March 17, 2008

A Great Love of Bad Reviews

As long as I can remember, I've been in love with bad movie reviews. When I was a kid I used to flip to the back of the TV Guide that came free with our local newspaper and search for monster movies, but I'd eventually read the pithy blurbs about every single other movie that would be airing that week, relishing the one-stars in particular. This is how I learned about great movies such as Repo Man and The Cook, The Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover at a tender age-- movies so strange that one-sentence captions could barely even hint at their plots, except to say that Violence, Nudity, and Adult Situations were involved. You could almost say that my love of inscrutable films began with dour, bitchy reviews of them.

Often bad reviews are a smoke signal given off by a truly great movie; just as often, they warn when a real crap-ass outfit has just teetered off the assembly-line. And even positive reviews can contain some exquisitely snarky observations that cut so close to the truth that they give you a vicarious thrill at being included. "The emperor has no clothes," they tell you, "But that's no reason to leave the parade."

My favorite assignment at AMC is to weekly read every review I can find of the most recent horror/suspense/sci-fi movie and single out the very choicest cuts, the remarks that transcend their context and momentarily illuminate a staff-writer's dim, twilit world. Sure, Rotten Tomatoes and MetaCritic quote reviewers, but they often go for the low-hanging fruit, and I only rarely wind up pulling the same quote they do. Here's a buffet of the films I've covered in the last couple of months:

One Missed Call
The Eye
Diary of the Dead
The Signal
10,000 B.C.
Funny Games

Having screened Funny Games myself the other night, I took a weird comfort in the mostly negative (but very thoughtful) reviews I read. I have to say they helped me understand and articulate what I felt about the film, which was mostly dismay. And honestly, I think it was really pathetic of Naomi Watts to use her Executive Producer status to get the title changed for the American release (as seen above).


Anonymous said...

Nice try but your joke is cheap.

Tom said...

Thanks for summing up my response to Funny Games in a nutshell!