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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

new rules for film criticism I will be following here

Well, everyone, Brian has spoken, and the news isn’t good. He has laid down the rules I must follow here, and he will brook no discussion. So am I now bound to follow his dictates:

• I am not allowed to “judge” movies.

• I can tell you if a movie is funny or not funny, scary or not scary, good or not good, but I cannot tell you why. And anyway, it should be obvious, because we all know that everyone finds the same things funny or not funny, scary or not scary, good or not good.

• I am not allowed to have an opinion contrary to other reviewers, or if I do, I shouldn’t be surprised when people fail to find my reviews useful.
• I am not allowed to write about anything I myself do not have direct, firsthand experience of. I don’t know how I will review cop movies, mob movies, science fiction movies, fantasies, action movies, historical epics, romantic comedies and dramas in which the protagonists are anything other than single, childless women, but this is my burden to bear.

• I must abandon my “extremely New York polarized lifestyle” if I am to have any hope to being effective as a film critic.

• Unless I follow Brian’s rules, I should just “give it up,” because “there are many other talented Journalists chomping at the bit to have the job [I] have.” I must confess that I had no clue that all my “judging” and pretending to know about stuff I’m completely clueless about and being all extreme-polarized-New-Yorker in your faces was preventing other normal people from starting movie review Web sites. But apparently it has, and for that, I apologize.

Before this devastating chastisement of my approach to film criticism here, I might have thought it would take an amazing amount of gall to come to someone else’s Web site, lay down rules for how that person should operate said Web site, and refuse to hear any discussion of it. But clearly, Brian knows what he’s talking about.

So for everyone who has been upset with stuff I’ve written lately, you can rest assured that things are going to change for the better immediately. I mean: Wow, when I look at my review of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, I can see now how all the “judging” going on there ruins the review; how I presume my bitter, polarized, single, childless, female New York self to be able to adequately interpret experiences such as being British, being a teenage boy, and being an underage wizard hauled up before the Ministry of Magic for the crime of the unauthorized use of magic in the presence of a Muggle. Fortunately, I seem to be in agreement with the majority of critics on this film, so I at least managed to (accidentally) fulfill one of Brian’s demands, but really: Did I need to put all that “reality” stuff into the review? Did I really have to preach all that political correctness crap? What is wrong with me, anyway?

My Phoenix review should have read like this:

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is very scary, and I was very scared, and you may be too if you are a childless, single, 30something, female New Yorker who has had precisely the same experience of life that I have. Of course, that’s impossible, because even if I had an indentical twin, her life would not be exactly the same as mine. So when I tell you that Phoenix is good, you should take that with a grain of salt. In fact, it’s probably pointless for you to be reading this at all, and pointless for me to have wasted time writing it.

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  • Mmmmm… the bitterness is strong in this one…

    I have more to say on this, which will follow when actual work is no longer piling up around my ears. But as a quick exercise, I compared M-A’s reviews – and specifically, how often she agrees with other critics – on Rotten Tomatoes. Turns out, she agrees with the Tomatometer 78% of the time – about three films in every four. Seems like a reasonable number: generally agreeing with the critical consensus, but maintaining enough independence to go her own way if she feels it warranted.

    For comparison, I typed up a number of other critics to see how often THEY agree with the Tomatometer:

    Rogert Ebert: 77%
    Kenneth Turan (L.A. Times): 77%
    Manohla Dargis (N.Y. Times): 75%
    A.O. Scott (N.Y. Times): 77%
    Owen Gleiberman (Entertainment Weekly): 74%
    Richard Corliss (Time Magazine): 73%

    So not only is M-A well within the same range of consensus as the most prominent critics in the country, she actually follows the herd a little more often than they do! Therefore, the “her opinion is useless because she doesn’t agree with everybody else” argument holds no water. None.

