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 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.
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.
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!”
“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.
“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.
“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, 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!
To witness how deep the rabbit hole went over the weekend, visit these sites:
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!