Essay Question: Queasicam

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Published on: January 10, 2011

OFCS members answer the question:

Has the current craze for handheld and queasicam generally contributed positively to the look and feel of films, or has it generally been a fad that has been handled badly and that should go away?

Read responses after the jump.

Daniel Carlson:

I think, for the most part, it’s been poorly handled. The use of handheld cameras can give a sense of immediacy and urgency, but too often it comes at the expense of clarity and understanding just what’s happening in a given scene. For instance, the Transformers films aren’t (just) terrible because they have nonsensical plots; they also make it impossible to see what’s going on in any of the interminable action scenes, favoring rapid cuts and shaky framing over real suspense. You can only get really involved in an action scene when you have a sense of what’s at stake, and that means having the presence of mind to show the viewer what’s happening and where. The sub-genre of POV films like Cloverfield take this problem to the extreme and become a way for the filmmaker to avoid making tough choices about blocking a scene when they can just wiggle the character’s camera around and run away.

Wesley Lovell:

Please send it away. There might be a sense of realism that fits well in certain films, but some directors use it so excessively that it draws the audience out of the action and brings attention to itself. It’s appropriate for a film like Cloverfield which takes place entirely in front of a camcorder, but movies like Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 don’t really have a need to use it. You have crisp, fluid, sophisticated shots and suddenly you’re thrust with a fast-moving, hard-to-follow handheld shot. It may have a narrative punch drawing attention to itself like that, but tonally it’s distracting. And it may be an inventive method of expression, most often they are handled so poorly that you can’t tell what’s going on in a scene, which is very frustrating.

Robert Roten:

The current craze for handheld shots has not contributed positively to the look of films, but it has enabled some filmmakers, such as those who made Monsters, Cloverfield, and The Blair Witch Project to make very low-cost films that appear to be more authentic in their depiction of perceived reality. These films appear to be like documentaries, so the shaky, amateurish camera shots actually give the film more of an aura of authenticity. This is a classic case of turning a weakness, lack of cash, into an advantage.

I’m all for making the filmmaking process more affordable and democratic. Inexpensive, hand-held camera equipment contributes to that worthy goal. However, I find excessive camera movement to be irritating. In some cases, the movement of a hand-held camera can make it impossible to actually see what is going on in an action scene. It can obscure rather than depict action. This technique was used brilliantly in Children of Men but the same technique, in less skilled hands, makes some scenes unwatchable in some other films. These handheld and queasicam shots should be done judiciously by cameramen who have mastered the art, not just for a cheap effect.

Felix Vasquez Jr.:

They’re meant to be statements about voyeurism. Why else would anyone be interested if they didn’t feel like people peeking in to something amazing? Diary of the Dead, Cloverfield, REC all did it perfectly.

Phil Villarreal:

It’s another tool for filmmakers to use, but can be a cliched crutch that weakens films. All in all, it’s better to have it available to use or discard than not.

Essay Question: A Single Movie Gift

Categories: Member Wisdom
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Published on: December 1, 2010

OFCS members answer the question:

If you had to give your friends just one DVD (or Blu-ray) as a holiday gift, which one would you choose, and why?

Answers after the jump.

Xavier Donoso:

I would choose a movie that represents this year. It definitely would be Inception because it’s an original and brainy movie that surprised Hollywood with its success as if it were a commercial blockbuster, revealing that people are looking for good cinema and that the movie magic is still strong.

Mike Everleth:

Sins of the Fleshapoids (1965), directed by Mike Kuchar. Released by Other Cinema. This is probably my favorite underground film of all time and Other Cinema did a quality job for its DVD release a couple years ago. The DVD also contains two other rarely seen brilliant Kuchar films, The Secret of Wendell Samson and The Craven Sluck; plus, insightful commentary by the director; and has a printed interview with Mike Kuchar conducted by Jack Stevenson in the accompanying booklet.

I’d give this to both my non-underground film fan friends, who’d be in for the bizarre sight of a robot rebellion a million years in the future that’s mostly filmed in Brooklyn basements with sheets draped on the walls, as well as to my weirdo cinema friends, who if they don’t have this classic in their library, they should. Alas, with the DVD currently being out of print, I’d go completely broke buying up hoarded collector copies.

Eivind Grøtteland:

Since most of my friends are just as excited when I give them DVDs as they would be if I were giving them tube socks, I usually don’t bother. However, if I were to choose a film this year, it would without a doubt have to be Metropolis: Limited Steelbook Edition (Masters Of Cinema, Blu-ray & DVD-combo). Finally the ultimate sci-fi film is as complete as we will ever see it. If only one of my friends would open the gift and watch this great classic in its original glory, I’d have done my job as a film critic.

A.J. Hakari:

My title of choice would be A Christmas Story (pick an edition), for two primary reasons: 1) As my all-time favorite film, I won’t rest until every man, woman, and child in the world has seen it, and 2) No other film I’ve seen better blends the nostalgia we associate with the holidays and the cranky snark that we usually experience.

Phil Hall:

I would give Bikini Bloodbath Christmas, which just came out on DVD. My reasons are threefold: (1) it is a fun movie, (2) it is a holiday film – sort of, and (3) I’m in the movie (I play the villain and I get disemboweled with a claw hammer).

Mike McGranaghan:

I’d pick Nobuhiko Obayashi’s 1977 House (a.k.a. Hausu). This cinematic phantasmagoria is hands-down the craziest film I have ever seen. And I mean that in a good way. Watching it is like having a 90-minute fever dream. Upon my first viewing, I became instantly obsessed. My reason for giving it would be simple: I’d want to give my friends an experience they’d never forget. Oh sure, I could buy them the latest Hollywood blockbuster, or a beloved indie, but I’d rather go for something that will knock their socks off in a totally left-field kind of way. House is completely insane and unpredictable, a work of mad genius that I’d love to share with everyone I know.

Karina Montgomery:

The DVD/Blu-Ray I would want everyone I know to have (had I the funds) is the Planet Earth series. Not only is it interesting and beautiful just as a work, but because I am passionate about advocating for the importance of preserving the earth. I feel like one cannot watch that series without being moved or without feeling the fragility of the wild world around us.

Brian Prisco:

Micmacs. Without a doubt in my mind, Micmacs. After such a sublime year of films — and I’m the kind of guy who has Black Swan and Piranha 3D on my top ten — it’s still the best film experience I’ve had all year. Jeunet’s a pretty whimsical filmmaker, and Micmacs was simply delightful. There’s no other word for the film. It’s like the bastard child of Amelie and Ocean’s Thirteen, a throwback to the slapstick heyday of Chaplin and Keaton. It’s something you could show to children and to grandparents, to cynical hipsters who praise the glory of Godard without knowing who he actually was and to ardent fans of Paul Blart: Zoo Keeper, and everyone would enjoy it.

José Manuel Robado:

I Love You, Phillip Morris. The funniest way to show how true love is even stronger than laws.

Betty Jo Tucker:

How I would love to give my friends a Singin’ in the Rain DVD! There’s not one boring minute in this entertaining musical. And, as Lina Lamont (Jean Hagen) says, “If we bring a little joy into yer humdrum lives, it makes us feel as though our hard work ain’t been in vain fer nothin’.”

Felix Vasquez Jr.:

I would give them The Big Lebowski mainly because it’s a movie that needs to be spread among the general movie going public like the gospel. It only takes a friend to get you hooked, so I’d give a copy to a friend or loved one as a way of showing them that their lives were incomplete before they met The Dude.

Yaroslav Vishtalyuk:

My choice is Gone with the Wind — great reminder to never give up.

OFCS Top 100: 100 Best First Films

Categories: Member Wisdom
Comments: 48 Comments
Published on: October 4, 2010

For movie lovers, there are few things more exciting than the discovery of a bold new filmmaker. Through cinema history, many extraordinary directors immediately made their marks on the industry with their first feature-length films.

The Online Film Critics Society celebrates the innovations and ingenuity of these extraordinary artists by presenting its selection of the 100 Best First Feature Films of All Time. Spanning the cinematic experience from the silent era to the digital age, the OFCS writers pay tribute to the most impressive filmmaking debuts of all time.

Read the list after the jump.

1. Citizen Kane (directed by Orson Welles)
“I started at the top and have been working my way down every since,” joked Orson Welles in the years following his startling debut feature. Citizen Kane has been so longed hailed as “the greatest film ever made” that it is in serious danger of becoming the least seen masterpiece around. The legends surrounding the film and its creator have too long overshadowed the actual film. Above all, Welles was a showman and Citizen Kane is a three ring circus of cinematic ingenuity, a startlingly entertaining blend of pulp melodrama, historical biography, detective story, political drama, storytelling confabulation, and plain old theatrical flourish. Years ahead of its time in its layered use of sound and score (a pioneering piece of dramatic composition by Bernard Herrmann, Welles’ radio collaborator), stunningly designed, and brilliantly shot by Gregg Toland with a creative invention that pushed the envelope of motion picture photography, Citizen Kane is a vital, exciting moment of American cinema brought back to life with every viewing. (Sean Axmaker)

2. Eraserhead (David Lynch)
David Lynch’s monochrome fever dream of frustrated desires and horrific unease was to be the last triumphant gasp of the Midnight Movie movement. Eluding easy definition or comfortable reception, Eraserhead was as much a phantasmagoria of tactile textures and immersive soundscapes as a nightmarish parable of fatherhood and the creative process. By turns beautiful, annoying, funny, exasperating and repellent, but always bristling with a nervous energy, Lynch’s debut merges the drab world and anxious subconscious of Henry Spencer (Jack Nance), a vacationing printer who must stay home to nurse his monstrous (and unwanted) babe in bandages. Sporting an impossibly tall haircut that has become one of the film’s most iconic signifiers of otherness, Henry is one of cinema’s great misfits, his very appearance and physical stiffness embodying the discomfort that the film inspires in its viewers — and yet Nance’s performance is a master class in tragicomic understatement, all minutely nuanced gestures and Tati-esque humanity. Beneath the amorphous surface of this unnerving filmic experience is an undiscovered planet of untold depths and hidden layers in which to become lost, sickened or sublimely elevated. (Anton Bitel)

3. Night of the Living Dead (George A. Romero)
Simultaneously a sleeper cult hit and a candidate for arthouse exhibition, George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead has become one of the most influential independent films ever made in the forty-plus years since it was originally unleashed. The “zombies” of Romero’s movie (a term never actually used in the movie) are not the reanimated/drugged servants of voodoo lore; they are, in fact, not the product of a mythology at all. They are simply the dead — corpses that have risen and now shuffle around aimlessly, their only impulse an unexplained urge to eat the living. Against this backdrop of an unexplained and incomprehensible menace, Romero places several average citizens trapped together in an isolated farmhouse and lets the human drama commence. Hysteria, frayed nerves, and an unspoken contest for Alpha Male supremacy keep the living from ever marshaling their forces effectively against the undead outside. At the time of its release, Night of the Living Dead was interpreted as a metaphor for the Vietnam War, microcosm of the breakdown of social order between generations and races in the middle of the Counterculture Revolution, and a critique of the reliance on authority figures for understanding and purpose. It can be all of those things, and it can be reinterpreted and resignified by current audiences two generations unborn when it was first released, but first and foremost it is a dark, relentless, and scary piece of cinema. (Nathan Shumate)

4. The Maltese Falcon (John Huston)
Unpromising project: young but already seasoned studio serf John Huston, desperate to make the difficult career leap from screenwriting to directing, takes on a pulpy property that’s already been filmed twice in the past decade with a low budget and lower expectations. Unlikely result: Huston’s rock-solid classical technique, exact casting, and carefully transcribed screenplay, lay the groundwork for a film that works with the drive and efficiency of a Formula One engine, even managing the unthinkable task of giving Citizen Kane a run for its money as the best debut film of 1941. Huston’s long, variable career would rarely see his pet themes and ironic romanticism as tautly conveyed as in this chamber-piece proto-noir. Humphrey Bogart’s incarnation of seamy, but honourable, private eye Sam Spade cemented him as a star, and Sydney Greenstreet, Peter Lorre, Elisha Cook, Jr., and Mary Astor backed him up with some of the finest character acting on record. (Roderick Heath)

5. Breathless (Jean-Luc Godard)
Breathless, the feature debut of Jean-Luc Godard, is an early film of the French New Wave. The film tells the story of Michel (Jean-Paul Belmondo), a roguish petty criminal who crosses a line when he shoots a police officer after stealing a car. On the run from police, Michel seeks out his American student girlfriend, Patricia (Jean Sebring); Patricia hides him for a while, planning an escape with Michel to Italy, before betraying him to police. Breathless is notable for its visual style; shot on a handheld camera with mostly natural lighting, Godard intended the film to evoke a documentary feel, and the use of the handheld camera allowed for spontaneity in the shooting of the film. Breathless is most known for Godard’s groundbreaking use of editing jump cuts throughout the film, which broke all established rules of continuity editing that were prevalent at the time. Breathless today is seen as the cornerstone of New Wave, and has influenced countless filmmakers. (Kim Voynar)