    More soon. (And M-A, remind me to share my prized collection of Serenity fan hate mail with you sometime…)

  • Kate

    Hahaha, priceless. Please, more smackdowns of the idiots who post on your blog, MaryAnn. Most of them seemed to congregate in the comments on the review of “Knocked Up” (which was the most idiotic, brain-degenerated tripe ever spewed from Hollywood’s lower colon).

  • Doa766

    oh, men, people really suck, I wish the decepticons were real and they’d come to earth to wipe out humans

    we sure deserve it

    mary ann: you are one of the best critis I ever read, in the past when movie that I was interested in was release I would read most of the reviews on the tomatometer, after a while I noticed that most reviews are 80% recount of the plot and 20% of opinion filled with recounts of other movies made by the same people

    now I only read the reviews of the new york times, roger ebert, anthony lane, scott weinberg and yours

  • JT

    I’m surprised there are still new comments about Knocked Up. Move on, people.

  • Heh. Great post, MaryAnn.

  • Ken

    Rob Vaux: Seems like a reasonable number: generally agreeing with the critical consensus, but maintaining enough independence to go her own way if she feels it warranted.

    I think it would be clear by now that MaryAnn always goes her own way, it just so happens that 78% of the time it’s the same way other are going.

    From Brian’s post:
    You know it to be true.
    The only time this sentence was ever more entertaining was when Vader said it.

    As long as you have a job, I would never read one of your reviews
    This seems like a conditional statement; as if he’ll start reading your reviews only when you stop writing them.

    I know that you are not Married…There are many other talented Journalists
    Is being Married or a Journalist like being Irish or Jewish now? When did particular occupations or one’s marital status become proper nouns?

    …should conduct there lives…
    …people go to the Movies/Romantic Comedeys in the first place…
    …Not always to here about political correctness…
    …that you no nothing about…
    …and not what suites your extremely…
    …I only hope by know…
    …I do not now why…
    I should have your job

    I usually feel that it adds nothing to the discussion to point out typos, but in this particular case, if Brian wants to take your job, he may want to get a better handle on the English language.

  • bats

    Wow, Brian, maybe you should be the one to start your own online film criticism site. After all, you apparently know How It Ought To Be Done (and it’s damned near impossible to train those over-30, feminist cat-ladies who live in NYC anyway).
    Granted, you’d be one of hundreds, or possible thousands, of online critics, but you know? Your wit, knowledge, and just downright wisdom on all things cinematic will undoubtedly shine through like a beacon in a night filled with clouds ‘n’ muck ‘n’ stuff.
    I’m sure I’d be among the first to seek out your site and your literary efforts, mostly because if would be of my own free will. Yes, Ms. Johanson routinely shows up at my house and holds a gun to my head until I turn on the computer and read her latest reviews.
    Well, I will seek out your site, right after I finish varnishing the cat.

  • I’m reminded of the words of Alfie Kohn, one of the most insightful social critics of our time:

    “What most people fail to realize is that the key aspect of a positive judgment is not that it’s positive but that it’s a judgment.”

    So whenever I hear someone say “I liked it; you shouldn’t judge it,” I just roll my eyes at the hypocrisy.

    Now, I won’t judge Knocked Up, because I haven’t seen it. However, a lot of people do seem to like it, which means I might like it, too. Or I might not. But if I do get around to seeing it and it turns out I like it, it’d be interesting to reread Maryann’s subjective opinions and see if I can figure out why we disagreed. Apparently, though, some people can’t bear to read a differing opinion without tearing down the person who has it.

  • MaryAnn

    For comparison, I typed up a number of other critics to see how often THEY agree with the Tomatometer:

    Oh, but they’re not “extremely New York polarized lifestyle”ers.

    Er, wait… A.O. Scott is. So is Owen Gleiberman. I think Richard Corliss might live in New York, too.

  • Dargis and Turan are in LA, sticking up for our right to culturally subjugate the flyover states. Hey New York, quit horning in on our action!

  • I think what’s at stake here is a fundamental misunderstanding of who critics are and what they are supposed to be doing.

