Not Really “Rotten” — Movies Critics Overlook

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Digital Trends has a list of movies that received a “rotten” rating on the critic aggregator Rotten Tomatoes but deserve another look.

While I don’t agree with every choice (“Europtrip” is pretty bad) and some are uneven (“Troy”), I strongly endorse the inclusion of two great movies, “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” with Ben Stiller and “Defiance,” with Daniel Craig and Liev Schreiber.  And if “A Knight’s Tale” is on cable, I usually find myself watching it.

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Critics For Your Netflix Queue Neglected gem

Bonnie and Clyde, Roger Ebert, and Pauline Kael

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Arthur Penn’s “Bonnie and Clyde” turns 50 this week. Rogerebert.com critics pay tribute, fitting as the film was one of Roger Ebert’s favorites and his review of the film helped to make his reputation as a critic of seriousness, insight, and influence. He wisely and accurately wrote at the time that the film was “a milestone in the history of American movies, a work of truth and brilliance” and predicted “years from now it is quite possible that ‘Bonnie and Clyde’ will be seen as the definitive film of the 1960s.” Later, with some perspective, he included it as one of his “Great Films” and wrote, “It was a film in which all of the unlikely pieces were assembled at the right time. And more than anything else, it was a masterpiece of tone, in which the actors and filmmakers were all in sync as they moved the material back and forth between comedy and tragedy.”

Copyright Warner Brothers 1967

At Flavorwire, Jason Bailey writes about Pauline Kael’s review, which he says was “as revolutionary to the craft of film criticism as Bonnie and Clyde was to the craft of film.”

“Bonnie and Clyde is the most excitingly American American movie since The Manchurian Candidate,” she wrote. “The audience is alive to it. Our experience as we watch it has some connection with the way we reacted to movies in childhood: with how we came to love them and to feel they were ours—not an art that we learned over the years to appreciate but simply and immediately ours.” And with that, she’s off and running, not only drawing us in with the breathless urgency of her praise, but vibing on what would become one of her signature preoccupations: the wild notion that this commoner’s entertainment could also be considered art, even when functioning outside the rigid confines of the “art film.”

She tackles this idea sideways, in considering and refuting the key argument of the film’s detractors (chief among them, Crowther at the Times): its violence. “To ask why people react so angrily to the best movies and have so little negative reaction to poor ones is to imply that they are so unused to the experience of art in movies that they fight it,” she surmises, and expands upon that notion thus:

Though we may dismiss the attacks with “What good movie doesn’t give some offense?,” the fact that it is generally only good movies that provoke attacks by many people suggests that the innocuousness of most of our movies is accepted with such complacence that when an American movie reaches people, when it makes them react, some of them think there must be something the matter with it—perhaps a law should be passed against it.

These were fairly radical notions at the time (for an American critic, anyway), that a popular art form like film should not only be provocative, but was better for it – and at the very least, it was a radical idea for the tony pages of the New Yorker. But the film’s volatile relationship with its audience, how it turns our expectations and reactions (to violence, to sexuality, and especially to humor) back on its viewers, make for both the essay’s most compelling ideas, and its most astonishing writing.

Also of interest: Variety’s Steven Gaydos debunks the myth that Kael’s review saved the film from studio neglect.

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Want One of the Best Jobs in Movie Criticism/Coverage?

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The wonderful editor of Rotten Tomatoes, Matt Atchity, has left to oversee programming at the Young Turks, and that means the top job is open! Here’s your chance to run one of the most popular sites on the internet!

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Critics

Don’t Blame the Critics: More Attacks on Rotten Tomatoes

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Rotten Tomatoes is named after one of the earliest forms of criticism. Audiences who did not like what they were watching on stage would hurl rotten tomatoes at the actors. The most popular aggregator of movie reviews is successful because moviegoers enjoy the opportunity to look at the thoughts of a range of critics. Movie studios are delighted with Rotten Tomatoes when they can brag about a 90% “fresh” rating, but when the rating is not good and the movie does not do well, they accuse the site of being superficial or without nuance or trying to tell people what to think.

Of course, even a terrible rating won’t keep people from buying tickets if they do not care about a movie’s quality. So films based on video games (which often are not even shown to critics in time for reviews) will make a profit. And a film like “The Emoji Movie,” one of the worst-reviewed of the summer, did very well at the box office, at least in its first week of release. When that happens, we get the “Does Rotten Tomatoes matter” stories. We’re with longtime box office analyst, ComScore’s Paul Dergarabedian: “The best way for studios to combat the ‘Rotten Tomatoes Effect’ is to make better movies, plain and simple.”

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Critics

AWFJ’s MOTW: Best of 2017 So Far

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Instead of a MOTW (Movie of The Week) for the end of July, the Alliance of Women Film Journalists has put together their list of their favorite women-created or women-centered films of 2017 so far. Be sure to take a look and catch up on anything you’ve missed.

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Critics Gender and Diversity
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