6. Reservoir Dogs (Quentin Tarantino)
Reservoir Dogs was the gritty, engaging, and exhilarating debut film of a 29-year-old self-educated former video store clerk, and the result was a cinematic revolution. Soon to be a household name, Quentin Tarantino produced an imminently imitable ballet of macho posturing, gun-pointing, and creative deployment of verbal obscenity. With a testosterone level that is off every chart, it happily wallows in its own juvenile love of criminals and violence, but the film’s dexterity and complexity proved Tarantino to be an extraordinary filmmaker right out of the gate — his raw talent and an unmistakable understanding of film lore is embedded in every frame. The film is a landmark in film debuts because, despite borrowing widely in terms of both plot elements and style, Tarantino made Reservoir Dogs wholly his. (James Kendrick)

7. The Night of the Hunter (Charles Laughton)
The great Charles Laughton delivered great performances in a number of great films. But he only directed one feature, which was — well – flippin’ fantastic. Meditations on good versus evil don’t get more beautiful and chilling than The Night of the Hunter, in which two youngsters (Billy Chapin and Sally Jane Bruce) are pursued by a phony preacher (Robert Mitchum) after their nogoodnik father’s money. Ostensibly a run-for-your-life thriller, The Night of the Hunter is at its finest in detailing how easy it is for the greatest terrors to slip by under the guise of virtue. Mitchum’s greed leads to a conclusion in which the forces of light and dark square off, a captivating cap-off to a spry and sneaky expressionist classic. (A.J. Hakari)

8. Blood Simple (Joel and Ethan Coen)
Just after Lawrence Kasdan and Bob Rafelson sexed-up classic noirs in the early 1980s — with Body Heat and The Postman Always Rings Twice, respectively — in Blood Simple the Coens took the latter narrative and turned it inside out. Instead of the discontent wife and lover successfully killing the husband (as in Postman), a seamy hitman (M. Emmet Walsh as Loren Visser), hired to off the adulterous couple, instead aims at the jealous man who hired him. When the body turns up not quite dead — as the lover buries this evidence — he gets his own shot, and a comedy of (t)errors follows. Though fate fueled the descent of classic noirs, in the Coens’ paranoia runs off absurdist misdirection. A true reassessment of noir, Blood Simple moves beyond the pre-erotic-thriller (not so)neo-noirs. Further proof: the freshness of Zhang Yimou’s 2009 remake, set in historical China. (Matthew Sorrento)

9. The 400 Blows (François Truffaut)
At age 27, François Truffaut kick-started the Nouvelle Vague movement with this gritty drama about feisty 12-year-old Antoine Doinel (an iconic character that actor Jean-Pierre Léaud would revisit five more times). The film’s free-form structure is still exhilarating today, bristling with schoolboy exuberance and a darkly evocative sense of pre-teen yearning. By the time that unforgettable freeze-frame appears at the end, we know this movie has changed the way we look at the world. Just as it changed cinema itself. (Rich Cline)

10. 12 Angry Men (Sidney Lumet)
Twelve men arguing in a single room, in real time. It sounds like a play, because it was a play, and a television movie before that. But in the hands of the 34-year-old theater/TV veteran Lumet, 12 Angry Men became so intensely, thrilling cinematic, it’s hard to imagine it in any other medium. With a dazzling array of shots and visual perspectives that switch around with every bend in the drama, and anchored by a legendary collection of the best character actors the ’50s had to offer, the film that would arguably remain the pinnacle of Lumet’s career established him in one stroke as an unmatched master of both the camera and character. (Tim Brayton)

11. L’Atalante (Jean Vigo)
L’Atalante is, perhaps, considered by some, a dated film as far as its style goes. But there is no denying that it is still powerful viewing because of its magical poetical gestures to the subject of love and the refreshingly lyrical way it looks out at its surrounding seascape towns and at the human condition. Its romantic story is much like Murnau’s Sunrise (1927), of innocents from the country getting corrupted by the big lure of the city and then finding their true roots again. Because the story is such a simple one and the couple is so ordinary, it is not the story in itself that is exhilarating as much as the way the film moves us to look at our own lives with all its possibilities and disappointments. It makes us see things in a way that is disarmingly enchanting. That despite the daily grind of regular life, there is also a poetical and romantic mood waiting to be tapped. We are encouraged to look into our hearts and see what matters to us, just as Jean looked into the water for his missing bride and in a frazzled state saw an emanation of his bride and dove into the water to go after what he was looking for. Jean realized that the love he has inside him is manifested in his dreams, and sometimes our reality is merely an illusion. (Dennis Schwartz)

12. Toy Story (John Lasseter)
One of the traits one looks for in first features is the element of surprise that comes along with the freshness of a new filmmaker. John Lasseter, along with a handful of terrific writers (including Pete Docter and Andrew Stanton), brought on-screen a magical mixture of honest storytelling and compelling filmmaking, marking our hearts by reminding viewers of all ages of that wonderful time where kids actually held playtime heroes in their hands and their fantastical adventures were only limited by one’s own imagination, instead of their graphic cards’ capabilities and some programmer’s coding skills. Woody, Buzz and the rest of the gang, set the ground for a new, exciting way to look at animated films, not only as an art form, but also as a very lucrative business model, paving the way for that marvelous thing that became of Pixar: a powerhouse of modern animation that seems almost unable to miss both viewers’ souls and box office records. What more can you ask for from a film debut? (Joseph Proimakis)

13. Badlands (Terrence Malick)
Viewers familiar with Terrence Malick from his sprawling epics The Thin Red Line and The New World may be surprised to discover just how spare and economical his debut is. Badlands is still very recognizable as a Malick film, though, with the ruminative voiceover, striking imagery, unusual rhythms and inspired musical choices all being key elements of this startlingly impressive debut feature. Martin Sheen and Sissy Spacek are magnificent as the casually amoral Kit and naïve schoolgirl Holly, a pair of lonely, bored youngsters whose aimless romance drifts towards multiple murders. This is a supremely confident debut from Malick, who handles the film with a sense of cool tranquility, allowing the story to wind down seemingly inconsequential avenues before the narrative is abruptly brought into sharp focus by sudden acts of violence. As ever, this director is as fascinated by the environments his characters inhabit as he is by the characters themselves, and the badlands Kit and Holly eventually stray into are captured with a stark beauty by the film’s three credited cinematographers. Standing as one of the most distinctive and exciting debut films ever made and one of the great American films of the 70’s, Malick’s first masterpiece is essential viewing. (Phillip Concannon)

14. Being John Malkovich (Spike Jonze)
Chalk it up pre-millennial madness. 1999 brought us the off-kilter debut of two talents who would be integral to 21st-century cinema. Television writer Charlie Kaufman and video director Spike Jonze combined puppetry, alternate realities, and a post-modern affection of their titular star to create Being John Malkovich, an oddball journey by one man into another man’s mind. John Cusack stars as the confused individual who literally has access to John Malkovich’s skull, and Cameron Diaz, nearly unrecognizable in wig and glasses, goes along as the sweetly nerdy love interest. The fact that Malkovich himself shows up just adds further fruity icing to the madness. Assured in its quirks, yet not just quirky for the sake of it, Being John Malkovich is a triumph of the intellectually odd and would give many who came after permission to let their freak flags fly. (Jamie S. Rich)

15. This Is Spinal Tap (Marty DiBergi; co-directed by Rob Reiner)
In 1984, a very special comedy arrived in cinemas and was overwhelmingly embraced by audiences. Made on a miniscule budget of only $4.5 million, it went on to gross approximately $146 million worldwide. It spent five weeks atop the U.S. box office and spawned six sequels. That film was Police Academy. A peculiar little fake-doco from comedian-cum-director Rob Reiner debuted in cinemas three weeks before Police Academy bowed… and went largely ignored. But here we are, twenty-six years later, and people aren’t dressing up like Larvell Jones and Carey Mahoney on Halloween. They’re dressing as the core members of the legendary metal band Spinal Tap: David St. Hubbins (named after the patron saint of quality footwear), Derek Smalls (notorious zucchini smuggler) and Nigel Tufnel (writer of the haunting piano solo “Lick My Love Pump”). This Is Spinal Tap — full of unforgettable one-liners, offensively catchy songs and genuinely touching performances — slowly but surely wormed its way into the public consciousness, kick-starting the mockumentary movement and making “11” a perfectly viable level of volume on future speaker systems. Although Reiner’s directorial career would not live up to the promise of his debut feature (Rumour Has It features more gut-churning moments than Videodrome), This Is Spinal Tap remains an unequivocally influential achievement in comedy. How much funnier could this film be? The answer is none. None more funnier. (Simon Miraudo)

16. Gates of Heaven (Errol Morris)
Errol Morris takes his camera around California and interviews various people involved in pet cemeteries. The first person we meet, Floyd McClure, opened his cemetery as his lifelong dream after his dog was killed; he saw his dream wither away when the cemetery went belly-up and more than 450 animal corpses had to be disinterred and moved. Morris moves on to Cal Harberts, who started his own cemetery with the animals left over from McClure’s land. We don’t get to know him as well as we do his two sons, Phil and Dan, who help run the cemetery. Phil is a former insurance salesman who’s listened to one too many motivational tapes. He seems to be psyching himself up to deal with the remainder of his dull life. Dan is a would-be rock musician who drags his amp outside and practices when nobody is around. The sound of his guitar riffs bouncing off the pet gravestones is incredibly sad and chilling. Did Morris set out to make a quirky documentary about what some would consider a trivial subject? He came back with an unforgettable mood piece about human loneliness, in which the mourned pets seem much more important than if they had been the movie’s true focus. (Rob Gonsalves)

17. Hiroshima mon amour (Alain Resnais)
Hiroshima mon amour broke all the rules, even those of the Nouvelle Vague, of which it formed the initial, ear-splitting cannonade a half-century ago. Director Alain Resnais was no upstart critic, but a talent who had been cutting his teeth on short films and documentaries for fifteen years. His feature debut was a close collaboration with established literary figure Marguerite Duras, whose personal blend of melancholic nostalgia, suppressed horror, and sickly sensuality provided the springboard for Resnais’ semi-experimental narrative. Cinematic time and space was suddenly in dynamic flux, and sexuality of a kind barely seen before in a mainstream movie only added to the shock of the new. East and West, unthinkable apocalypse and private tragedy, and the flesh of lovers are as closely entwined and yet forlornly alienated as Resnais’ syncopated sounds and images, in a display of technique as challenging as it is original, and yet it’s the emotional heart of the film that triumphs in cathartic epiphany. (Roderick Heath)

18. Airplane! (Jerry Zucker, Jim Abrahams, David Zucker)
Airplane! changed the face of cinema by inventing a genre that didn’t previously exist. It was a disaster movie by way of Mad magazine, with a healthy sprinkling of comic non sequiturs and sight gags added for seasoning. Using the 1957 B-movie Zero Hour as the template for their spoof, the ZAZ filmmaking team (consisting of David Zucker, Jim Abrahams, and Jerry Zucker) mercilessly ridiculed every cliché and convention imaginable in the disaster genre. They did it with a frantic, high-energy style unlike anything audiences had ever seen before. There was literally a joke of some sort every three seconds, and the film required multiple viewings because some of the best gags were in the background, where you’d initially miss them. There have been lots of other spoof movies in the thirty years since the release of Airplane! but none of them have ever matched its comedic brilliance. Today’s spoofs are particularly missing the point; they simply reference other, better movies, whereas Airplane! spoofed the structure of an entire genre. (Mike McGranaghan)

19. Duel (Steven Spielberg)
The inclusion of Duel on a list like this courts controversy because it famously made its 1971 debut on American television. But watch it some time and you may likely conclude that it doesn’t feel at all like a TV movie from the ’70’s. This is because its wunderkind director, Steven Spielberg, shot it with a theatrical presentation in mind — it even had additional scenes shot to pad it when its studio, Universal Studios, decided it could be released theatrically in Europe. That it did premiere overseas on the big screen before Spielberg’s next feature, The Sugarland Express, would arrive in U.S. theaters may make a convincing case to consider it his legitimate first feature film; but an even better argument emerges from just watching the movie itself. Duel is a tense, tightly controlled exercise in suspense — not the cheap kind that demands someone jump out at the audience every five minutes, but a real sweat-inducing, hand-wringing, consistently anxious affair. Spielberg, with the sure hand of an expert, draws out the cat-and-mouse conflict between Dennis Weaver’s unlucky commuter and his unseen tractor-trailer-driving nemesis and keeps it alive, interesting, and inventively involving. The film bears the mechanical hallmarks of his future works — his abilities to understand and manipulate audience sympathy and to effortlessly generate thrills, and his uncanny mastery of timing to elicit the strongest desired reactions. Spielberg would further hone and utilize this skillset with mega-successes such as Jaws, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and Jurassic Park, but the first evidence of his auteurism can be justifiably located in Duel. (Jeffrey Chen)

