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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

wtf: film critic reviews ‘Inception’ without seeing it, doesn’t understand why this is a problem

Sometimes a WTF moment is so jaw-droppingly WTFish that you have to stop, back up a step or two, cock your head like a mystified puppy getting its first look at the most awesomely balliest ball ever — like you can’t believe how perfectly inexplicable the excellence of its roundness and the fineness of its bounciness and the rightness of its magical red color is — and say What. The. Fuck.

And that still doesn’t cover the story that Shane Danielsen tells today at IndieWire. It’s a lovely piece of writing overall, full of character and color and a sense of place… and, it must be said, a sense of totally righteous outrage. But a taste:

Ms. Troester came in and, as fate would have it, took a seat directly in front of me. I leaned forward and asked if she was from ExBerliner. She said that she was. Our conversation thereafter went like this:

“I’m just wondering, how did you get to see ‘Inception’? Friends of mine in L.A. only got to see that the other day. And I didn’t think there were any long-lead previews.”

For just a moment, it seemed to me, she looked slightly surprised. Then her composure recovered. She smiled. She seemed very agreeable. “We didn’t,” she replied.

“I’m sorry?”

“We didn’t see the movie. With our deadline…there was no time.”

“So why did you run a review on it?”

“We didn’t. We just did a piece.”

“But you gave it three stars.”

“Well, hearts,” she demurred. “Three hearts out of four.”

“Hearts or stars, lady – you reviewed the film.”

She shrugged. Her expression remained blandly serene; I might have been asking to borrow a cigarette.

There is, unbelievably, more. A lot more. I’ll spoil this for you: The exchange ends with Danielsen, satisfyingly, calling this “critic” a “hack.”

And then there’s more:

I think about friends of mine who’ve lost their jobs in the past twelve months – good critics, smarter about film and more diligent in their professional responsibilities than Ms. Troester and her ilk will ever be – and think how galling it is to see their ranks diminished, replaced by people for whom the work is cheap and meaningless and without honour or self-respect. People no better, in essence, than those shit-eating, merch-grabbing junket whores who’ll happily stump up a positive quote for anything, provided it comes with a night in a hotel room and free sandwiches in the hospitality suite.

And then there’s more still. Go read the whole thing. And fume along with me.



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  • I_Sell_Books

    Hunh. At least I can leaf through a book before declaring it readable or not. Good grief.

  • Ms. Troester committed fraud and should either be fired if a paid employee or banned from whatever online work she was doing. What she did was inexcusable. That’d be like having a teacher not review her students’ homework assignments and stamping them all B’s without gauging true merit. Or a car repairman not checking the car’s oil level and thinking “Oh the engine block’s not smoking so it should be okay.”

  • FrankS
  • MaryAnn

    Ms. Troester committed fraud and should either be fired if a paid employee or banned from whatever online work she was doing.

    Oh, please! Plagiarism is a fine way to build a career. Just look at Ben Domenech, who stole material from me and other writers, and now he’s a respected voice of “reason” in some circles.

    I’m sure the jerk Cinematical writes about will end up all the better for his newfound fame.

  • EXB insider

    Hey there,

    This is what I posted on the Exberliner website. It also applies here:

    I have worked at Exberliner and I can tell you, Änne and her team are definitely not hacks. Not only do they watch the films they review, they also see films that don’t even make it into the magazine.

    What does happen is that very, very occasionally – maybe two or three times a year – a big Hollywood blockbuster comes out that cannot be reviewed before print time (always because its distributors/production company have refused to release review copies and hold advance press screenings). If they are too important to be ignored, these two or three Hollywood blockbusters are given a minimal capsule review based on the extended segments and insider knowledge Änne gleans from her friends in the industry, as well, of course, as her knowledge and research as a professional film critic of some nine years standing.

    So… all this to say that Shane Danielsen’s rant in Indiewire – his positioning of himself as a great crusader for good, honest, old-school film reviewing, and Änne as the immoral hack who’s only in it for the freebies – is so misguided as to be ridiculous. Danielsen claims to be taking on the fakes who are killing off ethical film journalism, but instead writes a character assassination of an extremely conscientious reviewer at a last-stand independent magazine. (Exberliner, for those who don’t know, is still run by the three journalist-editor-publishers who started it just under a decade ago.)

    And, because it’s an independent (read idealistic) magazine, Exberliner watches the films it reviews. At the very least, this fact is made clear by the example Danielsen himself gave in his Indiewire rant: Exberliner gave “Toy Story 3” a worse rating than “Shrek: Forever After” because the reviewer was repelled by Toy Story 3’s insidious right-wing agenda.

    Danielsen’s beat-down is therefore not directed at a bad film critic who doesn’t watch films: it’s directed at a film critic who watches all other films (indie, art-house, obscure, mainstream, you name it) with tenacious thoroughness, but very, very exceptionally doesn’t see a Hollywood blockbuster in its entirety.

    Hmm… so remind me. Who’s the hack here?

  • but very, very exceptionally doesn’t see a Hollywood blockbuster in its entirety.

    Hmm… so remind me. Who’s the hack here?

    If you don’t see a movie in its entirety, you shouldn’t review it. Period.

    If you do, you’re a hack.

  • Orangutan

    Toy Story 3 had an insidious right-wing agenda? o.O

  • Nate

    If they are too important to be ignored, these two or three Hollywood blockbusters are given a minimal capsule review based on the extended segments and insider knowledge Änne gleans from her friends in the industry, as well, of course, as her knowledge and research as a professional film critic of some nine years standing.

    I don’t give a crap how much insider knowledge and research you’ve done, if you haven’t personally seen the movie you CANNOT write a review of it.

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