November 1997
s m u g
feed hollywood
by Brian Thomas

Who the Hell Do You Think You Are?!

Hi. My name's Brian Thomas and I'm writing the "feed hollywood" column now. Those of you who are whining and crying right now like a bunch of little girls, and wondering "B-but where's Mike??" can just get a grip. Not that I give a rat's ass, but here's the information I have: apparently Mr. Stiles is expecting to have a child soon, and he couldn't bear the shame of having to someday tell his child that he writes this column. Guess he's too proud to do what a father should do: lie about it.

So you're stuck with me, but that leads to another question: "Why you? On what authority are some of us designated as critics and the rest are not? When they fight, do we not cheer? When they emote, do we not cry? When they fart, do we not laugh? What makes your opinion worth more than the average Tom, Dick or Rex? Did you have some kind of special training? Were there some kind of special questions on the SAT that nobody else knew about? Just how many movies have you made, wise guy?" Well, actually that was a whole lot of questions, but that brings up a valid point. All right, a lot of valid points.

One reason I'm the critic here and you're not is that I've seen more movies than you have. And I always will. Some of you may think this is an idle boast, but it's not. You may think you see a lot of movies, but not as many as me. Nyah! Some of you, like me, may have attended marathons where one can see 17 or 18 features in a 24-hour period. But not many of you will watch a movie when you get home.

That is, unless you're another critic. A lot of people think that the fact that they see so many films tends to invalidate their opinions, that the sheer number of reels we're subjected to makes us a jaded audience. This may be true, up to a point - we are less tolerant of stale old material, and go a bit overboard in praising something really unusual - like Jim Carrey in a dramatic scene. But we're also people that (for the most part) really really love motion pictures, and we do what we do because we can't get enough of 'em.

Does just being a compulsive film watcher really qualify someone to be a critic? Shouldn't one know the process and business of cinema from front to back?

Not really. True, I've studied filmmaking in college and spent a part of my career animating commercials and shorts - and I've kissed a lot af ass in the movie business - and I've read hundreds and hundreds of books and magazines on the subject. But that doesn't necessarily mean my opinion is any better than yours. As Winston Churchill once said: "I don't have to be able to make a turd to know that it stinks."

The plain fact is that my opinion really isn't worth any more than yours. What's more, your opinion isn't worth any more than yours either. Watching a film is literally a unique experience, not only subjective to each person viewing it, but affected also by the environment in which it is seen. You may have hated seeing Showgirls in a theater (and may have even asked for a refund), but you really loved seeing it on television 2 months later, all alone in your hotel room. You may have thought The Lion King was one of the most beautiful animated features you've ever seen, but it loses some of it's majesty the 500th time your kid runs it through the VCR.

This subjectivity becomes incredibly obvious when it comes to those star ratings. Ask Leonard Maltin some time why his Movie & Video Guide says Inherit the Wind is on the same level as Back to the Future Part III.

So what's my real secret - the real reason why I'm writing about movies and you're just reading about them? It's simple really: I was born for it.

You see, it isn't easy for a young couple with a toddler experiencing the Terrible Twos to enjoy a night out at the movies. It's just as expensive and difficult now as it was in the late '50s. Unless you go to the drive-in. Which is why my parents were parked at the Starlight that fateful night, with my sister sleeping peacefully in the front seat. The triple feature shown is a matter of some controversy , as no one in the car was paying proper attention. Mom swears that Pillow Talk was playing with Operation Petticoat and Hole in the Head. Pop claims it was a combination of Born Reckless, Naked Youth and Daddy-o. Sis tried to be cute by suggesting It Started with a Kiss, followed by The Mating Game and The Rabbit Trap. I can only trust to my own pre-natal memories, and all I can see is The Atomic Submarine, Attack of the Giant Leeches and A Bucket of Blood.

Some of you may be disappointed that I didn't really review a movie in this column. Get used to it - a monthly column can't possibly bring you reviews in a timely fashion. For reviews of individual films, I invite you to visit my Movie Madness! site, which is currently located here, but will soon take up residence here. The short version (at press time). Go see: Boogie Nights, The Edge, Kiss the Girls, Critical Care, and Gattica. Try to avoid: The House of Yes, Two Girls and a Guy, A Thousand Acres, Telling Lies in America, Switchback, and Love Always. Next month, Leslie made me promise to actually review a movie, so please come back!



in the junk drawer:

October 1997
September 1997
August 1997
July 1997
June 1997
May 1997
April 1997
March 1997
February 1997
January 1997

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