so we may properly participate in this historic debate. After the jump find a small digest of the film's reviews.
Since film critics' heads began rolling en masse at newspapers and magazines a little over a month ago, the debate over the job's future has ignited deep thoughts from New York to Los Angeles. The discussion turned especially profound this week as a selection of esteemed critics moved on to slapping anyone and anything that would stand still long enough to absorb their blows. Follow the jump for our favorite sallies of critic-on-critic violence:
The heavily-reported decline of the American movie critic hasn't touched New York Times first-stringer A.O. Scott, who has gradually outgrown and stabilized our wildly fluctuating regard for him over the years. After a long period of wondering where he might have found all this new maturity and gravitas, a perceptive Scott reader points out today that like Pauline Kael, Andrew Sarris, James Agee and all the greats who preceded him, he simply stole from his kids: