LESSON #1: MY FELLOW FILM CRITICS, CHECK YOUR PRIVILEGE— As a press credentialed and Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic myself, I’m sorry in advance, but I need to partially call out a one of my own. The first is Alex Billington of First Showing for being too much about being F1RST. His work is solid and his site is one of the more dependable websites for actual movie news and less click bait, but, simply put, he broke the rules he agreed upon when he put on the Venice Film Festival press badge. He was upset when one of his reviews broke embargo rules.
Here’s the link to the “open letter” editorial that followed. For those of you playing at home, we critics are bound to something like reverse deadlines, namely firm times requested by the studios that are the earliest reactions and reviews are allowed to run. I don’t like them anymore than Alex does, but they are the rules and the studios or festivals have the right to control thier message and product. Abiding by embargoes are part of the deal of being so damn lucky enough to be in Venice, Telluride, Cannes, or Toronto seeing a huge movie for free before everyone else. Access is the reward before your page clicks. Be happy you have it in the first place. We are spoiled every week by an embarassment of riches for shiny pieces of entertainment. Besides, we critics get to cheat with social media before full reviews:
This is where I can agree with Alex. However, that small shout-out should be enough to keep business and attention going. Harmony and health take patience. I don’t like it, but I respect the rules. People that break them can ruin things for the rest of us lower down the ladder.
LESSON #2: THE ASSIGNED DESCRIPTORS OF “GARBAGE” OR “TRASH” IS NOT PROFESSIONAL FILM CRITICISM— I’ll take another shot at my own kind, but I’ll leave the name out this time. Call this a general warning for anyone who sounds even close to this, even at at the Letterboxd level. If, as a supposedly professional film critic, all of your learned expertise, curated reflection, and skillfull high-mindedness within the medium of film, lead you to the molehill peak of calling a film “trash” or “garbage,” then, I’m sorry, you’re not a professional film critic. You are BS artist of hyperbole and click bait. You haven’t learned tact. You haven’t met a thesaurus. You haven’t learned creativity in putting substance into opinions. Using that poorly formed wording in what is supposed to be a professional piece is a careless and irresponsible trigger. And when you don’t back it up, you’re just asking for folks to call into question the quality of your writing, if not the quality of your personal character as well. Aim higher. Write better.
LESSON #3: STREAMING SERVICES DESERVE BETTER— Just when I thought the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences put a positive public gavel down for the inclusion of films from streaming services in year-end awards for the whole industry to follow, we digress to a story like what came out of the prestigious Toronto International Film Festival this week. Certain theater vendors would not welcome Netflix or Amazon-backed films to screen for competition during the festival. This has been silly and elitist for too long. Have the likes of Roma taught us nothing? Let the art compete. Source shouldn’t matter.
LESSON #4: YOU NEED TO BE TAKING ADVANTAGE OF IMDB TV— In the recommendation slot of this week’s column, I, a new Amazon Fire Stick owner, have discovered the IMDb TV app. Their selection of streamable films and shows, which includes award winners like La La Land and Silver Linings Playbook and classics like Dune, High Noon, and The Karate Kid, is outstanding for the free price of sitting through some occasional ads. Seek it out on your devices and players at home.
DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based and Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson. His movie review work is also published on 25YL (25 Years Later) and also on Medium.com for the MovieTime Guru publication. As an educator by day, Don writes his movie reviews with life lessons in mind, from the serious to the farcical. He is a proud director and one of the founders of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle and a member of the nationally-recognized Online Film Critics Society. As a contributor here on Feelin’ Film now for over two years, he’s going to expand those lessons to current movie news and trends while chipping in with guest spots and co-hosting duties, including the previous “Connecting with Classics” podcasts. Find “Every Movie Has a Lesson” on Facebook, Twitter, and Medium to follow his work. (#115)