20. The Iron Giant (Brad Bird)
Originally developed as a big screen take on Pete Townshend’s concept album The Iron Man (itself an adaptation of Ted Hughes’ book), The Iron Giant became something entirely different — and entirely wondrous — once Amazing Stories and Simpsons vet Brad Bird came aboard. Townshend’s songs were ditched; Bird relocated the setting to small town America at the height of the Cold War; screenwriter Tim McCanlies supplied the film’s central theme: “you are who you choose to be.” And in choosing to be the good guy instead of the villain, the Giant displays more humanity than most of the cowardly humans he encounters. His genuine goodness betrays his original war machine programming; his determination to “not be a gun” leads to an act of heroic selflessness which still resonates eleven years and countless viewings later. (David Cornelius)

21. The Evil Dead (Sam Raimi)
22. The Producers (Mel Brooks)
23. Knife in the Water (Roman Polanksi)
24. The Shawshank Redemption (Frank Darabont)
25. The Kid (Charles Chaplin)
26. District 9 (Neill Blomkamp)
27. Monty Python and the Holy Grail (Terry Gilliam and Terry Jones)
28. Donnie Darko (Richard Kelly)
29. L’Age d’Or (Luis Buñuel)
30. Synecdoche, New York (Charlie Kaufman)
31. Pather Panchali (Satyajit Ray)
32. Henry V (Kenneth Branagh)
33. Easy Rider (Dennis Hopper)
34. Clerks (Kevin Smith)
35. The Blair Witch Project (Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez)
36. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (Mike Nichols)
37. Gattaca (Andrew Niccol)
38. Primer (Shane Carruth)
39. Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure (Tim Burton)
40. Brick (Rian Johnson)
41. Killer of Sheep (Charles Burnett)
42. Sex, Lies, and Videotape (Steven Soderbergh)
43. Mad Max (George Miller)
44. Pi (Darren Aronofsky)
45. In Bruges (Martin McDonagh)
46. Harlan County U.S.A. (Barbara Kopple)
47. American Beauty (Sam Mendes)
48. Boyz N the Hood (John Singleton)
49. Hedwig and the Angry Inch (John Cameron Mitchell)
50. Delicatessen (Marc Caro and Jean-Pierre Jeunet)
51. Elevator to the Gallows (aka Frantic) (Louis Malle)
52. Bottle Rocket (Wes Anderson)
53. Titicut Follies (Frederick Wiseman)
54. She’s Gotta Have It (Spike Lee)
55. Shadows (John Cassavetes)
56. Moon (Duncan Jones)
57. Monsters Inc. (Pete Docter)
58. Slacker (Richard Linklater)
59. Say Anything… (Cameron Crowe)
60. Shallow Grave (Danny Boyle)
61. Closely Watched Trains (Jiri Menzel)
62. Gone Baby Gone (Ben Affleck)
63. Repo Man (Alex Cox)
64. The Virgin Suicides (Sofia Coppola)
65. Amores Perros (Alejandro González Iñárritu)
66. On the Town (Stanley Donan and Gene Kelly)
67. The Triplets of Belleville (Sylvain Chomet)
68. Ivan’s Childhood (aka My Name Is Ivan) (Andrei Tarkovsky)
69. My Favorite Year (Richard Benjamin)
70. El Mariachi (Robert Rodriguez)
71. Performance (Nicolas Roeg and Donald Cammell)
72. In the Company of Men (Neil LaBute)
73. They Live By Night (Nicholas Ray)
74. Love Actually (Richard Curtis)
75. Fast Times at Ridgemont High (Amy Heckerling)
76. One-Eyed Jacks (Marlon Brando)
77. Hard Eight (Paul Thomas Anderson)
78. Following (Christopher Nolan)
79. Cabin in the Sky (Vincente Minnelli)
80. George Washington (David Gordon Green)
81. Blood of a Poet (Jean Cocteau)
82. The Station Agent (Thomas McCarthy)
83. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (Shane Black)
84. Away from Her (Sarah Polley)
85. Thank You for Smoking (Jason Reitman)
86. The Orphanage (Juan Antonio Bayona)
87. Chicago (Rob Marshall)
88. The 40-Year-Old Virgin (Judd Apatow)
89. Pleasantville (Gary Ross)
90. Force of Evil (Abraham Polonsky)
91. Drugstore Cowboy (Gus Van Sant)
92. Nanook of the North (Robert Flaherty)
93. Heathers (Michael Lehmann)
94. Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (Guy Ritchie)
95. Strictly Ballroom (Baz Luhrmann)
96. Dances with Wolves (Kevin Costner)
97. The Falls (Peter Greenaway)
98. Koyaanisqatsi (Godfrey Reggio)
99. Get Carter (Mike Hodges)
100. Ratcatcher (Lynne Ramsay)

OFCS Top 100: Top 100 Overlooked Films of the 1990s

Categories: Member Wisdom
Comments: 3 Comments
Published on: October 1, 2010

A new OFCS Top 100 is coming soon: our “100 Best First Films” celebrates the best in directorial debut efforts. Voting is currently underway, and the list will be announced Monday, October 4. To celebrate the arrival of the new list – our first since 2004 – we’re taking a trip back in time, reposting our previous Top 100s.

The OFCS Top 100 Overlooked Films of the 1990s was announced in 2004. Read the list after the jump.

July 27, 2004: It was the decade of Tarantino and Titanic. From Schindler’s List to The Blair Witch Project, movies and the hype that went with them seemed bigger than ever.

However, too many great films somehow got lost in the shuffle. While some were recalled by Oscar voters and many managed to squeak out a modest box office return, these films nonetheless failed to click in the memory banks of both the critics and with audiences.

The writers of the Online Film Critics Society recalls the half- and completely-forgotten treasures of the past decade cinematic canon with its list of the Top 100 Overlooked Films of the 1990s. Join us for a trip back into the not-so-distant past and see if you recall the titles celebrated here by the OFCS writers.

The Online Film Critics Society’s Top 100 Overlooked Films of the 1990s

1. Miller’s Crossing
2. Safe
3. The Sweet Hereafter
4. Lone Star
5. Heavenly Creatures
6. Waiting for Guffman
7. The Hudsucker Proxy
8. Babe: Pig in the City
9. Dead Man
10. Fearless
11. Bound
12. Chungking Express
13. The Straight Story
14. Searching for Bobby Fischer
15. Ghost Dog: Way of the Samurai
16. That Thing You Do!
17. Dead Again
18. Sneakers
19. Zero Effect
20. The Butcher Boy
21. Truly, Madly, Deeply
22. In the Company of Men
23. Devil in a Blue Dress
24. The Red Violin
25. Cemetery Man
26. Hamlet
27. Breakdown
28. Welcome to the Dollhouse
29. The Apostle
30. Eve’s Bayou
31. Hard Eight
32. Defending Your Life
33. A Little Princess
34. Bringing Out the Dead
35. Hana-Bi (Fireworks)
36. Jacob’s Ladder
37. The Spanish Prisoner
38. Pump Up the Volume
39. Beautiful Girls
40. The Double Life of Veronique
41. Very Bad Things
42. Richard III
43. October Sky
44. Strange Days
45. My Neighbor Totoro
46. L.A. Story
47. Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me
48. A Bronx Tale
49. The Limey
50. A Perfect World
51. Before Sunrise
52. Bob Roberts
53. Dick
54. Raise the Red Lantern
55. One False Move
56. The Ref
57. Exotica
58. Sonatine
59. Joe Versus the Volcano
60. Matinee
61. The Ice Storm
62. The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert
63. Croupier
64. The Winslow Boy
65. Girl on the Bridge
66. Bullet in the Head
67. Darkman
68. Cannibal! The Musical
69. Fast, Cheap & Out of Control
70. Smoke
71. The Last Days of Disco
72. Fresh
73. Eye of God
74. Flirting with Disaster
75. Bottle Rocket
76. Ashes of Time
77. Fallen Angels
78. Great Expectations
79. Kundun
80. A Midnight Clear
81. Deep Cover
82. Ravenous
83. Twin Falls, Idaho
84. The People vs. Larry Flynt
85. Quick Change
86. The Secret of Roan Inish
87. Beloved
88. Big Night
89. Topsy-Turvy
90. Living in Oblivion
91. Jesus’ Son
92. Glengarry Glen Ross
93. Chaplin
94. Dead Alive
95. Jude
96. Cradle Will Rock
97. Proof
98. The Wonderful, Horrible Life of Leni Riefenstahl
99. Titus
100. Mystery Men

OFCS Top 100: Top 100 Animated Features

Categories: Member Wisdom
Comments: 9 Comments
Published on: September 29, 2010

A new OFCS Top 100 is coming soon: our “100 Best First Films” celebrates the best in directorial debut efforts. Voting is currently underway, and the list will be announced Monday, October 4. To celebrate the arrival of the new list – our first since 2004 – we’re taking a trip back in time, reposting our previous Top 100s.

The OFCS Top 100 Animated Features was announced in 2003. Read the list after the jump.

March 4, 2003: The Online Film Critics Society (OFCS), the international association of the leading Internet-based cinema journalists, is celebrating the glory of animation with its new list honoring its choices of the Top 100 Animated Features of All Time.

With a reminder list of more than 350 feature films to choose from (the list did not include animated short films), spanning the years from the 1926 silent film The Adventures of Prince Achmed to last November’s release Treasure Planet, the society invited its accredited writers to consider some of the finest films of this celebrated genre. “Looking at the list compiled by our writers, it’s evident what an impact the advances and varieties of animation had on people in the last 15 years,” says Erik Childress, editor of and a member of the OFCS Governing Committee. “While films such as Snow White and Fantasia may have been the blueprint for animation, the recent films of Pixar, Mayazaki and Trey Parker & Matt Stone have reconfigured how we view animated films and have expanded their artistic, emotional and satiric potential to new heights.”

The Online Film Critics Society’s Top 100 Animated Features of all Time

1. Toy Story (1995)
2. Fantasia (1940)
3. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)
4. Toy Story 2 (1999)
5. The Iron Giant (1999)
6. Beauty and the Beast (1991)
7. The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
8. Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988)
9. South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut (1999)
10 Spirited Away (2002)
11. Pinocchio (1940)
12. The Lion King (1994)
13. Chicken Run (2000)
14. Bambi (1942)
15. Shrek (2001)
16. Princess Mononoke (1999)
17. Monsters Inc. (2001)
18. Yellow Submarine (1968)
19. Aladdin (1992)
20. Akira (1989)
21. A Bug’s Life (1998)
22. The Little Mermaid (1989)
23. Grave of the Fireflies (1988)
24. Dumbo (1941)
25. Waking Life (2001)
26. Sleeping Beauty (1959)
27. The Jungle Book (1967)
28. 101 Dalmatians (1961)
29. Ice Age (2002)
30. My Neighbor Totoro (1993)
31. Watership Down (1978)
32. Charlotte’s Web (1973)
33. Lady and the Tramp (1955)
34. The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Movie (1979)
35. The Secret of NIMH (1982)
36. Peter Pan (1953)
37. Cinderella (1950)
38. Ghost in the Shell (1996)
39. Alice in Wonderland (1951)
40. The Prince of Egypt (1998)
41. Antz (1998)
42. Animal Farm (1955)
43. Lilo & Stitch (2002)
44. Alice (1988)
45. The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996)
46. Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989)
47. Beavis & Butthead Do America (1996)
48. Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within (2001)
49. Mulan (1998)
50. Fantastic Planet (1973)
51. Fritz the Cat (1972)
52. Gulliver’s Travels (1939)
53. Heavy Metal (1981)
54. Metropolis (2002)
55. Robin Hood (1973)
56. Tarzan (1999)
57. The Emperor’s New Groove (2000)
58. The Adventures of Prince Achmed (1926)
59. Asterix et Cleopatre (1968)
60. Fantasia 2000 (2000)
61. Transformers: The Movie (1986)
62. Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (1993)
63. James and the Giant Peach (1996)
64. Snoopy Come Home (1972)
65. An American Tail (1986)
66. The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (1977)
67. Song of the South (1946)
68. A Boy Named Charlie Brown (1969)
69. When the Wind Blows (1988)
70. The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949)
71. The Brave Little Toaster (1988)
72. Mad Monster Party (1969)
73. The Fox and the Hound (1981)
74. Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron (2002)
75. Anastasia (1997)
76. The Rescuers (1977)
77. The Plague Dogs (1983)
78. The Phantom Tollbooth (1970)
79. The Land Before Time (1988)
80. The Emperor’s Nightingale (1951)
81. Arabian Knight (aka The Thief and the Cobbler) (1995)
82. Titan A.E. (2000)
83. Perfect Blue (1999)
84. Ninja Scroll (1995)
85. The Great Mouse Detective (1986)
86. The Powerpuff Girls Movie (2002)
87. The Aristocats (1970)
88. Gay Purr-ee (1962)
89. Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius (2001)
90. The Lord of the Rings (1978)
91. The Three Caballeros (1945)
92. Allegro Non Troppo (1977)
93. Hercules (1997)
94. Bebe’s Kids (1992)
95. Treasure Planet (2002)
96. The Last Unicorn (1982)
97. Streetfight (aka Coonskin) (1975)
98. The Adventures of Mark Twain (1986)
99. Fire and Ice (1983)
100. The Black Cauldron (1985)

OFCS Top 100: Top 100 Villains of All Time

Categories: Member Wisdom
Comments: 3 Comments
Published on: September 27, 2010

A new OFCS Top 100 is coming soon: our “100 Best First Films” celebrates the best in directorial debut efforts. Voting is currently underway, and the list will be announced Monday, October 4. To celebrate the arrival of the new list – our first since 2004 – we’re taking a trip back in time, reposting our previous Top 100s.