    In the first place, everyone’s a critic. Everyone. Creative expression is designed to provoke an opinion, and anyone who has ever seen a movie anywhere at any time has formed an opinion on it. The only difference lies in the eloquence of that opinion and the number of people who listen (and by extension, the medium used to express it and pesky little things like geting paid for it). In that sense, condemning people who express an opinion on movies (or anything else) merely because it is an opinion is patently asinine. An “objective” review is an oxymoron, limited simply to a list of credits, statement of the tehcnical details of the film itself (i.e. camera type, film stock), and whether or not the projector is focusing it properly. Any other mention of any other aspect of the movie is by definition as form of criticism.

    And that process is a vital and important part of creative expression. Discussion and evaluation of a film or a book or a piece of art is ultimately the purpose of the exercise: to engage the viewer/reader and generate some kind of effect. Even if it’s just a paperback potboiler or a giant robot movie, it has some kind of comment on the human condition, no matter how perfunctory or banal. And by extension, it will generate thoughts and emotions and opinions, sometimes extending for decades after the box office has been counted and spent.

    The purpose of a critic (I believe) is to facilitate that part of the process – to engage the film as vigorously and intelligently as possible in an effort to stimulate debate. Maybe he or she can point out some aspect of the film that wouldn’t otherwise be noted. Or bring a perspective to it that hadn’t previously been considered. Or merely observe elements of the plot or action in a clever manner. Bad critics (and there are plenty of bad critics, just like there are plenty of bad actors and bad directors) merely regurgitate the obvious. They recount the plot or describe the film in terms which fail to illuminate even the most basic thematic elements. A lot of people think critics basically act as an advance warning system – the canary in the coal mine who can tell you if it’s poison gas or the mother lode lying ahead. Their “worth” is thus gauged by how well they do that job: how “accurate” their opinion is and thus how well they can determine the film’s quality. But that’s a very limiting view of how people like M-A are supposed to operate. To paraphrase Richard Corliss, she’s not here to tell you what to think. She’s here to stimulate thought… and in the process, make the act of seeing a movie a little more illuminating and enjoyable.

    In that sense, her review of Knocked Up is an unqualified success. Looking at the response its generated – forcing people to re-examine it and defend their views, vigorously if necessary – spurs evaluation and discussion of the movie’s ideas. Admittedly, not all of that discussion is fruitful – name-calling and demogoguery are an unfortunate part of internet life – but at least it’s engaged. We consider the film, we evaluate it against a forceful and eloquent opinion that doesn’t happen to agree with the consensus, we form and express opinions or our own, and we toss them back and forth. That is the ESSENCE of good criticism, no matter how nasty the debate might get. M-A has engaged the film and focused people on more than merely consuming it and moving on. Even if they disagree with her. ESPECIALLY if they disagree with her.

    The problem is that too much of our discourse these days is designed to repeat what we already know, not present an alternative view. Debate has become so vitriolic – divergent opinions so hateful and terrifying – that the notion of engaging them in firm but respectful way has vanished from our discourse. We no longer want to listen to the minority opinion. We simply want OUR opinion repeated back to us, so we can feel better about it. So a minority opinion like M-A’s doesn’t become an interesting contrast to the consensus view, but a dangerous infection that must be crushed at all cost… preferably by devaluing her viewpoint so much that it can never threaten us again. Acquiesing to such pressure isn’t “being a better critic.” It’s committing intellectual suicide.

    M-A, I think you’re wrong about Knocked Up. Wrong, wrong, wrong. But I’d rather listen to someone being wrong as thoughtfully and eloquently as you do than a thousand other articles that simply recount what I already know. I see movies in a new way when I read your work. I notice things that I might not have noticed otherwise. Your words make a valuable contribution, even when I disagree… ESPECIALLY when I disagree. The term for that is “good criticism.” I hope I can keep reading your stuff – and maybe even think that you’re wrong sometimes – for a long time to come.

