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maryann johanson, ruining movies since 1997

critic’s minifesto #1: it’s not personal

(In which I expound upon aspects of my critical philosophy that seem obvious to me but probably aren’t at all obvious to you.)

It occurred to me after I posted my review of Killer Elite, in which I examine all the ways in which Jason Statham’s onscreen persona is thuggish and distasteful, that some readers may not realize that I am talking about Statham’s onscreen persona, and not the man himself. Offscreen, he may well be the nicest, kindest, sweetest, gentlest, most sensitive man ever. But that’s not what Jason Statham, Movie Star(TM) is. And that’s what I’m critiquing.
When I review a movie, it’s never personal. It’s always about what we are presented with as an entertainment artifact. Sometimes that public persona does include some ostensibly personal stuff, like if a celebrity is also a philanthropist… or also an actual, for-real thug or criminal. (I’m thinking of, for just two examples, Angelina Jolie in the first instance and Roman Polanski in the second instance.) If that offscreen-but-still-public behavior is a factor in my review, I’ll always mention it. Otherwise, it’s safe to assume that I’m not getting personal with anyone. Certainly, I never wish anyone ill. Or, in rare cases when I might, I’ll let you know that, too. I’m just praising or condemning the work.

(If there’s some characteristic of my criticism that you think needs explicating, feel free to email me with a question.)

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