The OFCS Top 100 Villains of All Time was announced in 2002. Read the list after the jump.

October 1, 2002: The Online Film Critics Society (OFCS), the international association of the leading Internet-based cinema journalists, is sharing its love with the character we’re supposed to hate. The OFCS has announced its new list celebrating the Top 100 Villains of All Time and the greatest screen villain of all time, according to the 132 members of the OFCS, is Darth Vader played by David Prowse and voiced by James Earl Jones in the original Star Wars trilogy.

In polling the OFCS membership for this survey, with a list of more than 400 potential villains to choose from, the society invited its members to consider some of the most wonderfully charismatic examples of celluloid evil. “The Villains list spans the history of motion pictures, from Max Schreck’s landmark performance in the 1922 silent version of Nosferatu to Anthony Hopkins reprising his Hannibal Lecter role yet again in the new Red Dragon feature,” says Erik Childress, editor of and a member of the OFCS Governing Committee. “In many ways, the villains are the most important aspect of classic films–what would Star Wars be without Darth Vader or The Wizard of Oz without ‘The Wicked Witch of the West.’ With this list, we can unapologetically say that we love a great villain!”

The OFCS Top 100 Villains of All Time

1. Darth Vader (David Prowse/James Earl Jones, Star Wars, etc.)
2. Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins, The Silence of the Lambs, etc.)
3. Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins, Psycho, etc.)
4. Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman, Die Hard)
5. Frank Booth (Dennis Hopper, Blue Velvet)
6. Rev. Harry Powell (Robert Mitchum, The Night of the Hunter)
7. HAL 9000 (Douglas Rain [voice], 2001: A Space Odyssey)
8. The Wicked Witch of the West (Margaret Hamilton, The Wizard of Oz)
9. Graf Orlock (Max Schreck, Nosferatu)
10. Khan Noonien Singh (Ricardo Montalban, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan)
11. Alex (Malcolm McDowell, A Clockwork Orange)
12. Keyzer Soze ([actor’s name withheld], The Usual Suspects)
13. Harry Lime (Orson Welles, The Third Man)
14. Amon Goeth (Ralph Fiennes, Schindler’s List)
15. Michael Myers (aka The Shape) (Nick Castle, Halloween)
16. The Joker (Jack Nicholson, Batman)
17. Nurse Ratched (Louise Fletcher, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest)
18. Mrs. Iselin (Angela Lansbury, The Manchurian Candidate)
19. The shark (Himself, Jaws)
20. John Doe (Kevin Spacey, Se7en)
21. T-800 (Arnold Schwarzenegger, The Terminator, etc.)
22. Annie Wilkes (Kathy Bates, Misery)
23. John “Jack” Daniel Torrance (Jack Nicholson, The Shining)
24. Frank (Henry Fonda, Once Upon a Time in the West)
25. Salieri (F. Murray Abraham, Amadeus)
26. Hans Beckert (Peter Lorre, M)
27. Chad (Aaron Eckhart, In the Company of Men)
28. The alien (Himself, Alien, etc.)
29. Uncle Charlie (Joseph Cotten, Shadow of a Doubt)
30. Freddy Kreuger (Robert Englund, A Nightmare on Elm Street)
31. Col. Walter E. Kurtz (Marlon Brando, Apocalypse Now)
32. Noah Cross (John Huston, Chinatown)
33. Alex Forrest (Glenn Close, Fatal Attraction)
34. Gunnery Sergeant Hartman (R. Lee Ermey, Full Metal Jacket)
35. Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer, Blade Runner)
36. Mr. Smith (Hugo Weaving, The Matrix)
37. Dracula (Bela Lugosi, Dracula)
38. Christian Szell (Laurence Olivier, Marathon Man)
39. T-1000 (Robert Patrick, Terminator 2: Judgment Day)
40. Mr. Potter (Lionel Barrymore, It’s a Wonderful Life)
41. Pazuzu (Mercedes McCambridge [voice], The Exorcist)
42. Captain Hank Quinlan (Orson Welles, Touch of Evil)
43. Norman Stansfield (Gary Oldman Léon/The Professional)
44. Max Cady (Robert De Niro, Cape Fear)
45. Auric Goldfinger (Gert Frobe, Goldfinger)
46. King Richard III (Ian McKellan, Richard III)
47. Bruno Antony (Robert Walker, Strangers On a Train)
48. Albert Spica (Michael Gambon, The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover)
49. Phyllis Dietrichson (Barbara Stanwyck, Double Indemnity)
50. Patrick Bateman (Christian Bale, American Psycho)
51. John Ryder (Rutger Hauer, The Hitcher)
52. Tommy DeVito (Joe Pesci, Goodfellas)
53. Eve Harrington (Anne Baxter, All About Eve)
54. Rhoda (Patty McCormack, The Bad Seed)
55. Tommy Udo (Richard Widmark, Kiss of Death)
56. Arthur “Cody” Jarrett (James Cagney, White Heat)
57. The queen (Lucille La Verne [voice], Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs)
58. Mrs. Danvers (Judith Anderson, Rebecca)
59. Max Cady (Robert Mitchum, Cape Fear)
60. Jack D. Ripper (Sterling Hayden, Dr. Strangelove)
61. Dr. Evil (Mike Myers, Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery, etc.)
62. Travis Bickle (Robert DeNiro, Taxi Driver)
63. Catherine Trammell (Sharon Stone, Basic Instinct)
64. Leatherface (Gunnar Hansen, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre)
65. Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas, Wall Street)
66. Minnie Castevet (Ruth Gordon, Rosemary’s Baby)
67. Mountain men (Bill McKinney and Herbert “Cowboy” Coward, Deliverance)
68. Alonzo Harris (Denzel Washington, Training Day)
69. Jane Hudson (Bette Davis, What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?)
70. Cruella De Vil (Betty Lou Gerson [voice], 101 Dalmatians)
71. The evil Maria (Brigitte Helm, Metropolis)
72. The truck driver (Carey Loftin, Duel)
73. Booth (John Malkovich, In the Line of Fire)
74. Erik (Lon Chaney, The Phantom of the Opera)
75. Wendy Kroy (Linda Fiorentino, The Last Seduction)
76. Henry (Michael Rooker, Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer)
77. Don Logan (Ben Kingsley, Sexy Beast)
78. Roat (Alan Arkin, Wait Until Dark)
79. Mr. Blonde (Michael Madsen, Reservoir Dogs)
80. Aguirre (Klaus Kinski, Aguirre, the Wrath of God)
81. Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt, Fight Club)
82. Catwoman (Michelle Pfieffer, Batman Returns)
83. Archibald Cunningham (Tim Roth, Rob Roy)
84. Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft, The Graduate)
85. Major Heinrich Strasser (Conrad Veidt, Casablanca)
86. Biff Tannen (Thomas F. Wilson, Back to the Future, etc.)
87. Ed Rooney (Jeffrey Jones, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off)
88. Roger Smith (Himself, Roger & Me)
89. Little Bill Daggett (Gene Hackman, Unforgiven)
90. The monster (Boris Karloff, Frankenstein, etc.)
91. Ming the Merciless (Max Von Sydow, Flash Gordon)
92. Henry Morrison/Jerry Blake/Bill Hodgkins (Terry O’Quinn, The Stepfather)
93. Mystery Villain ([actor’s name withheld], Primal Fear)
94. Jack Wilson (Jack Palance, Shane)
95. Mark Lewis (Carl Boehm, Peeping Tom)
96. Captain William Bligh (Charles Laughton, Mutiny On the Bounty)
97. The Lord of Darkness (Tim Curry, Legend)
98. Krug (David Hess, The Last House On the Left)
99. Clare Quilty (Peter Sellers, Lolita
100. Dr. Caligari (Werner Krauss, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari)

OFCS Top 100: Top 100 Sci-Fi Films

Categories: Member Wisdom
Comments: 2 Comments
Published on: September 24, 2010

A new OFCS Top 100 is coming soon: our “100 Best First Films” celebrates the best in directorial debut efforts. Voting is currently underway, and the list will be announced Monday, October 4. To celebrate the arrival of the new list – our first since 2004 – we’re taking a trip back in time, reposting our previous Top 100s.

The OFCS Top 100 Top Sci-Fi Films was announced in 2002. Read the list after the jump.

June 12, 2002: The Online Film Critics Society (OFCS), the international association of the leading Internet-based cinema journalists, is celebrating the first century of science fiction filmmaking with a list of the Top 100 Sci-Fi Films of the Past 100 Years. At the top of the list, according to the 115 members of the OFCS, is Stanley Kubrick’s cryptic 1968 masterpiece 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Beginning with Georges Melies’ 1902 fantasy A Trip to the Moon and continuing through this summer’s top releases including Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones and the upcoming Minority Report, sci-fi has proven to be among the most durable and prescient of film genres. In celebrating a century of sci-fi films, the OFCS writers considered more than 400 titles spanning every decade and a variety of formats ranging from short subjects to animation to classics of global cinema.

In polling the OFCS membership for this survey, the society invited its members to provide their choices for the century’s greatest sci-fi offerings. “It’s very interesting to see what a broad spectrum of films can be considered science fiction,” says Erik Childress, editor of and a member of the OFCS Governing Committee. “By letting our members vote with their own thoughts instead of tying them down with an absolute final ballot AFI-style, you get to see a wide array of titles that many, including myself, wouldn’t even consider science-fiction (like Dr. Strangelove or Night of the Living Dead).”

The OFCS Top 100 Top Sci-Fi Films

1. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
2. Blade Runner (1982)
3. Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (1977)
4. Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
5. E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial (1982)
6. Metropolis (1927)
7. Brazil (1985)
8. Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)
9. A Clockwork Orange (1971)
10. Alien (1979)
11. Aliens (1986)
12. The Matrix (1999)
13. Back to the Future (1985)
14. The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)
15. Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)
16. The Terminator (1984)
17. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)
18. Planet of the Apes (1968)
19. Dark City (1998)
20. Contact (1997)
21. 12 Monkeys (1995)
22. King Kong (1933)
23. Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
24. La Jetee (1962)
25. A.I.: Artificial Intelligence (2001)
26. Solaris (1972)
27. The Road Warrior (1981)
28. The Thing (1982)
29. Jurassic Park (1993)
30. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)
31. Robocop (1987)
32. Forbidden Planet (1956)
33. The Abyss (1989)
34. Alphaville (1965)
35. Dr. Strangelove (1964)
36. Donnie Darko (2001)
37. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)
38. The Iron Giant (1999)
39. Frankenstein (1931)
40. The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957)
41. The Truman Show (1998)
42. Videodrome (1983)
43. Pi (1998)
44. The Fly (1986)
45. Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi (1983)
46. The Time Machine (1960)
47. Jacob’s Ladder (1990)
48. The War of The Worlds (1953)
49. Independence Day (1996)
50. The City of Lost Children (La Cité des enfants perdus) (1995)
51. The Invisible Man (1933)
52. Gattaca (1997)
53. Altered States (1980)
54. A Trip to the Moon (Le Voyage dans la Lune) (1902)
55. Ghostbusters (1984)
56. Stalker (1979)
57. The Fifth Element (1997)
58. The Thing From Another World (1951)
59. Tron (1982)
60. Them! (1954)
61. The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976)
62. Starship Troopers (1997)
63. Night of the Living Dead (1968)
64. Superman: The Movie (1978)
65. Strange Days (1995)
66. Quatermass and the Pit (a.k.a. Five Million Years To Earth) (1967)
67. Edward Scissorhands (1990)
68. They Live (1988)
69. Things to Come (1936)
70. Sleeper (1973)
71. Mad Max (1979)
72. The Cell (2000)
73. Fantastic Voyage (1966)
74. Star Trek: First Contact (1996)
75. Dead Zone (1983)
76. Dawn of the Dead (1978)
77. Akira (1988)
78. Time Bandits (1981)
79. eXistenZ (1999)
80. Invaders from Mars (1953)
81. On the Beach (1959)
82. Silent Running (1971)
83. Total Recall (1990)
84. Open Your Eyes (Abre los Ojos) (1997)
85. Fahrenheit 451 (1966)
86. THX 1138 (1970)
87. Seconds (1966)
88. Starman (1984)
89. Village of the Damned (1960)
90. Until the End of the World (1991)
91. Fantastic Planet (La Planète sauvage) (1973)
92. Men In Black (1997)
93. The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension (1984)
94. The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)
95. Highlander (1986)
96. The Andromeda Strain (1971)
97. Time After Time (1979)
98. Escape from New York (1981)
99. Slaughterhouse Five (1973)
100. Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986)

Essay Question: Our Remake Wishes

Categories: Member Wisdom
Comments: 1 Comment
Published on: August 9, 2010

OFCS members answer the question:

If you had the chance to remake any film, which one would you remake?

