Don't Count Out Critical Clout

And so the debate about the future of film criticism, which, admittedly, only film critics seem to be interested in, goes on.

Here’s my own recent illustrative anecdote. A couple of weeks ago the local publicists for Disney invited me to an early screening of their big summer animation movie, “WALL-e.” Then they, well, disinvited me. Why? It seems the early screenings were only for those who were gioing to do interviews for puff pieces on the film or who were going to write stuff like:

"WALL*E" delivered big time. How big time is big time? Let's just say it's a good thing I was sitting in the back row, because this movie charmed my fucking pants off, then went down on me in public for an hour and a half. (To the family sitting next to me, sorry for all the noise.)”

as in this review.

As you can see, then, the Disney and Pixar people, like all studios, fear us. One bad word from us would topple the “WALL-e” juggernaut from clearing $60 million in its opening weekend despite enlisting people like NASA in its PR campaign (see below). How else could mediocre blockbusters like “Iron Man” and “You Don’t Mess With the Zohan” clean up at the box office if not for a thumbs up from the top tier of movie critics? Only a cynic would suggest that the movies were going to make a ton of money anyway and these guys are just desperately trying to seem cool, in the loop and relevant by liking them.

And if you have any doubt about the power of criticism, how about Sony Classics avoiding New York City in their opening of Mark and Jay Duplass’s “Baghead” and instead releasing the film in places like Portland and Austin that “tend to connect with what’s new and different.”

The reason? David Poland in Movie City News suggests it might have something to do with this negative “New York Times” review of the Duplass Brothers’ first film “The Puffy Chair.”

So there you go: when critics aren’t proving their mettle by getting on the bandwagon for the most recent heavily promoted summer movie, they can show their stuff by scaring off anyone who dares to show originality and talent on a tiny budget. So there!


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