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Look what they're writing to the editor, and at Christmas no less.

I almost passed on the Hitchcock movie after reading the Scott Marks' review. What a mistake that would have been. It was a way- above-average movie, as are almost all of those starring Anthony Hopkins. It gave a nice history of Hollywood movie-making, ’50s lore, and Alfred Hitchcock as a human being.

We all know his movies, but to see him deal with everyday life, jealousy, and his own foibles, far outweighs any criticism of the star as 'encased in a Martin Lawrence fat suit, outfitted with a bad latex nose, and suffering from an oscillating dialect.' And who among us knows or cares that the movie was 'shot in ’Scope, a ratio Hitch despised and never used'? What I want from a movie is entertainment and emotion, and what I want from a reviewer is how likely I am to get that from it. Scott Marks didn’t deliver, but 'Hitchcock' did.

Joe Abbinanti

With all due respect, Joe, why would you allow a stranger, someone you never once met in your life, to be so presumptuous as to tell you what will or will not entertain you? I'm a film critic, not a clairvoyant. The only person capable of keeping a list of everyone's likes and wants is Santa Claus, and while the suit fits, I'm not him.

Ultimately, it's not the films you look at that's important, it's how you look at them. That's were a critic's services best come in handy.

When it comes to the arcane bit about anamorphic aversion, color me guilty as charged. I've had a fascination with CinemaScope and Panavision since first I learned that almost two-thirds of the image was being lopped off on pan-and-scan TV prints. (Don't even think of depriving me of so much as an inch of cinema!) Certain directors shunned the lens. Jerry Lewis was a card-carrying anamorphobe and Fritz Lang famously remarked, "Oh, it wasn't meant for human beings. Just for snakes – and funerals." The historian/purist/lover within finds it hard to hold back when it comes to dispensing this type of "privileged" information.

Your admiration of the film's ability to paint Hitch as a human being is a bit askew. Here's one little tidbit that as a student of The Master, I'd bet my eyesight never took place. Hitchcock was a non-confrontational soul. He would never, never look someone in the eye and say, "Get off my set." He'd instruct one of his assistants to show the bloke the exit door. And Hitch as a patient stretched out on Ed Gein's couch?! It's a cheap, sniggering affront to an artist whose only sin was that he made it look easy. Alfred Hitchcock was without a doubt the single most influential filmmaker in the history of the medium. His deserves better.

I posted a link to Joe's letter on Facebook and my friend (a real one, not a dead celebrity), Georgi, had this to say:

I tend to agree with him, Scott. You are fortunate to see any movie you want -- many you don't care to -- and we don't have that luxury. Many of us rely on your opinion which ...tho insightful...has a certain, shall I say negativity. We need to take that into account when depending on you to be an insightful filter...'Hitchcock' was a very decent film as are those he made.

My turn.

I'm not a filter, insightful or otherwise, and don't claim to be. Honest to God, I have never let a critic's opinion influence whether or not I will see a film. I refuse to give anyone that power over me and never read a review before seeing a movie. Go and judge for yourself. I am a terrible barometer of public opinion because I tend to form my own, not follow the flock. As for negativity, 80% of what I watch is shit, pure and simple. I'm a reasonably intelligent man with an acerbic sense of humor and an expansive knowledge of film history. That's it. My goal is to make my readers laugh and maybe even think on occasion, not dictate taste. Hell, my goal is to piss enough people off so they'll leave their living rooms, go to a theatre, and prove me wrong.

As the song says, "If you don't expect too much from me, you might not be let down." Never turn to me for plot summary or sociological import. That's never been the driving force behind all my hours logged in the dark. Allow me to make you laugh and occasionally point out something that might have slipped past your radar. As for my reliability, look on the bright side, Joe and Georgi: if I pan it, that's your cue to drop $11.00. Merry Christmas, and remember, when you see Les Mis or Zero Dark Thirty, tell them grouchy Marks didn't send you.


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Scott Marks Dec. 24, 2012 @ 12:09 p.m.

Merry Christmas to you and yours, Jerome. God bless and thanks for the many years of laughter and friendship. And, no, I don't have an HQ of Groucho in the Santa suit.


monaghan Dec. 24, 2012 @ 4:22 p.m.

Scott, you are more capricious and opaque in your reviews, even than Duncan Shepherd (sic), and that's saying something. It's very hard to know whether to go to a movie or not, based on your assessments, and I'm not the only longtime Reader-reader who thinks this.

Actually, if a reputable reviewer pans a movie, one tends to think twice before dropping $11, and so should you before recommending that someone just react contrarily.

I went to see "Lincoln" in spite of your review and ultimately agreed with your (very negative if funny) assessment. I did feel positively toward Spielberg for his effort to bring that interesting and difficult story forward -- unflinchingly telling that there was/is still a tremendous animus toward blacks in this USofA. That was courageous service to the truth and should have been noted.


Scott Marks Dec. 25, 2012 @ 12:09 a.m.

I'm generous enough to give a Spielberg film one star and you're accusing me of being negative?

I'm still confused about how it's a critic's job to tell people what to watch. My friend John Shultz said it best: "A critic's job is to discuss how s/he felt about the movie, not how YOU might feel about the movie." My duty as I see it is to watch a film and report back with my findings. It's up to you to figure out if what's playing is worth your time and money.

I grew up reading David Elliott and Dave Kehr every week without fail. Kehr slammed "Annie Hall" and Elliott slapped "Goodfellas" with a two-star review. Had I taken their advice, I'd have missed out on two films that have become as familiar as my skin. Kehr gave "Forrest Gump," yes, that "Forrest Gump," four-stars and I still scramble to read his NY Times DVD column every Sunday morning.

Every critic in the country -- including my partner -- thought "Killing Them Softly" should have come with a skull and crossbones printed across the poster. Go figure, it turns out to be one of the best movies I've seen all year. I don't care what critics say; if I want to see a movie, I'm there no matter what anyone else thinks. The same holds true for most of the public. How else does one account for the success of "Transformers?"

My approach to reviewing movies is relatively simple. Film is a visual medium and that means more than just radio with pictures. A director can have a tremendous script and elicit letter-perfect performances from his or her cast, but if s/he chooses to film every shot in close-up with a hand-held camera, I'm probably going to pan it. I'm in it for the storytelling, not the story. It's probably best to read my (any?) reviews after seeing the movie.

In the end, we agree on "Lincoln," so I did my job, right? AND, I got a rise out of you! Depend on me for a laugh, a little historical perspective, and some occasional insight, not on what you should or should not see. Were it up to me, everyone would keep pace and log at least 200 movies a year.

And where I come from, calling me "more capricious and opaque" than my esteemed predecessor is high praise.

Merry Christmas, Monaghan. I appreciate the thoughtful and constructive criticism.


denfrank Dec. 25, 2012 @ 7:35 p.m.

I like the buy it/burn it/trash it model from the Soundopionions.org guys re: music. Maybe for movies it'd be see it/wait for the dvd/fahgetaboutit

Hitch was definitely a wait-for-the-dvd just for the fun of seeing contemporary actors ape old movie stars and production people. Fahgetaboutit if you're looking for something closer to the source material, which they were legally constrained to mirror scenes from the production of the movie and created silly cheats to workaround that.


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