Answers after the jump.

David Cornelius:

Flash Gordon. With all respect to the 1980 Mike Hodges feature (which I love), the character deserves a camp-free revival, and the crummy 2007-08 TV series (not to mention the 1996 cartoon) just didn’t do the job. Let’s get back to the comic strip/matinee serial roots with some whirlwind retro adventure – like The Rocketeer, but with Hawkmen! (Brian Blessed, of course, is invited to play every role.)

Rob Gonsalves:

The Island of Dr. Moreau. Because the basic H.G. Wells story is always relevant, and the last word on it shouldn’t be the interesting but compromised 1996 version. There have been, by my count, three major Hollywood passes at the material (the Charles Laughton Island of Lost Souls being the best by far) and three cheapjack productions that got made because the novel is in the public domain.

I would go to Warner, where they seem to respect oddity and artistry, get a healthy budget for great manimal-making (supervised by Rick Baker), get Guillermo Del Toro to produce and Vincenzo Natali to direct, and write the script myself incorporating all the best stuff from Wells and the better films. For Moreau I’d cast David Cronenberg; you really don’t want to get into a hambone contest with Laughton, Burt Lancaster and Brando, so I’d want to go the other way and make Moreau cool and clinical and, well, Cronenbergian. Although Dieter Laser from “The Human Centipede” would also be a good choice (if a bit on-the-nose). Peter Gabriel would compose the creepy jungle score. Lady Gaga would be the half-woman half-cat. Nathan Fillion would be protagonist Edward Prendick.

Who am I kidding, though? I fully expect this to be announced as yet another Tim Burton/Johnny Depp vehicle…

Phil Hall:

The 1974 film version of Jerry Herman’s delightful Broadway musical Mame was a travesty because of Gene Saks’ clumsy direction and the tragic miscasting of frog-voiced Lucille Ball in the title role. Someday, hopefully, a proper Mame film will be made.

Mark H. Harris:

Avatar, because I think the original flew under the radar. :)

Wesley Lovell:

Sweeney Todd. I had ideas in my head for how this should be adapted well before Burton blasphemed the entire production. So much would change and I would rebuild on the original stage production and not dismantle it as was done on the big screen.

John J. Puccio:

I think it’s time somebody remade Gus Van Sant’s Psycho. They could change the main character to a woman, Norma Bates, and get Angelina Jolie to play her, with Jon Voight as her mummified father.

Jonathan Richards:

Of course it makes the most sense to remake the bad ones, because the pressure is off. Showgirls might be fun. Or something like Reefer Madness, Howard the Duck, Battlefield Earth, or Plan 9 from Outer Space (somebody’s already going the Ed Wood route: Grave Robbers from Outer Space, based on a “concept” by Ed Wood, is currently listed as “In Production”.)

Or something really easy. Has anyone thought about doing a remake of Andy Warhol’s Empire?

Or something fun but forgotten, like Rhubarb, the 1951 charmer about a cat that inherits the Brooklyn Dodgers. Of course there are no more Brooklyn Dodgers, and I don’t think a movie about a cat inheriting the Los Angeles Dodgers would have the same appeal.

What you want to stay away from are the movies that worked so well the first time. Alan Arkin once told me that the best notices he’d had in years came in the reviews of the Douglas/Brooks remake of The In-Laws.

The movies I remake in my head always have me starring in them. Me as Captain Blood, me as Rick Blaine, me as Lawrence of Arabia, me as Atticus Finch, me as The Man With No Name. These would all be excellent choices, and if there’s someone out there with a bankroll and a sense of adventure, let’s talk.

Robert Roten:

I would remake Starship Troopers.

It is a film with a lot of potential that could be realized with modern computer graphics not available when the film was originally made. It could be a decent film by sticking closer to the original story by Robert Heinlein, but it also desperately needs a lot better writing, a much better cast and a director who is not trying to force the story into a snide Robocop satirical mold.

In director Paul Verhoeven’s defense, I think he was forced into a lot of compromises and improvisation during the making of this film due to budgetary constraints. It turned out that most of the money went into special effects and very little on acting talent and writing, a common problem in science fiction films.

I would go more for a tone similar to that of the TV series Space, Above and Beyond, which was much more in the spirit of Heinlein’s book than the Starship Troopers movie was. I can’t tell you how disappointed I was the first time I saw Starship Troopers. It would be great to wash away that disappointment.

Felix Vasquez:

I would remake Dawn of the Dead, and do it in a vastly unusual format. Instead of just throwing a bunch of people at us and tossing them in to a mall with sprinting zombies like the remake did, I’d stage it very much like Go, in which we follow only four or five characters, set up their own segments where they discover, and flee from the zombie apocalypse, and circumstances in which they all inevitably cross paths. I’d add much more of the social commentary from the Romero movie but not too much and actually provide a reason for wanting to be in the mall beyond just randomly coming across it in the middle of the chaos and adding some sense to it. I’d add a clear logical reason for leaving the mall in the end and slow down the zombies to where they’re more fast walkers and not marathon runners posing as deus ex machinas. Less characters, richer character development, much more conflict and we’d actually have a remake rivaling Romero’s original.

Rob Vaux:

The Running Man. Stephen King’s original novella was prescient in its depiction of reality TV and the lengths modern society will go to for titillation and thrills. The Schwarzenegger film abandoned those notions for silly costumes, bad puns and a simplistic “good vs. evil” look at the future. In the right hands, a gritty modern update could become a truly great piece of sci-fi dystopia (though we’ll let them keep Richard Dawson).

Yaroslav Vishtalyuk:

Max Payne (2008) – excellent game but abominable movie.

Essay Question: The Worst Miscasting

Categories: Member Wisdom
Comments: No Comments
Published on: June 1, 2010

OFCS members answer the question:

What do you think was the most severe case of movie miscasting?

Answers after the jump.

Rob Gonsalves, eFilmCritic:

The all-time one would be John Wayne as Genghis Khan. But the worst one I’ve heard about recently is Scorsese supposedly considering Al Pacino as Frank Sinatra and Robert De Niro as Dean Martin. Jesus wept.

Phil Hall, Film Threat:

Hands down, Lucille Ball in Mame. She was far too old for the role (and the use of gauzy filters only accentuated her advancing age) and it was impossible for her to shake her “Lucy” persona and take over the persona of Auntie Mame. And don’t get me started on her singing!

Mike McGranahan, The Aisle Seat:

It’s a tie between Tara Reid playing an anthropologist in Alone in the Dark and Denise Richards playing a munitions expert in The World is Not Enough. This is not to suggest that pretty girls can’t also be brilliant; I’m simply suggesting that these two actresses fall far short of projecting the kind of natural intelligence that would make them credible in such roles. I mean, Reid can’t even properly pronounce “Newfoundland” in the movie, for Pete’s sake!

John Puccio, DVDTOWN:

I’d say it’s a toss-up between Barbra Streisand in Hello, Dolly! and Lucille Ball in Mame. Both were miscast so badly, it’s no wonder both films turned out critical disasters.

Kevin A. Ranson,

This may sound snarky, but Megan Fox in anything at all. Seriously, name one role she’s played that she seemed right for or actually contributed anything to.

Felix Vasquez, Cinema Crazed:

In the last five years, I’d say the worst casting in a film has to be Sam Worthington as the lead in Avatar. This was a humongous movie with amazing technology attached with an epic storyline, with an all-star cast and a vivid world and they cast the most one-dimensional bland leading man working today to take up the charge in a story that deserved a more interesting and much more appealing hero at the reigns than someone who is such a blank slate he practically has no face.

Essay Question: Unseen Classics

Categories: Member Wisdom
Comments: 2 Comments
Published on: May 3, 2010

OFCS members answer the question:

What classic film(s) have you never seen? Why not?

Answers after the jump.

David Cornelius, eFilmCritic:

I’m destined to never see Gone with the Wind in its entirety. Oh, I’ve started several times, only to fall fast asleep every with every viewing. Something about those Tarleton boys, I guess.

Rob Gonsalves, eFilmCritic:

More than I care to admit, count, or list. You’ve heard of They Shoot Pictures, Don’t They, with its ever-changing list of 1000 essential films? Yeah, I haven’t seen all of ‘em. Not even close. In fact, I’ve only seen eight of the top ten films on that list. The taste of shame, it is bitter on my tongue.

“Why not?” Time (lack thereof). Life (gets in the way). If I had nothing to worry about except watching movies all day, I would gleefully do so. I like to think this makes me appreciate all the more the occasional slivers of time I can carve out for non-current films. My twenties were seemingly all about kicking back and watching flicks. My thirties have largely been about Taking Care of Business. Perhaps my forties will improve in this regard, or perhaps I will learn how to manage my time more efficiently. In brief, it’s not because I don’t want to see awesome films.

Phil Hall, Film Threat:

One classic film that I’ve never seen and would love to experience in the groundbreaking 1952 film This is Cinerama, which was responsible for reconfiguring film projection into widescreen proportions. The film has never been made available for home viewing, and it can only be seen at a few venues that are still capable of presenting the production in its triple-screen set-up.

A.J. Hakari, Passport Cinema:

Gone with the Wind is the one I’m most embarrassed to have never seen; as someone who sat through the Air Bud series several times over, this hurts doubly so. But other viewing commitments and a pretty daunting length have kept me from sitting down and watching it, end to end.

Roderick Heath, Ferdy on Films:

There’s a lot of “classic” films that I haven’t managed to notch up yet – too much of Douglas Sirk’s work, of Von Sternberg and Samuel Fuller and John Cassavettes and Rainer Werner Fassbinder and Chantal Akerman and really the list goes on and on. I’d say a couple of the most painful and egregious ones I’ve not yet encountered would include Wilder’s Double Indemnity and Murnau’s Sunrise. The reason for all my lacks is the same, and can be attributed to my living in a fairly small and out-of-the-way town: lack of immediate availability. I’ve never seen them come on free-to-air or cable television or in a video store when I had the money. Fortunately, the many resources for the film lover on the internet has allowed me to plug a lot of these gaps. But one can live without other people’s classics: it can encourage you to look more closely at what you can find.

Dan Lybarger, eFilmCritic:

Believe it or not, I had not seen Wes Craven’s 1984 original version of A Nightmare on Elm Street until the Sunday before I endured the current remake.

It’s even more pathetic when you consider that my first professional assignment was Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare.

Although movies have taken up a disproportionate part of my life, I grew up in a town where the only indoor theater closed for good around 1980. We had a drive-in outside of town, but if I wanted to see a film, I had no choice but to go with my parents. For some reason, they were unwilling to watch horror movies. As a result, there were a series of horror films that came out during my youth that I had no chance of seeing even though several of my peers raved about them.

I didn’t see Alien, Halloween and Friday the 13th until well into my adulthood. I’m a huge fan of the first two films of that trio, but time has not been kind to the third one. I saw it after I’d seen Scream, and it managed to embody every cliché that Neve Campbell, Kevin Williamson and Wes Craven made fun of in that film. It also doesn’t help that no one in that film, even the normally terrific Kevin Bacon, seems to be able to act.

Having finally seen the original Nightmare, I’d have to say it’s remarkably effective. It’s so effective that the folks behind the remake copied some sequences shot-for-shot, but to diminishing returns.

Mike McGranaghan, The Aisle Seat:

I’ve actually spent the last six or seven years catching up on many of the classics I’d never seen. I held off seeing many of them until I could find good, restored copies on DVD, so that I could finally see these films under the best possible circumstances. However, one mega-classic has long been available in pristine DVD condition and I’ve yet to tackle it: Gone With the Wind. Part of my reason for avoiding it is the length; I rarely have the time to sit down and watch a four-hour movie in one stretch. Another reason is that the film (and many of its individual moments) are so iconic that, at some level, I feel as though I’ve already seen it. I certainly do plan to rectify this situation at some point, but I think that will take place once I’ve exhausted many of the other classics on my list that I still have to get to.

