Back in late 2009, I wrote a blog about the role of a film critic. You can check out the full article here but to quickly summarise, the 4 key points were:
Point 1: Promotion
I’ve never seen a film which was unanimously liked or disliked. We’re all different people and we’re all going to take something different away from a film. Even if two moviegoers are similar, they may still see a film differently based on the mood they’re in at the time.
So I do see my role as important in terms of “promotion”. Through my website and though the ABC, I try to get people interested in going to the movies. It’s that simple. There are some awesome ways for the people of Brisbane to experience an art form (movies, plays, musicals, concerts) but they often don’t know they’re on.
Point 2: Expanding Horizons
Everyone always knows when a big blockbuster is showing. I’ve said this numerous times before but my review of these films is meaningless. I don’t think it would stop a single person from seeing it.
I prefer telling people about a smaller film that’s currently in movie theatres which has received little-to-no advertising. I like to promote low-budget Australian films with blossoming stars. I like to get people to film festivals as a way of opening their eyes. So many movies are made and yet we find ourselves drawn to the big action blockbusters through the manipulation of the media and Hollywood studios.
Point 3: Offer Insight
I sometimes slip up on this point (especially for films I don’t like) but a good review should offer insight. Given that a critic sees so many films, they should be able to pick up on details which others may not. When I watch Margaret and David on At The Movies (two incredibly experienced critics), they often say something which leaves me thinking “you know, they’re right, I can’t believe I didn’t realise that.”
In my own movie reviews, I try to include titbits of information and quotes from actors/directors which readers might find interesting. This can be particularly so after someone has seen a movie. You can then read back on a review and think – “ah, I didn’t know that’s what the direction was trying to achieve.”
Point 4: Generate Discussion!
The above three points all lead into what I think is the most important – generating discussion. Disagreeing about a movie can be really fun. A good example is Gran Torino. It was a film I didn’t like but I’ve spent a lot of time debating its merits with other people – some who liked it and others who didn’t. There’s no right or wrong answer. It’s great to talk about, to interact with people.
When I wrote the above, there’s one thing I failed to mention. A critic shouldn’t give away key plot twists, especially if they’re critical to the movie. You’d think that would go without saying but one person who didn’t get the message was Jim Schembri, critic for The Age in Melbourne.
Last Thursday, I saw a number of fellow critics express their shock and disbelief that Schembri had given away the killer’s identity in Scream 4 in the first line of his review.
Here’s what he said in his carve up of the film (and I’ve taken out the name of the killer)…
“Only the sight of (actor’s name) getting all kill-happy in the frenzied, formulaic final-reel bloodbath makes this totally unwanted, utterly predictable franchise stretcher marginally worthwhile.”
Are you kidding me? I didn’t like the movie either but there’s no way that I’d be spoiling it for others. As I noted above in point 1, just because I didn’t like it doesn’t mean that others will feel the same way. What point was Schembri trying to make by opening which such a huge spoiler?
At just after 6pm, I vented my own dissatisfaction with Schembri by posting this tweet on Twitter – “Jim Schembri's review of Scream 4 in The Age reveals identity of killer in the first line. What's he trying to prove? That he's an a**hole?” I then turned my phone off and slipped into a preview screening of Mrs. Carey’s Concert at the Palace Centro.
When I got out two hours later, I was stunned with the number of responses that I’d received back. Most contained profanity so I won’t include them in this blog (need to at least attempt to keep things “family friendly”). Let’s just say that many people agreed with my comment and the overwhelming answer to the question I posed was “yes”.
I was also surprised by the number of people who had re-tweeted my comment. When you’ve got the likes of Wil Anderson giving you a re-tweet (with his 87,750 followers), it’s certainly going to help get your message out there.
Here’s a picture to show you the image I had on my phone after getting out of Mrs. Carey’s Concert - http://twitpic.com/4lytaz. I’d suddenly found myself a Twitter trending topic both in Melbourne and Australia wide. I was ranking just ahead of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival.
I was happy. I couldn’t think of a single justifiable reason why Schembri would spoil the film and he needed to be pulled up on it. I’d made my point and thought that would be the end of it.
Wrong. Turns out that Schembri has a Twitter account and he fired back the next day with this comment – “We do NOT give away the ending. http://tinyurl.com/42amzo2 And pity on those sad Twitts who think abuse is cool.”
Huh? I quickly clicked on the link to pull up his review once again. He was right. He hadn’t given away the ending… but that’s because he’d changed his review! Here’s what it now said…
“Only the sight of (actor’s name) getting caught up in the frenzied, formulaic final-reel makes this totally unwanted, utterly predictable franchise stretcher marginally worthwhile.”
Now I was totally confused. Why would he change his review and then have a go at the people who criticised him? Isn’t that a major contradiction? If you’ve made a mistake, at least admit it. Don’t try to cover up your tracks. Luke Buckmaster from Cinetology has also written a nice piece on the whole debacle which you can view by clicking here.
Can we put this matter behind us? Perhaps not. Schembri posted this tweet a few hours ago – “The full story behind the Scream 4 meta-controversy coming soon. Stay tuned next week. And thank you all for playing.”
Is Schembri simply covering his tracks? Or was there some method to his madness? I guess we’ll find out but until he proves otherwise, he’s still an a**hole.