Monday, June 15, 2015

Critical Mess

Stephanie Zacharek has some odd moments in her latest LA Weekly reviews.  (By the way, the Weekly site is so loaded down with stuff it's pretty hard to navigate.  Was the tradeoff worth it?)

For instance, in her review of Jurassic World (which is a surprisingly huge hit--everyone knew it would do well, but even so...), we get this:

Sexy eye-candy guys such as B.D. Wong and Irrfan Khan show up in minor roles, doing things like flying helicopters and explaining dinosaur genetics.

I'm not saying these guys are ugly, but eye candy?  Chris Pratt, sure, but I don't think these two, talented though they may be, were hired to make the ladies sigh.

Perhaps I shouldn't be surprised.  Look at how Zacharek started her review of the recent I'll See You In My Dreams starring Blythe Danner:

As a middle-aged woman, I rarely have a conversation with other middle-aged women in which the subject of movies "for us" fails to come up. They just want something to go to see in the theater, something that tells a story about the things real people in middle age or older (and not just women) go through. I'm relieved to have a film to recommend to them.

Really?  I think it's better for critics to recommend films that aren't dull.

Her other major review in this week's issue is for Me And Earl And The Dying Girl, filmed in Pittsburgh.  She writes:

Some scenes were even filmed in the house in which [the screenwriter] himself grew up (and where his parents still live), a pretty Victorian that's well kept but also comfortably worn around the edges. The shelves in the living room are lined with books that you can tell weren't chosen and arranged by some production designer.

Unless she's got inside info, how can she tell?  I don't expect a critic to necessarily understand that much about film production, but in a picture with any budget at all, you spend a fair amount of time arranging each shot.  That would include the books on the shelves.  It might even include the shelves themselves.  Perhaps everything was already there, but even then you'd move things around to get the look you're going for.

Speaking of Me And Earl, this is from the Carl Kozlowski review in the Pasadena Weekly:

Anyone lucky enough to have been around at the time regards the 1980s as the greatest era for teen movies, with director John Hughes serving up such classics as “The Breakfast Club” and “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” and Cameron Crowe directing “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” and “Say Anything.” These were films that treated teens and their issues with respect, showing both the humorous highs and the angst-filled lows of high school life in a way that resonated at a universal level.

I don't know if the 80s was a classic time for teen movies (or if you had to have been around at the time to understand that), but I can tell Carl that Amy Heckerling directed Fast Times At Ridgemont High.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'll See You In My Dreams wasn't too bad. Have you seen it?

If you write off movies about older women as dull, you are missing out.

6:09 AM, June 15, 2015  
Blogger LAGuy said...

I did see it and kept waiting for something to happen.

I don't care how young or old the characters are, I just want the story to work.

8:54 AM, June 15, 2015  
Anonymous Denver Guy said...

I got my wife "Wild" for mothers-day. Should I have checked some more reviews first (we haven't seen it yet)? Reese Witherspoon must be about our age (or a little younger), but what do I know - I just saw it got 4.5 stars at Rotten Tomatoes.

9:03 AM, June 15, 2015  
Blogger LAGuy said...

I'm not sure what you're asking. Wild is not a conventional Mother's Day film, but I don't know what you or your wife are looking for.

By the way, if you're trying to get a feeling for the reviewers' consensus, I'd suggest you check out Metacritic. And if you want to get a feeling for what the public thinks, check out the film's rating on IMDb.

9:19 AM, June 15, 2015  
Blogger ColumbusGuy said...

ColumbusGal got "Wild Tales."

She knows Pasternak.

And DG, I think Reese is between 10 and 20 years younger than you, not that anyone is counting.

1:11 PM, June 15, 2015  
Anonymous Denver Guy said...

I guess what I was saying is I more or less assume a film starring a 40-something actress (or actor, for matter) will generally be targeted at middle age folks. In other words, I'm agreeing with you that movie critics don't need to pander to age demographics, just tell us if the film is entertaining and/or thought provoking. I can probably identify the intended audience myself (and I still want to see Age of Ultron, so there!).

P.S. I'm catching Columbus Guyitis - I'm getting to cryptic in my middle-age.

3:07 PM, June 15, 2015  
Blogger LAGuy said...

First, Reese WItherspoon is not yet 40 and (so far) tends to play characters younger than herself. The movie Wild is based on a non-fiction book where a woman in her 20s hiked the Pacific Crest Trail trying to find herself.

It is true that life can be difficult for actresses once they get up in years. Same for men, up to a point, though they can generally remain sex symbols for longer. But most of them, no matter what their age, would not like to hear they're aiming for a middle-aged audience, since that crowd mostly stays at home.

By the way, I agree with ColumbusGuy--better to get Wild Tales than Wild.

5:30 PM, June 15, 2015  

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