Felix Vasquez, Cinema Crazed:

I consider myself a hardcore film buff, but there are just a plethora of classic films I’ve never seen. Films from Fellini, from Kurosawa, from Errol Morris, from Eastwood, from Bernardo Bertolucci, from Bergman and the list literally can go on. I’m not against watching them I just do not have the time or resources to track them down. However before the time is up I intend to school myself on the basics and finally catch up to the rest of the film community. I’ve seen hundreds of classics, cult classics, and obscure films, but from those directors I’m still considerably in the dark since I live in a city that’s not the most culturally enhanced. I intend to stop that soon enough.

Essay Question: Online vs. Print

Categories: Member Wisdom
Comments: 1 Comment
Published on: April 19, 2010

OFCS members answer the question:

A recent article in the Chicago Tribune claims that online reviewers have “dumbed down” film criticism. Where does Internet-based film criticism fall behind its print and broadcast counterparts? What makes Internet-based film criticism stand out from other mediums?

Answers after the jump.

Sarah Boslaugh, Playback:stl:

I don’t agree that internet film criticism is generally inferior to criticism formerly or currently available in print or broadcast and I have yet to see an article which offered anything other than anecdotes and bogus comparisons in this regard. Most traditional media critics have never been of the caliber of A.O. Scott or Roger Ebert: as in most aspects of life, 90% of published criticism is crap, it’s just that when newspapers were mainly read locally no one knew or cared too much about all the crap being produced elsewhere nor did readers necessarily have a standard of comparison for their local newspaper. With the internet we can read criticism by writers from all over the world and make our own judgments about who is worth reading: we don’t have to settle for whomever happens to have been assigned by our local print news monopoly to write film reviews.

While the thought of competing with the best writers from the entire world can be daunting, writing for the internet has several advantages for the critic. Among these: you don’t have to restrict your coverage to the latest studio releases or to films of obvious commercial interest in the geographical area in which you live, you are often less bound by length restrictions, you can include multimedia and links to other articles in your review, and thanks to commenting and email your review can open up a dialogue with readers and other critics from anywhere in the world.

Kevin Carr, 7M Pictures:

The recent bellyaching from “good critics” (their words, not mine) about their loss of jobs with major papers and broadcast outlets is arrogant, narrow-minded, elitist and completely self-serving. Sure, there are “dumbed down” critics in cyberspace, but there are plenty of thoughtful ones as well. I see this as old-school print critics lashing out at a medium that has made their own platform obsolete. The Internet has actually elevated film criticism to include a diversity of opinion, a better sampling of mainstream tastes, superior search-and-compare options and accessibility of the writer to the reader. Ten years from now, Internet-based film criticism won’t be behind print, but it will have surpassed it and rendered the former as obsolete as Betamax, long-distance phone plans and the Pony Express.

Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall:

Honestly, it doesn’t have anything to do with the internet vs print. It has to do with knowledge and expertise. As you don’t need to have much experience to start a blog, many internet critics don’t have a background in cinema – they haven’t seen the classics and can’t put current releases into the context of film history. On the other hand, print critics generally need to have some background in this area just to qualify for the job. There are a lot of internet critics who do have this level of experience – and many print critics who don’t. But that’s the real issue here: inexperienced pundits cheapen the craft, whatever the topic or medium.

Mark Dujsik, Mark Reviews Movies:

To address the article directly for a moment: No apologies to the Tribune columnist, who is out-of-line and out-of-his-league in attempting to dissect the difference between the “professional” and “amateur” critic. He shows he has no clue how a site like Rotten Tomatoes works and makes every, single, redundant point most articles about the “Death of Film Criticism” because of the Internet has made. Go ahead and blame the Internet for the decline of the print medium; I’ll blame it for making your lazy, sloppy article available for me to read.

Anyway, to the question: Internet-based film criticism only falls behind in its print and broadcast cousins in the stigma placed upon it by ignorant articles like the one in question and access to movies. Online critics are not given equal access to screenings by the studios and their reps for fear that they will post reviews too early. In Chicago, our online members watched as major publications like the Tribune and the Sun-Times published their critics’ reviews of Avatar almost a week before it opened. Not a single online member of the Chicago Film Critics Association broke the studio’s embargo, and not a thing has changed. The dailies break embargoes every week and keep having better and more frequent access.

Marilyn Ferdinand, Ferdy on Films:

The Tribune columnist is being intellectually lazy in his assessment. The examples he cites of “dumber” criticism include IMDb user reviews and aggregate reviews on Rotten Tomatoes. He never once mentions blogs or online publications, and doesn’t make any kind of case that excellent criticism can only be found in gatekeeper publications (i.e., print). Trying to respond to yet another doom-and-gloom look at electronic publishing has become an exercise in diminishing returns. Allowing readers to be their own gatekeepers doesn’t sit well with people invested in hierarchical institutions. Sorry, Tribune, you’re Exhibit A in the idiocracy of print journalism in denial about its loss of status and control.

Rob Gonsalves, eFilmCritic:

Internet-based film criticism falls behind its print/broadcast counterparts only in terms of old-school credibility. It’s true that any moron can start a blog and call himself a critic. (Such activities used to be relegated to zines.) But I’d take a lot of web-only critics over some of the blurb whores and dinosaurs who currently see print. It’s the quality of the work that matters, not the delivery system. Snobbiness towards web writers is very 20th-century. The attitude seems to be that a critic who hasn’t earned the imprimatur of a byline at an established newspaper or magazine must not be any good, by definition. That’s a little like saying that a mom-and-pop store must not be any good because it isn’t Wal-Mart. Point is, working for a corporation (which major print and broadcast media are) doesn’t make you respectable any more than working for yourself makes you a bum.

Web criticism can stand out from the rest because it lets brilliant writers who wouldn’t benefit from the scissors of some doofus editor delve into the nooks and crannies of a movie, or a filmmaker’s work, to his/her heart’s content. Granted, some close-reading critical pieces are dry, academic, or generally tl;dr, but some of them, unlimited by column-inch paucity and unopposed by editors afraid to offend readers and advertisers, can take you to some interesting and unexpected places. The next Pauline Kael will come out of the web, not out of the rapidly dying world of print criticism, which no longer has a place or even space for serious work in the field.

Margot Harrison, Seven Days VT:

Honestly, I don’t understand the charges put forth in columns like this. Most well-known print media film critics have no “professional” qualifications for the job other than proven writing ability and a long-standing passion for film. Few attended film school, much less “film criticism” school. As someone who does have what might be considered “professional qualifications” to review books (namely, a PhD in comparative literature), I can tell you that such degrees don’t mean much outside academe. Some people who have them can write great book reviews; others can’t write to save their lives.

But, um, I know that wasn’t really the question. In my mind, the only thing that separates online criticism from print criticism is accessibility. Whatever the medium, I seek out critics I respect. And I find them. (I don’t bother reading print reviews from the AP in the local daily, and I don’t think I’m missing anything by not consulting these “professionals.”)

If people want to use “amateur” critics to bolster their impression that The Hurt Locker isn’t worth seeing, they will do so. But those are people who would never have given the movie more than grudging respect anyway. And as for Saw fans, I really don’t think they care whether those films are Oscar worthy. Idiocracy is not about the proliferation of self-styled critics. It’s about people losing energy for anything that takes mental effort, which includes reading and writing criticism.

Roderick Heath, Ferdy on Films:

At the risk of sounding combative and churlish, to be frank, I began composing on-line film commentary because of my own frustration with a lot of critics I was reading in print in the late ’90s, confronted by opposing poles of glib newspaper reviewers and the ersatz scholarship and boring snobbery in some film magazines, particularly on the Australian scene, a lot of written by old ex-hippie farts still pining for the grand old days of Bergman and Godard. I started writing then to get some of my frustration off my chest and try to sharpen my own sensibility and critical standards, which is largely why I still write in this mode. Far from any desire to “dumb down” film commentary – a dubious and difficult proposition to define – I wanted to present a more expansive and generous-minded sensibility than one I was often encountering. Whilst I have no desire to see print criticism disappear, far from it, I also have happily benefited from a great expansion in potential channels of communication and audience through the internet. One of the best things about on-line writing is its total lack of parochialism: am I not an Aussie film writer who’s a member of an American-run society? I’ve had comments from people who live in the United States, Canada, Australia, the Netherlands, Britain, Bulgaria… and that to me is a great aspect of internet writing. It’s also not, as such writing was back then, a basically one-way street, and perhaps it’s that air of privileged sanctity that some are missing most. So in short my general opinion for the negativity of print critics is, if they couldn’t do any better than they sometimes do, then to hell with them.

James Plath, DVD Town:

I don’t see any reason to overreact. The Tribune columnist is generalizing here, and I’d challenge him to try to tell me that all newspaper reporters are writing at the same level, or even all print reviewers. There are some rank amateurs out there on the Internet writing reviews and blogging, and we all know it. But there are also some very good movie critics who are members of the Online Film Critics Society. Part of our mission ought to be to promote that online film criticism which is heady and informed, because there are always going to be incompetents and pretenders writing, whether in print, online, or some new as-yet-uninvented media.

Robert Roten, Laramie Movie Scope:

As a former print journalism film critic, now a purely online critic, I can see where the columnist is coming from: Print is dying and the internet is to blame. He’s bitter. I’m bitter too and I despair over the rapid decline in this nation’s great newspapers, the Tribune among them.

It is not true, however that print-based film journalism is inherently better than internet film journalism. It does have advantages, the main one being the ability of print publications to hire the best writers by paying them more money. That ability, however, is rapidly being eroded by the loss of print revenue. That ability was never fully utilized in the first place. The hiring of film journalists in print was often a matter of luck and connections. In many cases, film criticism was not a high priority in newspapers. In many cases it still isn’t.

I have never heard of a newspaper or magazine having a contest to find the best movie critic in the nation, with judges pouring over the work of thousands of contestants.

What you have in the wild and woolly world of online film criticism is literally thousands of film journalists slugging it out for recognition and money. It is a true marketplace of ideas and talent, the way newspapers used to be, but are not anymore. It is also, for many of us, a pure labor or love. Print is dying, but online criticism is robust and healthy.

Sure, you can find many examples of online film critics who can’t write well and don’t know much about film, but that is also true of dead tree journalism. You can also find many examples of well-written, well thought-out, entertaining movie reviews online. In fact you can find more of everything online than you can find in print, good and bad.

I suspect that if every print newspaper and magazine conducted fair, well-publicized contests, open to everyone, to find the best film critics for their staffs, based on a substantial body of work, a great many online critics would end up with those jobs. The same would happen if similar contests were held for those coveted newspaper columnist positions. There are a great number of very talented bloggers online who could do a great job for those print publications.

Felix Vasquez, Cinema Crazed:

I don’t see any reason to overreact. The columnist is generalizing here, and I’d challenge him to try to tell me that all newspaper reporters are writing at the same level, or even all print reviewers. There are some rank amateurs out there on the Internet writing reviews and blogging, and we all know it. But there are also some very good movie critics who are members of the Online Film Critics Society. Part of our mission ought to be to promote that online film criticism which is heady and informed, because there are always going to be incompetents and pretenders writing, whether in print, online, or some new as-yet-uninvented media.

Finally, here’s a reprint of the letter MovieCrypt‘s Kevin A. Ranson sent to the Tribune:

I have read articles such as yours regarding the decline of meaningful film critique as it is being diluted by the deluge of voices online. While the decline of print news and paid critics is certainly something to lament, you also fail to point out how many of those “print critics” are (or were) journalists assigned to the task whether they had any interest or experience in film to begin with.

With a medium like the Internet where a distinct voice is often drowned out by the collective, there are great things coming from that. Organizations such as the Online Film Critics Society (of which I am a member in the interest of full disclosure) do their best to gather, recommend, and promote up and coming critics using established standards that must be maintained. Additionally, many of these online critics hone their art for love of film rather than paid assignment, and with the decline of print media, it isn’t as if opportunities for paid positions are springing up everywhere.

Finally, citing a popular franchise in a genre such as slasher films for automatically being less than worthy is a example of something you have failed to consider. While it’s no secret that studios prefer revenue over art, small budgets and thin premises are the bread and butter of inventive thinking, and plenty of celebrity directors, actors, and other filmmakers have paid their dues or have made careers out of screaming or menacing their way across the big screen. If your assessment of a critic championing such fare is automatically the example of this looming “Idiocracy” on its way in, I must point out that Roger Ebert himself endorsed Blade 2 as one of the best movies of 2002 (and I agree with him).

Essay Question: Is it possible to teach film criticism?

Categories: Member Wisdom
Comments: No Comments
Published on: March 27, 2010

OFCS members answer the question:

“Is it possible to teach film criticism? If so, what’s the most important advice you would impart to students about what to expect from the work?”

Answers after the jump.

Nell Minow, Movie Mom:

It is a good thing for anyone considering film criticism to take some classes. There are skills that can be taught as in any other form of analysis and any other kind of writing, and it is a good way to stretch your skills, acquire some expertise, and get constructive feedback. It’s also a good way to network with other people who are interested in the same field. But the learning that goes into being a film critic extends beyond any classroom. It is perpetual and organic. Anyone interested in being a film critic must develop a deep appreciation and understanding of film by having a good working knowledge of all genres and all theories of film and of the art of criticism.

