Duncan Shepherd had it easy. When he slammed a movie, people would accuse him of being elitist or of hating anything that wasn’t foreign (Eastwood and the Coens excepted). Sometimes they would accuse him of hating movies altogether. But even that was a complaint about his aesthetic sensibility. It attacked the film critic insofar as he was a film critic.
Manchester by the Sea
I didn’t much care for Arrival. The general consensus among the people who bothered to comment: besides being dumb, I’m an attention whore who is much more interested in website traffic than truth. (It’s a charge that’s getting drearily familiar.) And once I wear the label, dismissing me is easy. It’s a pity; I really enjoyed my back and forth with the one guy who stuck around because we both got to make our positions more clear as we went along. But discussion isn’t really the Spirit of the Internet, is it?
Scott Marks didn’t much care for Moonlight. For this, he was branded a conservative. Brutal. I wonder what those same folks would make of his take on Being 17? I didn’t care for Moana. The first response: “Or you could just be someone that hates brown people?” (Um, no?) And so on.
There is surely some worth in considering an artist’s or a critic’s motives for writing what they do. But before plunging into subtext, might it be worth pausing a moment to engage with the text? To take in what the art or review actually says before wondering what’s behind it?
I think it’s great when fans of a film go to Rotten Tomatoes and click on the negative reviews; it shows a healthy intellectual curiosity: I loved this. What did other people see or not see that led them to dislike it? It’s not so great when fans of a film click on a negative review in order to convince themselves that they are correct by finding a reason why they can dismiss those who disagree with them.
All that said, I thought Manchester by the Sea was an exquisite small-scale drama. Scott Marks did not. Clearly he is a Celtophobe who reflexively dismisses depictions of the Irish-American struggle. (Well, usually.) Though I suspect even he would grant that it was better than the hackerful Anonymous.
While we’re on the subject of Scott, it was nice of him to find multiple virtues in The Similars. (His review makes it sound scary the way Eyes of My Mother is scary — I’ll be reviewing that one next week.) And he even found something to enjoy in Man Down — and that something was Shia LaBeouf! Matthew McConaughey got a McConaissance after Dallas Buyers Club and Mud. I’m thinking this and American Honey may inspire a ReBeouf.