  • Laura

    Thank TPTB that you’ve finally seen the light! I don’t know what the hell you thought you were doing before, but I’m happy to know that I’ll no longer have to risk the scary possibility of having my ideas or my opinion challenged when I read one of your reviews. In fact, based on your sample re-write of the Phoenix review, I should be able to predict what your future reviews will say without reading them. That’s a real time-saver! We should all be grateful to Brian for setting MaryAnn straight.

    (Not! Excellent post, MaryAnn. It really is amazing the amount of gall some people have. Kate is right: Your smackdowns of idiots make highly entertaining reading.)

  • Laura

    Rob Vaux said: The purpose of a critic (I believe) is … to engage the film as vigorously and intelligently as possible in an effort to stimulate debate. Maybe he or she can point out some aspect of the film that wouldn’t otherwise be noted. Or bring a perspective to it that hadn’t previously been considered.

    Excellently put, Rob. That is exactly why I read your reviews, MaryAnn. I can’t count the number of times I’ve gained an entirely new perspective on a movie after reading your review of it. Or the times you’ve pointed out some small detail that I might have missed otherwise. And I often go back and re-read a review after seeing the movie, to get a new perspective on the review. I’ll keep reading them as long as you keep writing them.

  • Tim G.

    As someone who posted in the now infamous Knocked Up review, I will again state I disagree with MaryAnn’s position regarding the movie. I’ve also admitted since that time that I’ve become a reader of the site on a regular basis now. In that regard, the review was a success. Thankfully it seems that Knocked Up is the exception to the rule as I find myself agreeing with more and more of MaryAnn’s reviews.

  • bats

    MaryAnn, she with the power to control weak mindas: we had intended to see the new Harry Potter film sooner or later, but after reading your review, my husbnad just **had** to see it this afternoon, on its opening day. Hey, we don’t get out much, so I’m not complaining!

  • Josh

    Wow, this is a smartass response to those who have been complaining about the reviews, myself being one. As I have stated before, I like MaryAnn’s opinion but, as a former critic, I think she is traveling further and further away from film criticism. The reviews have just seemed very bitter and angry lately, with anti political and religious statements thrown out there for no reason at all. When these statements fit the context of the film, I would bring them up but then not gripe and get offended when I get criticized. How can anyone think they can campaign for abortion and atheism and not get people riled up?

    MaryAnn, your reviews are refreshing because you put forth an honest opinion even if it is controversial. Just worried you have been getting too angry and negative with your reviews lately.

    And Rob is correct about her reviews being successful if they are opening discussion. I always went by the moto that negative criticism was just as good as positive criticism. My criticism of MaryAnn is that, at least lately, she has been getting very defensive and angry when someone disagrees with her. She’s reacting like one of the CoHosts of The View, getting irate that anyone would have a differing opinion and not further the discussion.

  • Johnny

    Obviously MaryAnn’s willingness to stick by her convictions, and make them transparent to her readers, is far preferable to a critic who is careful to balance a review with opposing viewpoints, while refusing to say which side they take. This just reminds me of a lot of reviews of Brokeback Mountain that pissed me off, with reviewers careful to bring up that half the country is anti-gay, without any judgment of that bigotry at all. They just wanted to acknowledge that many people are anti-gay, so homophobes reading the review wouldn’t feel left out, or (heavens forbid!) disrespected. But these weasel reviewers also won’t admit to being anti-gay themselves, if that’s their position. Spineless cowards.

  • MaryAnn

    The reviews have just seemed very bitter and angry lately, with anti political and religious statements thrown out there for no reason at all.

    I’ll admit to being angry and bitter, sometimes, but I don’t throw out “statements” of any kind for “no reason at all.” They’re *always* prompted by the movie I’m writing about. Maybe the same ideas weren’t prompted for you, but that’s not the same thing *at all* as saying that I’m saying them for “no reason at all.”

