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such a nasty woman | by maryann johanson

because nobody uses teh Googles

Film critic Paul Fischer, a regular contributor to Dark Horizons and Moviehole, has been caught lifting material for his reviews from the Sundance Film Festival directly from the festival guide book, by Chris Parry at the Vancouver Sun:

[A]fter Fischer published a series of reviews from the Sundance Film Festival, indie filmmakers began grumbling about being slammed with negative reviews by a writer using large portions of material that was yanked right out of the festival guide book.

In his review of the film Animal Kingdom, Fischer wrote on Dark Horizons, “When tensions between the family and the police reach a bloody peak, Josh finds himself at the center of a cold-blooded revenge plot that turns the family upside down.”

That sounds suspiciously alike the Sundance film guide blurb on the film, provided by the filmmakers: “When tensions between the family and the police reach a bloody peak, ‘J’ finds himself at the centre of a cold-blooded revenge plot that turns the family upside down.”

Perhaps ‘suspiciously alike’ is a tad understating things. The two passages are word-for-word the same, with the exception of Fischer changing ‘J’ to Josh.

Parry goes on to note many, many more examples… including some from Fischer’s coverage of the Toronto Film Festival, which similarly lifted copy from the festival guide.

One really has to wonder how any writer believes he can ever get away with stuff like this, when it’s so damn easy to just Google unique phrases and find out who reused ’em. The mind boggles.

Then again, as Parry notes, Fischer has been getting away with this kind of thing — has even been rewarded for it — for a long time:

In a case of the world coming full circle, a film reviewer who has made a name for himself being quoted in movie marketing materials is accused of plagiarizing large chunks of his film reviews – from movie marketing materials.

Fischer has figured prominently, for instance, in Erik Childress’ hilarious Criticwatch column at eFilmCritic.

But as much as I’d like to feel a sense of glee at someone so stupid — or so arrogant — getting caught out at his own game, I can’t. Because this is what happens when someone like Fischer does what he does: all critics who publish online get besmirched, which is simply bizarre — what, no print journalist has ever committed plagiarism? Quoted in Parry’s article is Brooks Addicott, associate director of media relations at the Sundance Institute:

Addicott says industry plagiarism is more rife than many realize, especially with the explosion of bloggers joinging the ranks of mainstream media outlets.

“We’ve seen some people do that, take the press notes and just print them as part of their work. Generally online bloggers tend to do that because they feel like those are the official descriptions and they can go with them. We’d obviously prefer they didn’t. If you’re going to review a film, you should probably see it and come up with your own take on it.”

“Generally online bloggers tend to do that”? *grrrr*

This has been your WTF Thought for the Day.

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  • Brian

    A newspaper TV critic here in Indianapolis got busted for plagiarism about 10 years ago. I don’t recall anybody badmouthing the whole profession because of it.

    Department of redundancy department: I like the fact that Mr. Addicott feels the need to append the word “online” to modify “bloggers.”

  • Scott Renshaw

    “Mr. Addicott” is actually a woman. But otherwise, the generalization remains unfortunate and absurd. Paul Fischer is a lazy, incompetent tool. He joins the multitude of lazy, incompetent tools in all manner of professions, but the difference is that his laziness and incompetence actually benefits someone (i.e, the film industry whose blurbs he parrots). He’ll have a job as long as Hollywood needs a whore, counting on the fact that potential viewers either don’t know the difference between a legit film journalist and a hack, or just don’t care.

  • “Generally online bloggers tend to do that”? *grrrr*

    Well, yeah… when you think about the tens of thousands of “bloggers” out there, how many do you think are serious film critics? It’s a reasonable claim; for every MaryAnn there’s a hundred MovieLuv3r69s.

    Oh, also… “online” bloggers? Really? Is this 1995? Why not call them “online internet website bloggers” while he’s at it? :D

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