Walter Mencken 1 p.m., Aug. 2
In a world without Ebert, Marks is named one of three to watch
Slamming a film can be almost as disagreeable an experience as accidentally dropping the word acromegalic when struggling to come up with a nice way to describe a fugly newborn to its beaming parents.
It’s quite possible that over the course of a lifetime, I’ve praised more movies than most people will ever see, yet my reputation as a hater persists. Is it my fault that the majority of the films that speak to me were made before 1980?
In his quest to find suitable replacements for America's most trusted film reviewer, the late Roger Ebert who earlier this year succumbed to salivary cancer, Porrill asks, "Who are the critics worth reading or listening to these days that will guide to us to the films that might eventually garner Academy Awards or even the gems from off the beaten path?"
Porrill whittled his list down to three likely candidates: The Hollywood Reporter’s Alonso Duralde, Harry Knowles over at Ain’t It Cool, and this reporter. Here’s my paragraph:
"The only critic on here not currently working for a national publication (somebody snatch him up fast) Marks writes weekly reviews, articles, musings, rants, and an ever-popular celebrity obituary column entitled 'Dig A Hole' for The San Diego Reader. Suffice it to say, the Three Stooges-loving Marks will probably never be quoted by The Ladies' Home Journal, but if any critic has ever written from his gut, it's this guy. A former film studies teacher from Chicago, Marks has moved on to sunnier weather yet his disposition is usually more akin to Harvey Pekar of American Splendor fame. Getting a rave review from this guy is like haggling with a Girl Scout - it's rare but when a movie sticks the landing with Marks, his ebullient praise is like the white Christmas you dream about all year. Honestly though, his slamming of Smurfs, Spielberg, and any movie whose title begins with "Star" are the glinty gold nuggets that fans of smart but tart criticism secretly mine for."
While it does include the most sagacious parenthetical hint ever written ("somebody snatch him up fast"), the alphabetical ranking leaves something to be desired. Why, oh why, didn't my parents christen their only son Army Archerd?
Do I really possess the capacity to lead people down Oscar’s path? You can certainly depend on me to tell you which marketing campaigns will earn nominations and precisely why the films they represent should be shunned. Upon exiting Crash (the crummy one, not the Cronenberg), I told the studio rep, straining to cull a reaction, that we had just witnessed next year's Oscar-winner for best picture. From where I sat at AMC Fashion Valley, it was in the bag before so much as one awards screener was pressed.
The film did manage to top one of my lists: it was the worst film of 2004.
There is no such thing as a dependable critic. It’s all in how you read them. At one point or another, Sarris, Godard, Kehr, Rosenbaum, Elliott, and Shirley Eder have all failed me. If asked to choose one writer whose work seldom disappoints, it would have to be Leonard Maltin (whose 2014 Movie Guide is scheduled to be released early next month). It’s seldom that I find myself in agreement -- the fink “BOMBED” New York, New York -- but after all these years the aspic has finally gelled. Never mind the star-rating: the tone of his capsule is enough of an indicator as to whether or not I’m going to like a film.
All I know is that I know what I like and I like what I know. Who would ever have guessed that copies of Rock of Ages and The Session would take up permanent residence on my DVD wall? You never know what you’re going to get with me and it’s this unpredictability factor that gets me out of bed each morning.
More like this:
- Interview with Life Itself director Steve James and Roger Ebert widow Chaz Ebert — July 3, 2014
- David Elliott remembers Roger Ebert — April 8, 2013
- Top 25 Movies of the Year — Dec. 12, 2008
- Bad Information From Critics (this means you, Roger Ebert) — Nov. 10, 2008
- Top 10 Overrated Movies — Sept. 2, 2008