Marilyn Ferdinand, Ferdy on Films:

I think it is possible to teach film criticism, but as a 300-level course in a broad humanities program. A would-be film critic really needs a grounding in film history and technique, and should have a good liberal arts education to understand how film fits into the larger context of society and culture. And, of course, the critic should be skilled in writing and self-editing. As for my most important advice about criticism, I think I’d tell the students to approach all film (world, experimental, documentary, etc.) not just mainstream film, with their soul to avoid overpraising what’s big and popular and ignoring what is small and minority.

Christopher Null,

Yes it is possible. Read my book, Five Stars! How to Become a Film Critic, The World’s Greatest Job.

Amber Wilkinson, Eye for Film:

Whether you can teach good, creative writing in general is debatable, but you can certainly foster an environment where it is more likely to happen. Stephen King once said: “If you don’t have the time to read, you don’t have the time or the tools to write.” I couldn’t agree more. I’d say the most important advice is to read as much as you can — and not only film criticism. This is not in order to be slavish to another person’s style or opinion, but to get a feel for cadence that works and approaches that you like. The reading doesn’t stop there, either. Before submitting work, it’s a great idea to read it out loud first. This may sound odd, but by voicing what is on the page, you will more readily spot spoilers, overlong sentences and ill-placed grammar. Finally, don’t forget to read your article after it has been edited. Make a note of what an editor has cut out or altered and try to consider why that has happened. If you can’t see why, and you have a good editor, they will be happy to explain it to you. It is, after all, in everyone’s interest to make your work look good. If you can see why a change has been made, make a note and resolve to avoid falling into similar traps in future.

Kevin A. Ranson,

Like any field, it’s good to have “the basics” introduced to help enable people new to the topic to better articulate an opinion. That said, it isn’t a requirement, either, to have already decided what to form a basis for a film critique upon. While I have not yet taken such a class myself, I would want (as a student) to experience a different approach than my own as to what makes a film work or fail.

Wesley Lovell, Cinema Sight:

You can “teach” the proper techniques and you can “teach” how different directors, actors, producers, etc. approached filmmaking. You can “teach” historical perspectives and other opinions and you can “teach” people how to write. But, in the end, you cannot teach the core basics of film criticism. Experience is the best educator for film criticism. You must learn how you view film, how you interpret film, how you appreciate film. But you must learn it yourself. You can adopt styles or opinions others use, but they won’t be your opinions. Other critics can teach you what they know, but ultimately your view of cinema is your view of cinema and, as a film critic, it is your responsibility to share that through your reviews. Even the biggest names in film criticism don’t agree 100% of the time. If we did, it would be a fairly boring and you’d only ever have to read one person’s thoughts to know what everyone is thinking. Pauline Kael and Andrew Sarris. Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert. They argued reguarly. No one of them loved film more than the other, but they all disagreed frequently on what made great films. And that’s as it should be. Film is an art form and as such, we each should view it through the prism of our own experience. You can “teach” many things, but you cannot “teach” opinion.

Rob Gonsalves, eFilmCritic:

I suppose film criticism is teachable to the extent that any form of writing is teachable; you can explain what to focus on, but if the talent isn’t there, the student will be a bad critic anyway. If the talent is there, all the student needs is some guidance.

My advice to students: first, don’t quit your day job; second, if you’re really passionate about this thing, my class is essentially useless to you and you’re taking it for the easy A, which is fine. As for what you can expect from the work? Expect exactly as much as you put into it. And try to know about something other than movies, because the more knowledge and experience you can bring to a review, the better.

Felix Vasquez, Cinema Crazed:

You can’t teach criticism, it’s just a part of our nature. We’re all critical of everything, it’s just the internet has given everyone a forum to speak their minds and call themselves critics. As for movie critics, I would advise people to go with their gut feelings on movies and just express your honesty. And also, I’d tell them NOT to be a movie critic.

Don Levit, Reel Talk:

I do not feel that one can “teach” film criticism. Like writing itself, it is something one learns by doing.

OFCS member Mark Dujsik responds to Kevin Smith

Categories: Member Wisdom
Comments: No Comments
Published on: March 26, 2010

Filmmaker Kevin Smith’s recent tirade against critics — who savaged his film Cop Out — has inspired plenty of reaction, including this open letter from OFCS member Mark Dujsik:

It’s not personal. It’s professional. Look at criticism as a necessary evil, if you must look at it disparagingly. I don’t think you do. After all, you’ve delved into it yourself, as a guest host on the now cancelled “At the Movies” (twice), during your touring sessions, and in off-the-cuff remarks, like the one how Tim Burton not reading comic books explains his Batman.

Read the rest here.

Essay Question: Is it possible any longer to maintain the secret of a film’s twist or surprise ending?

Categories: Member Wisdom
Comments: 1 Comment
Published on: March 21, 2010

OFCS members answer the question:

In the age of Twitter and Facebook, is it possible any longer to maintain the secret of a film’s twist or surprise ending? Will the easy dissemination of spoilers change how filmmakers make films?

Answers after the jump.

James Plath,

That’s like saying, “In an age of immoral behavior, is it possible to be moral?” Of course it is. Just because others give away plot points and endings doesn’t mean that a critic has to. In fact, I’ll wager there’s a large segment of the public out there who thinks that Twitter and Facebook are abominations. And they’ll seek out reputable critics expecting nothing less than honesty from them… and the courtesy of including no spoilers.

Rob Gonsalves, eFilmCritic:

Rosebud is a man. A dead man. And it’s really Earth. #nowyoudonthavetoseethemovie

Seriously, I imagine anyone who made a habit of twitting spoilers would be ostracized, blocked/unfollowed, and generally called a mangy eater of stale oatmeal. But if spoilers run rampant on the Intertubes, maybe filmmakers will have to rely on gambits other than gotcha endings. Like, y’know, compelling stories, fleshed-out characters, cute kittens, gratuitous nudity, etc. Yes, nude kittens with complex backstories: that’s what we need more of in our cinema, and less of “the nude kitten is actually a 32-year-old Russian dwarf.”

Robert Roten, Laramie Movie Scope:

Even before the age of Twitter and Facebook it was always possible to discover a film’s twist or surprise ending if you really wanted that information in advance. Even now, it is also possible to avoid that kind of spoiler information in most circumstances. More than ever, it is now up to the audience to avoid spoilers so that they can enjoy the surprise for themselves.

I think there are still large numbers of people who enjoy films, like “The Sixth Sense” that have surprise endings. Filmmakers will continue to make films for them. Of course it is impossible for producers, directors or studios to keep any secrets about the plot of any film once it has been seen by audiences, and that has always been the case. The only difference now is that it is easier to get that information.

One thing that studios can do, however, is to stop giving away these kinds of surprises in trailers. That is one place where an audience can’t easily avoid finding out something about a film they don’t want to know in advance.

Margot Harrison, Seven Days:

It seems to me that the recent films best known for their widely spoiled twist endings (Seven Pounds, Remember Me, Orphan) are also known for not being very good. If easy dissemination of spoilers keeps filmmakers from relying on a promised twist to sell the movie, that’s all to the good. I guessed the twist at the end of Shutter Island just from watching the trailer (and I know I’m not alone), but it didn’t keep me from wanting to see the movie, because I figured it would be a fun ride. Anyone can write a “shocking” twist — it’s much harder to write a good movie.

Don Levit, Reel Talk:

I don’t Facebook, Tweet, Twitter, Chat, etc., myself, but imagine that with everything that’s out there it is impossible for any film not to be known down to the smallest details weeks before theatrically opening. A critic’s doing a spoiler will make no difference. Filmmakers have to accept the fact, with no requests that a reviewer not reveal the “surprise ending.” No way around it.

Roderick Heath, Ferdy on Films:

This is the sort of question it makes more sense to answer in the manner of a simple moviegoer and not critic, and from that perspective the answer is, yes, of course it is possible to avoid being spoilt on a movie, although it does perhaps require a little self-censorship on the behalf of a viewer. To take a recent, large-scale example, I went in to Avatar with a fair knowledge of what to expect by way of story setup, themes, and major characters, but I still found the story’s eventual direction mildly surprising, so therefore I was not “spoilt.” Ironically, I’ve seen many, many films, particularly classics, where I’ve known for years, sometimes decades, what’s going to happen at the end before I actually see a film, and it rarely troubles my experience of a film if the film is any good. If I wanted to find out everything about a film before stepping into a theater, I could, but it’s very easy not to, as well. Of course, some of this comes down to definitions of what constitutes a “spoiler.” Traditionally it has meant not giving away endings to films with significant twists or revealing the fates of major protagonists, but I’ve seen insistence on spoiler alerts slapped on the most innocuous aspects of movie narratives in discussions, and on stories which are historically based. As to whether or not filmmakers might change their act because of how easy it is to spoil a film, well, if it means the end of the stupid twist climax, a la High Tension, I’m all for it.

Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall:

Honestly, I don’t think Twitter and Facebook make it any more difficult to keep a film’s secret. These things were leaked in newspapers and on television long before the dawn of the internet. Spoilers are always out there if you look for them, and they can also difficult to avoid. The main problem in the blogging age is that new critics often aren’t as disciplined about reviewing a film without giving away key plot points.

Essay Question: What does the firing of Variety’s film critics mean for the future of criticism?

Categories: Member Wisdom
Comments: No Comments
Published on: March 14, 2010

OFCS members answer the question:

What does the firing of Variety’s staff film critics, and the statement by Variety editor Tim Gray that “it doesn’t make economic sense to have full-time reviewers,” mean — if anything — for the future of film criticism?

(Background on the issue here and here.)

Answers after the jump.

Glenn Erickson, DVD Savant:

The film reviews were always my reason for looking at Variety as well. They’re collectively one of the best and most objective resources of film history, documenting how movies entered the exhibition market. As far as I’m concerned, the trade paper is dead now.

Cole Smithey, The Smartest Film Critic in the World:

I’m just surprised it didn’t happen a year ago.

Kevin A. Ranson,

It’s always interesting to hear someone suggest that you’re not a “real” critic because you’re not in “real” print or publication, suggesting that because trees aren’t cut down and permanently inked (prior to recycling, that is) to articulate an opinion somehow makes it worth less (or just worthless.)

By that justification, it seems to me that firing print critics (even when those same reviews are also online as opposed to print only) only lends more credibility to actual critique moving further away from traditional media as newspaper and periodicals continue to hemorrhage cash. If those film critics love critique, there’s a good chance they will find a way to continue to contribute. To them I say, “Welcome aboard.”

Rob Gonsalves, eFilmCritic:

It means precisely nothing for the future of film criticism. The future of film criticism printed on dead trees is another story. Variety, like every other magazine, is feeling the pinch. Perhaps more so because it’s essentially a niche publication, and not a cheap one, either.

But it’s like I keep saying: unless you’re Ebert or a handful of others, film criticism is not going to make you a living. This may be a good thing, as it might create more critics who do it for the love of it — even if they have to (gasp) pay to see movies — and fewer who burn themselves out trying to catch critics’ screenings of every crappy movie that comes out every week because it has become a job, not a calling. Film criticism is a calling, like any other writing. Pauline Kael didn’t score a good regular paying gig until she was in her fifties. Didn’t stop her from loving movies and loving to write about them. So the box-office-obsessed Variety can go the way of Premiere for all I care. Film criticism has survived aside from Variety for decades, and it will survive in one form or another without Variety‘s help. It’s too bad about Todd McCarthy, who by all accounts is a stand-up guy, but does anyone really think he won’t land on his feet?

Mike McGranaghan, Aisle Seat:

Although I personally think it sucks that Variety laid off their full time critics (especially the great Todd McCarthy), it only proves what so many naysayers have been reluctant to admit: the internet is where it’s at. For better or worse, the world of film criticism has changed, and it is only going to keep on changing. Consumer reliance on print media continues to shrink, with more people are getting movie information from the internet than from anyplace else. Any film critic whose primary presence is anywhere other than online is probably facing extinction. I’m not saying I agree with it (I actually prefer having reviews across all forms of media), but it certainly seems to be the reality of the situation. It wouldn’t be surprising if, in the future, all film criticism was on the internet only. When a publication as vital as Variety lays off its much-respected film critic, one can only assume that it’s the beginning of the end.

David Cornelius,

It means less for the future of criticism than it does for the future of print. After all, if VarietyVariety!!! — can’t afford to keep critics on the payroll, what chance do other print publications have? (Short answer: none.)

