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Film Review: Brick Lane

Confessions of a “Wall-E” Dissenter

BRIAN ORNDORF MUST DIE 

So I wrote a negative review of “Wall-E.” Did you happen to hear about it?

At this point, I’m thinking I could shoot a puppy in the face while urinating on the “White Album” and I still wouldn’t see the sort of vitriolic remarks I encountered this weekend. Maybe Rex Reed is swarmed by this level of anger on a daily basis, but outside of a few counter reviews here and there that kicked up dust (“Cloverfield,” “Juno”), this situation went nuclear in a hurry.

Because the internet is a faceless entity where anyone can lob grenades of hate from behind the safety of anonymity, I didn’t combat the malarkey coming in with my usual misguided Kevin Smith-like temperament. I stayed back, mouth agape, as hundreds of e-mails poured in, scores of messages were left on this page, and a few blogs lit up with calls for my professional execution. A few readers even took the time to send me threats of physical harm.

All this because I didn’t enjoy a Pixar movie.  

Of course, I should be flattered by this, right? With the film critic field jam-packed with mooks of every sort calling themselves a professional movie writer just because they have access to an e-mail account, I should be proud that one of my reviews broke through the formidable opinion white noise and became, for a short amount of time, the one to focus on.

Wall-E-pixar-1489

Forgive me if I lack joy, but I’m not sure anyone could’ve predicted the torrential rain of spineless babble that soaked me. This is the attention that I got, not the kind that I want. There’s a difference between stirring rich multiplex debate and being slapped around by a bunch of internet hoodlums suffering from severe capitalization deficiencies and uninspired screen name invention. You mean GTAIVroolz@aol.com thinks I’m “unkwualifyed” to be a critic?

Time to “kwit” I guess.

The worst part of all this nonsense is to see how much the readers misinterpreted the review, or just lifted a few key words to fuel their rage without evaluating the entire piece. It’s one thing to briefly scan through a critique of “Drillbit Taylor” and find the required opinion nutrition before moving on, but the “Wall-E” lovers spewed bile at first glance (or no glance at all), often misquoting me or bastardizing my ideas to suit their argument. That’s frustrating, and, without personal retort time allotted to me, the comments seemed to feed on each other, like an obscene game of telephone.

Another pet peeve, or a reveal of disturbing behavior, is how much readers are fixated on the “score” of a movie. As mentioned before, I’m willing to bet few actually read the review before they freaked out, only eyeballing the D+ before heating up the keyboard with hate. Or, even worse, simply spying a review that kept a Pixar film from a perfect 100% on Rotten Tomatoes: the ultimate barometer of critical consensus. RT zealots love their “Tomatometer,” and they will fall on their sword to protect certain movies from the inevitability of opinion. Some treat it with the same sweaty, shirtless fervor as gambling, which accounts for another reason my “Wall-E” review caused so many personal psychological meltdowns.

Anger  

In place of personally replying to every single comment, here’s a brief FAQ for the “Wall-E” review:

“Brian, you’re doing this for attention!”

Actually, no. “Wall-E” was released on 6/27, and my review was written the night of 6/23. At that time, I didn’t know the majority of critical responses would be positive. It was a review written like any other that week. If I wanted to acquire true spotlight whoredom, I would’ve slapped an “F” on the bugger and accused it of anti-patriotism and pedophilia. Then I would’ve been rolling in site hits and online publicity. To think I mapped out a negative review in haste just to go against the grain shows a disturbing lack of comprehension on how the critic game is played.

“Brian, you have bias toward Pixar!”

This is a tricky one to explain, since there are some who require film criticism to be an exact science. I hate to break it to the few of you: it’s not. It’s a vocation rooted in personal opinion, hopefully executed with some whimsy and experience.

Again, FILM CRITICISM IS PERSONAL OPINION. That can’t be emphasized enough. It’s writing we’re talking about here; I don’t place a film in a bubbling beaker and jot down the results while wearing a lab coat. It comes mostly from the heart, folks. 