    How can anyone think they can campaign for abortion and atheism and not get people riled up?

    How can anyone think that a movie that can be interpreted as anti abortion or pro religion would not get some viewers riled up?

    My criticism of MaryAnn is that, at least lately, she has been getting very defensive and angry when someone disagrees with her.

    Defending myself is not being “defensive,” and why shouldn’t I get angry when some readers seem to be going out of their way to deliberately misinterpret what I write. It’s fine to disagree with me, but some readers are “disagreeing” with things I never said or implied, or read precisely the opposite of what I said, or utterly fail to understand what film criticism is all about. I think it’s entirely justified to attempt to put these people straight, NOT to deny them their opinions but to get them to understand that they are not contributing to any kind of intelligent discussion on a film.

    If I were really being “defensive,” I’d just shut off the comments and shield myself from negative feedback.

  • Well, honestly, it’s about time. I can’t tell you how sick and tired I am of reading movie reviews only to find someone’s OPINION. If I wanted to run the risk if reading something that disagrees with me and makes me see something from a different perspective, I’d do something silly like read books.

    /sarcasm

  • OK, but you are going to continue being “biast,” right?

  • Actually, now that I think about it, there is one legitimate gripe about the “Knocked Up” review, and that’s that it starts with “Americans are children.” I can understand that people who enjoyed the movie would get offended if you say that anyone who disagrees with your subjective opinion has the emotional maturity of a child.

  • Josh

    The main complaint about the Knocked Up review, although I have not read the comments in awhile, was MaryAnn’s theory that any smart woman would have an abortion after such an experience. I’m Pro-Choice and I really get angry when either side says the “smart” or “moral” thing to do is to not have an abortion or have an abortion. It’s a choice, not an automatic decision.

    Also, I was offended by MaryAnn’s failure to see what Alison saw in Ben. She claimed that she never laughed at Ben’s jokes. I saw the film again and stopped counting an hour into the film how many times she cracks up at something he says. There’s an obvious spark between the two in the beginning, before either even starts getting drunk. I can see where some of her complaints are coming from but it’s obvious that MaryAnn had her mind made up before even entering the theater and therefore her judgment was clouded and she missed a lot of the issues and moments in the film. I have no problem with people hating Knocked Up. I do have a problem with people, especially a critic, whose judgment is so clouded that they fail to observe the film correctly. Sorry, that’s just how I feel

  • I didn’t want to turn this into just another Knocked Up thread. I’m not interested in debating the merits of a movie I haven’t seen. I’m just saying that calling everyone who disagrees immature makes it sound like “I’m right, you’re wrong, deal with it.”

  • INotI

    The idea that one should be “onjective” when reviewing a movie is absolutely ludicrous. It’s not like benchmarking a computer, where there are specific standards that something meets or doesn’t meet. Film criticism, at least the decent stuff, is about telling people “this is what I reacted to in this movie, this is what it made me think and feel”. Why WOULDN’T someone’s political/religious views come up in that exercise?

    “Objective” or “unbiased” film criticism just means telling people what the movie’s plot is and who’s in it. That’s not criticism. That’s advertising.

  • Josh

    INotI- The key to good film criticism is to be subjective without offending the reader. You can cause controversy and start a discussion without insulting the reader. It’s a delicate balance of subjective and objective. Frankly, MaryAnn would not last at all as a critic for a regular paper. It would have to be a specialized publication, probably one with strictly a liberal or feminist slant. She could probably find some place to run those reviews but a regular daily paper or regular magazine would never touch them for fear of alienating readers. MaryAnn said in a previous post that she does not know how to turn her comments on issues in the world on and off, even when watching a movie. To me, that right there can be a sign of a faulty critic. A good critic tries to be objective about every film they see, and then determines their reaction after the fact. That’s not always possible to do, but it appears that it’s never something that MaryAnn does. From her writings it looks like she has a lot of her mind made up before even entering the theater. I speak from experience when I say that this kind of thought process can ruin the enjoyment of a film. I quit writing reviews because I found myself becoming too critical and not enjoying movies anymore. I would never throw out political or religious preferences as freely as MaryAnn does. As I stated in an earlier post, there is criticism and then there is social commentary/essay. They are not the same thing in my eyes. If MaryAnn’s review of Potter ran in the papers I suspect most people would be wondering why she briefly mentions global warming in her first paragraph. She says that the filmmaker is making a statement about global warming. I did not see that in the film. I doubt 99.9% of the other people that saw it saw that in the film. That’s the problem with not being able to turn off your social commentary when it’s necessary. You read something into everything. I think MaryAnn is an excellent writer but I don’t consider her stuff straight film criticism.

