And the reviews are in….   1 comment

as published on examiner.com

Reviews by a critic with the caliber of Roger Ebert, half of what was the most noteworthy film critic team of the past twenty-five years; venerable critic of the Chicago Sun Times, these reviews are not a small matter. The opinions of critics such as these are not to be taken lightly, nor treated as if they have not occurred.

Roger Ebert and his fellow critics can make or break a film. They are the moderating voice and minds for America’s movie attendees, helping movie pickers sift the chaff from the wheat to determine the best film on which to lay their ten bucks.  They also help movie goers understand, amid the din of post film theater chatter and concession stand sticker shock, just what they saw up on the screen.

Such worshipful views of professional criticism are held only by those who read reviews and expect enlightenment and a release from the responsibility of making informed, rational judgments. Such are positions usually held by those who accept at face value a critic’s coronation (or execution) of a film, and are unwilling to express or experience independent thought.

Such undying faith in the necessity and veracity of professional drive by critics is without question the unspoken, subconscious mantra milling about the brains of reviewer extraordinaire Roger Ebert and many of his associates.

To understand the methodology of critics who are… shall we say …less than objective or intellectually honest, one need look no further than Ebert’s  “review” of Part One of what will be a three part treatment of Ayn Rand’s philosophical masterpiece Atlas Shrugged.  

I say “will be“, but given the smuggled premises that pepper Ebert’s “analysis” (said premises shared by many of Ebert’s fellow critics),  I ought to say “hope will be”.

No, let us not accept a single one of Ebert’s premises; this film “might be“ part one of a three part treatment providing the objectivity of this film’s audience overwhelms the antihype.

It will be if hacks and disingenuous critics who’ve written such film gems as Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, who have panned cult classics like Blue Velvet and fan favorites like Die Hard,  fail in their efforts to grind their smuggled in axes..

When a professional critic, or even a casual observer, wishes to objectively review a film or piece of literature, particularly one  which presents a philosophical view, they do not announce

“I feel like my arm is all warmed up and I don’t have a game to pitch. I was primed to review “Atlas Shrugged.” I figured it might provide a parable of Ayn Rand’s philosophy that I could discuss.”

And then proceed with a non critique critique of the philosophy, by way of their misinformed, misguided take on that philosophy, and add injury to their insult by masquerading it as a film review.

One does that only  if one wishes to smuggle in one’s misrepresentation of the  philosophy for the reader to unconditionally accept.  This helps further if  one  wishes to make the case without arguing a philosophical position on the merits.

It is helpful, before a reader proceeds further into his review, that Ebert  immediately provides his take that Rand’s philosophy  “reduces itself to: “I’m on board; pull up the lifeline.”, thus leaving unwary readers to swallow the premise hole and wait for his review. Ebert describes the film, and the background drama leading up to the release,  as

the most anticlimactic non-event since Geraldo Rivera broke into Al Capone’s vault

He‘s now let the reader in on the little secret that they ought to summarily dismiss the film,  not on its merit, but on the now established certainty that it is unworthy of even a consideration.

With his smuggled premises  of  “I could waved away [the philosophy of Atlas Shrugged]  like flies unworthy of discussion“  but it‘s unnecessary, the film‘s not worth it :“I don’t have a game to pitch” , he now sets the stage.

Ebert begins to establish for the reader that Atlas Shrugged declares “me first, the hell with the rest”, the standard drivel of Rand’s critics who can’t be bothered to form coherent counter to her actual ideas.

With a class warfare driving  wink and a nod to what he presumes will be an eagerness by his audience to lap up the snide, Ebert complains about scenes of “people sipping their drinks in clubby surroundings and exchanging dialogue that sounds like corporate lingo“.

One must presume that we are to blank out on the fact that this is a story celebrating creativity and the producers who make a living from theirs, including the creativity of the corporate giant?

He ruminates about “railroads, and lots of ’em“, glossing over the reality (and hoping we will) that a principle hero of the story runs a railroad, and that the story revolves around her keeping her life’s work alive.

One would ordinarily presume, that  in context ( if one cared for such things as cinematography, plot, or consistency) that a railroad in front of the camera would be crucial.

Ebert complains of “limousines driving through cities in ruin and arriving at ornate buildings“ , thus establishing that the heroes of the film are wealthy (and of course he then needs not discuss how they became wealthy, what it is they are doing to keep that wealth — or why)

He let‘s us know “for the rest of us” unfamiliar with the novel that the heroes of the film spend time engaged in “business meetings in luxurious retro leather-and-brass board rooms and offices, and restaurants and bedrooms that look borrowed from a hotel no doubt known as the Robber Baron Arms“.

This establishes that these rich types — these “robber barons” — may be correctly dismissed with scorn, if not condescendingly ignored.  Ebert has even thrown in his historical nod to the “gilded age” that many love to hate, just to make his point crystal clear.  With his good ole boy “for the rest of us” embrace, he warmly lets us know, “hey, it’s you and me against this.”

This “review” then sets the final point deemed by Ebert worthy of noting, telling us that the excitement of the main plot “centers on the tensile strength of steel“.  We can imagine Ebert asking, “who would find steel exciting?”

Mr. Ebert, you are better than this.  Where’s the discussion of camera work, costuming, set design, or you know — plot?

These are all things which go to the action and tone of a film.  Of course good old Rog told us at the outset that he had no interest in reviewing a film. He wanted to talk ideas, hoping the film would provide “a parable of Ayn Rand’s philosophy that I could discuss”.

The venerable Roger Ebert did discuss said parable, a parable of his own design.

He got to do it without having to deal with the mundane, impossibly unwelcome and unenviable task of discussing the philosophy out in the open.  It appears that Ebert felt it was unnecessary to provide his thoughts in a manner that is, as a trade, open for rebuttal and further inquiry.

Someone should tell “professional critics” that moral intimidation and condescension do not equate with analysis.

Pretense is not persuasion, sarcasm is not substance.

Today’s moviegoer is too intelligent to be duped by disingenuous “come with me pal” “we’re better than this” smear that pretends to be objective review.

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One response to “And the reviews are in….

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  1. “Today’s moviegoer” spent over $170 million on “The Hangover 2” in its first weekend at the box office. I doubt that they are “too intelligent.” People will just have to judge “Atlas Shrugged” for themselves.

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