My favorite critics always saddle up with opinions of past work, to better explore what’s presented in front of them. It typically leads to fascinating tangents. However, there are readers who cling to the idea that critics should be creaky robots who hold no prejudice, and that anything reviewed should be viewed with fresh eyes. That’s not me. That’s not most critics. I just hold the sincere opinion that Pixar is not a flawless storytelling machine (for the record, I love some of their movies), which prompts many readers to break out in hives. The studio has been romanticized to such an obscene point; they’re the island of creativity and moral righteousness in a sea of Hollywood garbage.

However, I stand by my “Wall-E” review. I think it emerges from an honest place of questioning, not instant predatory dismissal as many would like to believe to help them sleep at night. Again, this requires the reader to actually read the review and process contrary thought, and I’m certain few did that before setting their flamethrowers to “Brian O.”

It should be noted that a majority of the negative comments were tossed at me before the film even opened. Expectedly, the heat around me died down once audiences received their chance to, ya know, actually view the movie.    

Oddly enough, when I criticize Disney/Pixar in the “Wall-E” review, I’m called biased and unfair. Yet when I pulled the same stunt with Fox in my “Meet the Spartans” review, nobody said an unkind word. This leads me to the assumption that it’s not what I’m writing, just who I’m writing about. People love their Pixar.

“Brian, you’re so handsome!”

Well, I…

“Brian, you loved ‘Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull!’ It had CG monkeys and nuked fridges and rubber trees and aliens! How could you like CG monkeys and nuked fridges and rubber trees and aliens!”

I did. Lordy, I adored the new Indy Jones movie. I also left a lengthy love letter behind explaining my reasons, but, again, most who bring up the review just blindly work off the “A” grade and their own hipster cynicism, not the writing. I thought I explained myself pretty well on that critique. Disagree all you like, but to openly question how I enjoyed the film is to reveal yourself as a total boob. 

“Brian, your ‘Wall-E’ review was egotistical!”

Perhaps. It certainly wasn’t my intention. A writer gets riled up about a picture and it can be perceived a thousand different ways.  

Fist

“Brian, I’m a fellow film critic and I hate you!”

I won’t divulge names, but a handful of online film critics took time out of their long, hard day speculating on who will hold the hammer and provide the nails when the first set is constructed for “The Hobbit” to send me furious mash notes inked in complete insecurity. And here I thought critics had a brotherhood thing going on.

Note to self: we don’t.  

“Brian, you’re a lowly blogger with no credibility!”

Blogger is the new F-word online, and I never considered myself such a creature. While the “Wall-E” review was initially linked to this small, antediluvian website (the piece has since been sold off), I’ve been writing reviews for nearly 10 years now, syndicating across several sites, making me more of a film critic by definition, not a blogger. I still have so much to learn about the writing process, and that education is what keeps all of this interesting. A blogger is a dismissive term, but I’m sure that was the point.   

“Brian, how dare you tell me what to see!”

I won’t. I don't. See whatever you like. Only deploy me when you’re interested in digesting the entertaining swirl of various opinions. That’s how I view critics. Not as box office police, but as voices to play with.

Relax.

“Brian, you have a ‘Hate Mail’ section on your site! You must love this!”

Contrary to popular thought, I do not enjoy being sent ugly e-mails. That said, hilarious ugly e-mails are more than welcome here.

“Brian, you’re a dirty Jew!”

A stunning amount of anti-Semitism reared its ugly head in the comment section of this site. Funny, when one considers that I’m actually not Jewish. It’s more of an honorary title, and I’m quite proud of it.

People can be ugly when words fail them.

“Brian, I will ignore your reviews from now on!”

Don’t let the door hit ya where the good lord split ya. Trust me, if the “Wall-E” review confounded you, things are only going to get more complicated from here. I don’t want anyone to remain uncomfortable, unless they enjoy feeding off that emotion. Then stay tuned for the “American Teen” review!  

Anger2  

To witness how deep the rabbit hole went over the weekend, visit these sites:

The original review, with ensuing comments of horror.

The comments on Rotten Tomatoes.

VH1's "Best Week Ever" blogs about the review.