    I speak from experience when I say that a paper would not hire someone who writes reviews in this way, at least not a daily newspaper. That is what I liked about writing for weekly papers. They give a writer more freedom

  • “A good critic tries to be objective about every film they see, and then determines their reaction after the fact.”

    I think you’re confusing “objective” with “open-minded.” Two different things.

    “From her writings it looks like she has a lot of her mind made up before even entering the theater.”

    She often has biases, but they’re not insurmountable. Read the reviews of Talladega Nights, or the original Pirates of the Caribbean, both of which were listed prior to their release as “I’m dreading.”

    “She says that the filmmaker is making a statement about global warming.”

    She doesn’t. Read the review again- a lot of the commenters apparently skimmed it. There is no use of the phrase “global warming.” None. There is mention of a “killer heat wave.” I know global warming’s a myth of the liberal-environazis, but a heat wave is undeniable fact (as though the greenhouse effect weren’t).

  • MaryAnn

    The key to good film criticism is to be subjective without offending the reader. You can cause controversy and start a discussion without insulting the reader.

    No, you can’t — not always. I’m not overly worried about offending some readers. That’s what happens sometimes when our preconceptions are challenged.

    Frankly, MaryAnn would not last at all as a critic for a regular paper.

    Frankly, I would NEVER want to be a critic for a mainstream publication precisely because I would have to muzzle myself. I’m not sure why you think I am aspiring to that.

    a regular daily paper or regular magazine would never touch them for fear of alienating readers.

    And that’s why “regular” publications are so boring as hell to read.

    I quit writing reviews because I found myself becoming too critical and not enjoying movies anymore.

    Well, I still love movies even after 10 years of being an opinionated feminist liberal. So I’ll continue to write my reviews as I want to write them, if that’s okay with you.

    I would never throw out political or religious preferences as freely as MaryAnn does.

    So this means I shouldn’t?

    If MaryAnn’s review of Potter ran in the papers I suspect most people would be wondering why she briefly mentions global warming in her first paragraph. She says that the filmmaker is making a statement about global warming.

    I most certainly do nothing of the kind. I mention apocalyptic heat, and I do so in order to point out that the film is set in the real world where it does now get freakishly hot in England. Whether you accept global warming or not, the much hotter weather in the British Isles of late is absolutely undeniable. And I find it utterly shocking that you could suggest that I say that the filmmaker is “making a statement about global warming.” Is this the kind of critical acumen you brought to your film reviews?

    You read something into everything.

    If there something there to be read, why wouldn’t I read it? I don’t give a shit if 99.9 percent of the population disagrees with me — I’ll call things as I see them. But I would REALLY appreciate it is you didn’t put words into my mouth.

    I think MaryAnn is an excellent writer but I don’t consider her stuff straight film criticism.

    So? Call it whatever you want.

    I speak from experience when I say that a paper would not hire someone who writes reviews in this way, at least not a daily newspaper.

    And in what way does this constitute a criticism of my writing? Telling me I’m not mainstream enough is a freakin’ *compliment,* so I thank you for that. I’m delighted to hear that a daily newspaper wouldn’t touch me. I am NOT trying to ape that kind of writing.

