Reviewing the Reviewers–Is Stuttering Really That Easy?

My wife just read a review of “The King’s Speech” that said of Colin Firth’s performance, “He was good, but anyone can play a stutterer.”

I’m not going to beat the drum in support of the movie (which is excellent) or the actor (who’s done some crap movies, but gives his best performance here since “Valmont”). The latter has a healthy career and all the money he needs without my help, while the former has more Oscar © nominations than “Gone With the Wind”. It even has one for “Best Key Grip”, and even movie insiders don’t know what they do.

No, the subject here is bad reviewers. In the interests of full disclosure I have had many of my plays reviewed, and occasionally have gotten a bad one. But for the most part I have been given a fair shake by reviewers and sometimes have gotten more than I deserve. So I have no ax to grind there. And I’m not self-centered enough to think that just because I like or dislike a movie all the reviewers must agree with me. I realized when I saw the “shipwreck” that was “Titanic” (could Leo have even TRIED to speak in an appropriate period accent, and how many times was yelling “Rose!” actually in the script?) that my tastes and popular culture’s were hopelessly disparate and forever after would be. I HATE that Celine Dion song that sold 800 million copies! See?

Here’s my wish: that anyone who has a published opinion about professional acting, writing, sports, music, cooking, politics, economics, sex, etc. be made to actually DO the thing that they are criticizing before they open their fat mouths. I want to see that reviewer in front of Helena Bonham Carter, a director, a crew and a rolling camera trying his best to stutter through his lines and then compare it to Mr. Firth. If Firth is better, the reviewer loses a fingernail.

All right, maybe that’s too harsh. After all, this reviewer must be eminently qualified to render his opinion, right? He has, what, a degree in film? He watched a lot of movies when he was a Blockbusters clerk? Oh, he’s the most able writer of complete sentences who will produce copy for $35 a pop, that makes sense. Oh, and he always wished he could act himself, and resents the time spent on this lousy job that keeps him from completing his unfinished novel. If you can’t do, teach. If you can’t teach, teach gym. If you’re not athletic enough to teach gym, become a sports columnist!

The truth is, opinions are now everywhere like flies on doo doo. We are in the golden age of democratic B.S.ing. Not only can we have any half-baked notion we choose, we’ve eliminated the need for a filter and can now see our unhomogenized (but fertilized!) words in print immediately after thinking them. Qualifications? You see that keyboard in front of you? Start typing! Create a user name and you’re off! You can even start your own blog and fill it with all your thoughts about lousy reviewers.

OK, bad example.

Actually, maybe a good example. If I was writing garbage I just pulled out of my butt nobody would be reading. Well, maybe you would give it a shot because you know me or because Mary El asked you to, but you wouldn’t keep reading unless it was either true or somewhat amusing. If you’re still reading way down here, I’ve proved my point—if not, hey, I didn’t do my job.  Bad reviewers are held to the same standard, so they have to say something that will keep you reading, even if it is stupid and inane and they are unqualified to say it. Celine Dion is the most overrated singer since Barbra Streisand! Like that.

Try to do this: when you’re reading something, whether it’s a news article, a blog, a board post, a Facebook post, a play, a novel, whatever—stop reading immediately when the author writes something trite or irretrievably stupid. You’ll be surprised how few times you actually get to the…hey, are you still there?

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    • Karen Mills
    • January 31st, 2011

    Vvvvvery ammmmmusing!

  1. Awwww, thanksssss Karrrren!

    • joelflowers
    • January 31st, 2011

    My question is: How many awards ceremonies do these people need? I’ve seen (or at least been aware of) three during recent weeks. Apparently, the money isn’t enough. Someone makes a decent movie and has to pat himself on the back multiple times, thanking producers, family, and even God. Give me a break…

  2. I think God has a special place for actors. How else to explain Keanu Reeves’ career?

    • joelflowers
    • January 31st, 2011

    Yeah, I guess they do well to thank Him.

  3. Thoughtful but still entertaining breakdown of the process of becoming qualified to write criticism. I don’t think you need have done any more than be a dedicated reader, and a writer with sufficient practice in evaluation of the kind of work under analysis. I completely agree that under (or un-) qualified opinion is rampant.

    You probably knew already, but for those who don’t the Key Grip is equivalent to the foreman of the crew of those who put the lights into position. Many lights use attachments that “grip” beams or stands, hence the lighting crew are called grips. The Key Grip is given orders by the DP (Director of Photography, i.e. Cinematographer), and under the Key Grip is an assistant called the Best Boy (who may be a girl). Grips also provide electrical cabling and hookups on a film set.

  4. I did look up Key Grip once out of curiosity, but had no idea what a Best Boy was until now. Theater and film are certainly different animals.

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