Boringperson.com has their say.

Pixar Planet sneaks in a dig.

Even my home turf at DVD Talk threw me under the bus.

Funny languages too!

Well, one nice guy.

And the great Christian Toto.

Oh, there’s so much ground left to cover on this subject, but it’s fruitless to keep pushing on. The review and its associated muck has already peaked, and now everyone is focused on “The Dark Knight.” Sweet Jesus, I better like that movie, or else I’m going to endure a second round of “ur ghey” responses that will choke my inbox.

Uh oh, I worshipped “Batman Begins.” I guess that makes me biased!

Remember…

Comments

Lady A

Well said. Don't kwit, who will no-life shut-ins direct their incoherent/pointless rage at?

Plus I can't wait to hear your thoughts on the new Mummy movie!

Rob Gonsalves

Movies are like sports to some people. And Pixar is like a sports team or sports figure you're not supposed to say anything bad about. That would explain the phenomenon of the flaming that appeared before the movie even came out.

There are certain geek-friendly movies that some geeks just cannot tolerate hearing anything negative about. Last summer it was "Transformers." This summer, "Iron Man," "WALL•E," and very likely "The Dark Knight." If any of us dares to suggest that "The Dark Knight" is anything less than a nonstop cheeseburger orgasm, we will get verbally lynched.

All the more reason to be honest. The most valuable speech is unpopular speech.

Paxton Hernandez

"Funny Languages"?! Screw you, Brian! Here's something funny for you: váyase al cuerno, cerdo imperialista.

Other than that, an excellent post.

Way to go.

Take it easy, man.

Josie

Well said. Your experience here makes me think there are two types of movie-review-readers: people who are looking for a critic's opinion of a movie, and people who are looking to have their own views reinforced. I'm amazed by how many people are threatened by a different perspective. It's scary!

William Goss

Well said, Brian, although if I were you, I wouldn't open any packages that have the name "A. Stanton" on 'em any time soon. ;)

joe2171

Hey Brian, quickly edit this comment off your site as well as the other ones you simply don't like or the ones ones which God forbid, keep going in the whole "you are a bad critic" vein. I guess we can add artistic cowardice as well as bad taste to your list of questionable personal attributes. You make a big deal in the above over inflated diatribe trying to defend yourself, especially the whole "People don't want to hear a dissenting opinion" thing, well hate to tell you when you delete opinions off you comment section because they say things you don't like...that's the same thing! Have fun guy.

Karen Douglas

Geeze, "joe2171," if Brian was removing bad comments from the "Wall-E" review, he sure did a shit job.

I think you need a brain transplant, tard.

joe2171

Actually karen, I'm talking about comments made from his posted response to the shit storm of comments...and I hate to say it but, "Geeze"? Try a little harder next time. Being criticized by the grammatically inept really just doesn't hurt that much, have a great life...oh wait, too late!

Mr. Bein'

Joe,

To be fair, you're making very little sense here.

Mr Ryan

Wow, sounds like joe2171 must be having trouble with his own life. What else would cause such deep feelings in response to some crappy comments being deleted from this site. If you want your opinion heard so badly, go and write a blog about it.

I bet your comments weren't even deleted, I'm sure you just forgot to hit 'Post'. How sad.

Mike

I find it really interesting that people would take the time to write an angry email but not take the time to actually read the review.

Maybe they were afraid that if they actually read it, it wouldn't be as easy for them to rail on you with insults.

Christian Toto

Check out the buzz on rottentomatoes.com re: the new Hellboy. Anyone who dares give the film a bad review is getting trashed. Funny ... because no one but critics have seen it yet.

I got slimed for my review of Wall*E, too -- really brought out the very worst the internet has to offer. Just brush the rubes aside.

Eri Dos Santos

hey, not sure if you read spanish but the piece at http://paxtonmovies.blogspot.com/2008/06/solo-ante-el-peligro-con-perdn-de.html was actually defending you.

Ariel

Just one particular point I want to make: film criticism is opinion, but not the other way around. Anyone can give their opinion. Not everyone can write a credible film review.