  • “Mainstream” critics end up offending their readers as often as “outsider” critics do (and I use those terms loosely). Does anyone else remember the scutttlebutt that ensued when Kenneth Turan of the LA Times savaged Titanic?

    Opinions are, by nature, controversial. If you express yours and the audience I large enough, someone is bound to be offended. Frankly, I’m offended by the very sort of bland, timid “criticism” that too many critics engage in. The Gene Shalits of the world reduce this process to homogenized schmaltz. If film is an art form, then it is bound to arouse one’s passions, and that means arguing. Which means someone saying something about a given film that another someone might really take exception to.

    And as far as bias goes, in some ways (SOME ways), I consider it essential to good film criticism. It helps the reader to know where a given critic is coming from, to better gauge whether he or she shares the reader’s tastes. So a more conservative reader might look at M-A’s work and say “she’s coming from a different palce than me; I’d better take her recommendations with a grain of salt.” Neither the reader nor M-A is “wrong”. Just of a differing cultural and political slant. How would that reader be served if M-A hid her background?

    And the opening scene of Harry Potter is drenched in scorching heat. It’s intended to be that way, for the evocation of mood. The film has apocalyptic overtones, which the director clearly wants to establish right away. In light of that, a mention of global warming in the review seems very appropriate. The only difference between that and, say, calling Imelda Staunton’s character a fascist is that global warming is more of a hot button topic these days. The director didn’t shy away from the implication. Why should M-A?

    She’s still wrong about Knocked Up, though. ;)

  • MaryAnn

    I’ll say it again: I didn’t say one word about global warming.

  • INotI

    Someone who doesn’t read ideas, political or otherwise, into the films they see is a very shallow film critic.

    Someone who doesn’t understand that movies and other cultural products contain all sorts of political messages and form an important part of political culture has very shallow ideas of what politics is.

    Someone who can turn off their politics when thinking about and analyzing a film has a remarkably shallow commitment to their politics.

  • Ypek

    I am from the Netherlands and have no idea what a New York attitude means and why it should be something bad.

    I do know that since I stumbled on MAJ’s Musings on filmography I long for someone like her, here in the Low Lands by the Sea.

    Her filmcritism is what it should be: reactions in feelings and thoughts about what you see, when and after watching a movie (or before).

    What MAJ does is great fun to read, and helps me in “judging” a movie. When on thursdays here in The Netherlands the new films premier (I hope this is proper US-English), the first thing I do is going to FlickFilosopher. And then I go watch whatever film is worthy of 6 euros, whether MAJ thinks I should or should not.

    And more often than not, MAJ’s commentary helps me in appreciating what I see. And I thank her for that.

    But when one is not interested in MAJ’s “biased” opinions, why bother coming to her Website?

  • Hasimir Fenring

    A lot of people think critics basically act as an advance warning system….Their “worth” is thus gauged by how well they do that job: how “accurate” their opinion is…

    I use film reviews for precisely this purpose (among others), but I don’t look for ‘accuracy’. I don’t care what the reviewer’s opinion is; I want to know why the reviewer holds that opinion. I’ve been reading James Berardinelli’s reviews on Reelviews.net for some time. I read his positive review of Knocked Up and, because it was an honest and frank response to the film, concluded that I would not see the film because it’s unlikely I would enjoy it. (Other reviews I’ve read, including MaryAnn’s, have reinforced this conclusion to the point that I doubt it will change.) If Mr Berardinelli had attempted to conceal his biases, his review would have been useless for this purpose. Because MaryAnn has decided that transparency is the way to go, I can use her reviews, combined with a few others, to make a good guess about whether I’ll like a movie. Not because I blindly see movies she recommends and don’t see those she pans, but because her criticism is honest and frank and not about concealing biases in order to appeal to some arbitrary ‘mainstream’ audience.

    I am from the Netherlands and have no idea what a New York attitude means and why it should be something bad.

    I’m from South Carolina, and I have no more idea than you have.

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