Instead of pissing and moaning about how the world hates you and making personal attacks that have nothing to do with anything, why don't you try spending your time becoming a better movie critic so maybe more people will take you seriously? Otherwise, get a different job, because this one isn't for you.

King Triton

Ariel, I would bone up on your commenting chops and basic reading skills before telling people they can't write.

Oh, and fuck you.

George

You're review would be just politically correct. I'm afraid regardless of who made the movie, if you consider the work of art itself it is a beautiful movie. Remember most renaissance art was painted by non-religious artists, and that doesn't mean they get d+ for that. Plus, you think too much into it, the story is more about love that humans sometimes seem to forget. Plus, if it was up to you it'd seem you would applaud Disney if they made movies PROMOTING consumerism. Who gets you? get a life

Cameron

"Remember most renaissance art was painted by non-religious artists, and that doesn't mean they get d+ for that."

Says who, George? YOU? Don't make me laugh.

How dare you tell me what I should think of Renaissance art, douchebag.

Look up opinion in the dictionary.

Perhaps it's you who should get a life.

Christine

Boy...it's hilarious to read some people still don't understand how a film review works.

Benmark

People take shit too seriously. Threats? Over a movie review? Damn, if only people put this much effort into their everyday life we'd have flying cars already.

Adam

I'm not going to threaten you, Brian. And I'm not going to pull your review to pieces while yelling "THE INTERNETZ HAETZ U GO DIE IN A HOLE YOU PEDOFIL!!!11!" Because that's immature. I am going to accept that there are some aspects of Wall.E you didn't like, even if they directly go against my opinion of what I consider a beautiful and marvelous film.

What I am going to do is criticise (I'm from New Zealand, this is how we spell outside of America) a couple of key points from your review.

"Here’s where I remind everyone this is a Pixar/Disney picture. Pixar/Disney. Decrying greed."

Admittedly, there's a hypocrisy going on here, though not on the catastrophic scale you suggest. But then, Idiocracy, a film backed by 20th Century Fox, a corporation on a similar scale to Disney, did the exact same thing - the only difference being Fox decided to slap it around a bit. The fact that Pixar decided to make this film and Disney ran with it shows immense balls on behalf of Pixar and a self-awareness on behalf of Disney (or not in the latter case). In fact, the fact that Disney helped make this should be a non-issue - it's presenting a pertinent issue to the public in a widely-accessible format, and that's something to be lauded, not condemned.

"I’m the first guy to applaud a Pixar film not entirely swathed in cliché, but the spark of the film is in constant threat of being snuffed out by the habitual elongation of the ice-thin story."

I'm confused. I disagree about the story criticism, so this may fuel my confusion, but you spend a long time telling us exactly how Wall.E breaks cliche and tradition within Disney, and you condemn the film for that. Isn't that contradictory, in that sense? You don't want them to break cliche and present a dystopia wrought by rampant consumerism and ecological ignorance, but you later say you applaud Pixar at the first sign of breaking rank? This ship will not float, sir.

I look forward to your measured and calm reply, and the measured and calm replies of those who comment here.

parasvati

Wall-E stunk. STUNK, people. It was depressing. Let's all take the kiddies to see Earth destroyed and turned into one great big garbage dump. Accept it, boys and girls. It's an inevitability, there it is, right up there in lavish beautiful gigantic impressively rendered technicolor and motion, lovingly and expensively depicted on the big screen. And Oh! Lookie at the cute lil robot. And it's by Disney, mommy, and Disney wouldn't lie, would he, mommy? Mommy?

People, you just can't say this post-apocalyptic propaganda poison-pill is in any way healthy or in any way good for the kids, and the damned thing is billed as a kid's movie. It's actually a horror movie, and it's in complete, insidious disguise... we've all been betrayed by Disney. I know Disney himself would be rolling over in his cryogenics capsule if he knew about this...

And Brian, once again you're my hero-- you saw right through their crap. Let your freak flag fly, high, way, way, high, my Bri-- you are the best! Don't let the bastardés grind you down, mah bud.

Carry on.

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