Wesley Lovell, Cinema Sight:

What they are saying is that they want to continue with their freelance work so they don’t have to pay benefits, salary or other “necessities” for employing someone. Despite the prominence of a critic like McCarthy, they don’t seem to understand that although they are reducing costs, they are also reducing the impetus to read their product. While a film critic may not be the most popular person in the world, nor someone who people traditionally read regularly, one who has established a name for himself or herself in the industry brings a certain amount of dedicated readership, which will readily and easily vacate a publication if they no longer have that individual to read. So, they may end up shooting themselves in the foot by releasing someone as noted as Todd McCarthy and encouraging him to write freelance elsewhere or even start up his own website on film criticism, thereby pulling his readers to his revenue stream and out of Variety‘s. I think it will end up hurting them more in the long run than it will help them in the short term.

Anton Bitel, Channel 4 Film:

It means less for the future of film criticism per se than it means for the future of Variety as a publication to be taken at all seriously. If you want quality, you have to be prepared to pay for it, and that goes (in different ways) as much for Variety‘s board as it does for Variety‘s readers — readers who may now prefer to spend their dollar elsewhere, rather than read film criticism that they suspect may be part of an insidious, Variety-brokered promotional campaign for the film in question…

A.J. Hakari, Passport Cinema:

In the grand scheme of things, it makes sense that a niche occuptation like film criticism becomes the victim of a worsening economy; it stinks, but if one had to pick between keeping a fireman or keeping a critic, I’d choose the former. But there still exists an audience and, for some, need for serious criticism, for more in-depth analysis than what DVD blurbs may offer. The firing of the Variety critics is further acknowledgment that this demographic is not of vital concern to the powers that be and, as alarmist as it may sound, a sign that a growing number of folks are sharing this mindset as well.

Essay Question: Should Kevin Smith be more open to criticism?

Categories: Member Wisdom
Comments: No Comments
Published on: March 7, 2010

OFCS members answer the question, suggested by member A.J. Hakari:

“In the past week or so on Twitter, Kevin Smith has taken a lot of critics to task for not ‘getting’ Cop Out, which has incurred some pretty poor reviews. I know I’d like to know what my fellow OFCSers think about the issue, whether he should be more open to criticism or at least handle it with more maturity than he’s been displaying on his Twitter account.”

Answers after the jump.

Felix Vasquez, Cinema Crazed:

Kevin Smith has evolved in to an interesting creature lately. The once confident indie hero is now a bitter resentful man whose has been in the news only for being kicked off an airplane for being too heavy and for bad reviews for a really bad movie. As revealed in an interview, he’s definitely changed in to someone who seems to hate that his career isn’t progressing very much and has blamed his contemporaries like Judd Apatow claiming he ripped off his storytelling style. Smith needs to buck up and realize that criticism of any kind should be accepted and mocking critics for disliking his movie is just sophomoric and speaks poorly of his progress as an experienced filmmaker. I admire that he wants to maintain his king of cool persona for his fans, but mocking critics on Twitter for giving your movie bad reviews is just poor etiquette. Enough whining and moaning and just get back to making your films and accept that they may not translate to everyone. Get over yourself and move on.

Laura Clifford,

It’s simple — if critics aren’t “getting” Cop Out, it is because of poor execution.

Kevin LaForest, Montreal Film Journal:

I personally enjoy how Kevin Smith is one of the very few filmmakers who admits that he reads his reviews (most pretend never to read them), and since he’s always been vocal about everything (through his website, blog, podcast and now Twitter), it’s no surprise that he’d also react openly about critics’ unfair dismissal of Cop Out. I happen to have liked the movie for what it is (i.e. a loving homage to 1980s buddy cop action comedies), but that’s another story!

James Plath,

Aw, leave the poor guy alone. First he’s thrown off an airplane, and now THIS? Personally, I don’t see the problem. Critics want the freedom to blast away at a filmmaker with all sorts of creative (and sometimes cruel and unnecessary) flair, and yet they don’t have the skin thick enough to accept Kevin Smith telling them that they don’t “get” it? Come on! We’re entitled to our opinions, but readers and filmmakers are just as entitled to their opinions of our reviews. George Lucas once remarked, “I gave up reading reviews a long time ago. It’s become a medium that is more like gossip.” I have to admit that I’ve read plenty of reviews that struck me as more performance art written by poseurs than an honest appraisal of a film. Writing with flair is one thing, but when critics put entertainment first and analysis second, people like Lucas are going to walk away with a negative impression of the whole lot of us.

Kevin Carr, 7(M) Pictures:

First of all, I respect the hell out of Kevin Smith for his indelible impact on pop culture. But that doesn’t make him bulletproof from bad reviews, and it doesn’t excuse some of his childish behavior over the past few weeks, both for his reaction to the Southwest Airline debacle and responding to critics who “didn’t get” his film Cop Out.

Telling people they “didn’t get” a film suggests that those who didn’t like it just didn’t see its brilliance. Incidentally, this was basically what Smith said of critics who didn’t like Jersey Girl. The difference is that you had to listen to the commentary of that film to hear that. Now, with Twitter as a venue of immediate reaction, Smith can tweet any thoughts — intelligent or not — to more than 1.6 million people. When you have a thin skin like Smith happens to have, you risk making yourself look childish with knee-jerk reactions.

Ultimately, a filmmaker needs to take criticism like a man. Don’t lash out at critics if they don’t like your work, and don’t coddle them if they do. It is just an opinion after all. It can be excused if you’re fresh out of your teenage years and haven’t learned to deal with the public, but Smith is pushing 40. It’s time for him to grow up a bit and dare I say take a page out of Michael Bay’s book by ignoring the critics and letting his movies succeed or fail from an audience perspective.

Tyler Foster, DVD Talk:

I haven’t been watching Smith’s Twitter account like a hawk or anything, but I saw him praising those who “got it”, not bashing those who didn’t, at least not by name. There were some general pot shots at critics in general, but I assumed he was kidding (and not necessarily wrong about the barrage of misinformation on the web; the supposed claim that he was “too fat to fly” — which he wasn’t, by the way — is a perfect example). Ebert gave him a bad review that several fans brought to Smith’s attention, and Smith was quick to say that Roger had praised some of his other movies, and he didn’t mind, even though the article incorrectly attributed the script to Smith. I also think Smith attracts more trolls thanks to his long-standing net presence. I saw that one person registered a second Twitter account just to insult the guy. In any case, praising and re-Tweeting his few positive notices is fine by me. Rex Reed’s blatant, condescending dismissal of another online critic in his review was far more disappointing than anything Smith said, kidding or not.

Nell Minow, Movie Mom:

I wouldn’t mind Kevin Smith pouring his creative energy into tweets, even to bash critics, if they showed any of the wit and heart of his best movies. Whatever form of media he chooses, he needs to get some focus and energy into his work or he risks being known forever as the guy who used to be worth following.

Rob Gonsalves, eFilmCritic:

My take is that filmmakers shouldn’t care much about what critics say about them, and vice versa. Smith keeps saying the bad reviews don’t bother him, but then he keeps tweeting about them. Either you’re butt-hurt over the reviews or they don’t bother you — which is it, Kev?

The other thing is that you can “get” a film and still not LIKE it. Yes, Kev, it’s your nod to ’80s comedies. Is it funny? Many critics thought not. That’s their right. You can’t argue with a laugh, and you can’t argue with the lack of one.

Anders Wotzke, Cut Print Review:

As with all artists, Kevin Smith has every right to defend his work. But if he wants to be taken seriously in doing so, he needs to thoughtfully expand on the spiteful 140 character twittercisms he has made in the past. He has a blog, perhaps he should articulate a reasoned response there?

David Cornelius,

Hmm. You’d think Kevin Smith would be an old pro at dealing with bad reviews by now.

A.J. Hakari, Passport Cinema:

It stands to reason that after so long in the film business, Kevin Smith should be able to take criticism with more stride than he’s displayed on his Twitter page. He’s more than free to disagree with his critics, and I’d be perfectly fine if he said, “Sorry you didn’t like Cop Out, but I stand by the film and had a blast making it.” But with terms like “poison pens” and “eruditism” used in regards to Cop Out‘s biggest detractors, Smith doesn’t seem to be displaying much maturity in response to this negative feedback. He’s much too smart and talented a filmmaker to plug his ears whenever a cross word is uttered about one of his productions.

Essay Question: What was the biggest cinematic flop, disappointment, or failure of the 2000-2009 decade?

Categories: Member Wisdom
Comments: No Comments
Published on: February 28, 2010

OFCS members answer the question, suggested by member Don Levit:

“What do you think was the biggest cinematic flop, disappointment, or failure of the 2000-2009 decade?”

Answers after the jump.

A.J. Hakari, Passport Cinema:

Popular opinion would probably lean towards Gigli (which, even though I didn’t like it at all, is still far from the be-all, end-all of crap films).

Personally, I’d choose Delgo, a film I’d actually been sort of following for years until its release. From time to time, I’d read blurbs on its piecemeal progress and how such a homegrown flick acquired its unusually star-studded cast. But thanks to one of the world’s worst marketing jobs, Delgo arrived in theaters not with a whimper so much as a sub-whimper; nobody heard of this movie, and to see it fail so miserably really made me feel for the hundreds of crew members who spent so long tinkering with the production.

Pablo Villaça, Cinema em Cena:

Well, we’re talking about two different things here: if we’re discussing failures, there’s no way we could ignore films like Transformers 2, Norbit, The Son of the Mask or any Rob Schneider terrorist attempt. But those were not “disappointments”; we couldn’t really expect anything different from the like of Bay, Murphy, etc. Now… if we are going to talk about disappointments (meaning works from great artists that just bombed), then I have to mention The Lovely Bones, Spider-Man 3, Gangs of New York, Scoop, The Darjeeling Limited, Indiana Jones and the Aliens, Superman Returns, Word Trade Center, Broken Embraces, Australia, Taking Woodstock and the whole M. Night Shyamalan’s carreer post-Unbreakable.

Rob Gonsalves, eFilmCritic:

Biggest flop? A lot of people would say Delgo, which cost $40 million and grossed $694,782. Ouch.

Biggest disappointment? The Black Dahlia. Great director + great book + lousy script + bad casting all around = one more nail in the coffin of De Palma’s relevance.

Biggest failure? Sadly, Fahrenheit 9/11. As much as I admire Michael Moore and the film, it didn’t do what it should’ve done — to convince on-the-fence voters in swing states that Bush was bad news. Partly the uninspiring John Kerry was to blame, but if the film had really worked instead of preaching to the converted, Bush might’ve been one-and-done instead of having four more years to wreck the country. Since the film aimed so high and shot so wide of the mark, it must be considered a failure on a level apart from typical movie failures.

Mike McGranaghan, Aisle Seat:

While it may seem a tad obvious, I’m going with Battlefield: Earth. Not only is this one of the worst movies ever made, but it is also a stellar example of a star’s pet project gone wrong. For years, John Travolta wanted to adapt Scientology founder L. Rob Hubbard’s sci-fi novel for the screen, apparently believing it would inspire the masses. Instead, it merely inspired unintentional laughter with its insipid plot, cheap-o special effects, and bad acting. This is saying nothing of Travolta’s ridiculous dreadlocks. Everyone involved in the production has got to be embarrassed by the end result, which is almost unwatchable. Two weeks before the film was released back in 2000, I was covering a film festival in Baltimore. The producer of a low-budget movie lobbied me to come see her picture, which was written and directed by her brother. “He’s going to be big in the business,” she told me. “He wrote the new John Travolta movie, Battlefield: Earth.” I have a sneaking suspicion that guy doesn’t include the film on his resume anymore.

Dave Johnson, DVD Verdict:

Biggest disappointment? The near-universal acclaim showered on Avatar. Apparently, sharp visual effects masking a nonsensical and juvenile story was disgraceful for stuff like Transformers 2 and The Phantom Menace, but for James Cameron’s plodding, preachy, contrived excursion into a CGI rainforest, break out the Golden Globes and Oscar nominations and near-orgasmic critical reviews!

If this is the future of movies — and the future of film criticism — then our Hometree can’t get nuked soon enough.

Kevin A. Ranson,

House of the Dead was not only a low point for the decade, it also inexplicably launched the career of Uwe Boll. The saddest part is, the more improvement Boll shows (yes, he’s improved a little bit along the way), the worse his films perform.

Felix Vasquez, Cinema Crazed:

I’d say it was Avatar. By all accounts this movie should have been incredible to watch. The effects were amazing but at the end it was all so derivative and lacking in any of the movie magic we’ve come to expect from Science Fiction epics. Cameron’s blockbuster comes off as disingenuous from minute one and fails to invoke even the slightest emotion for any of the characters or worlds he creates and completely wastes talent like Giovanni Ribisi, Sigourney Weaver, Sam Worthington, and Zoe Saldana. I expected the next Star Wars, instead I just got Dances with Wolves with the Thundercats.

Don Levit, Reel Talk:

It’s hard to say one particular picture was the biggest baddie of a decade, but Master and Commander was right up there. Badly cast, badly scripted, badly plotted, overhyped.

Survey Says: OFCS members chose the best GWOT war film

Categories: Member Wisdom
Comments: 1 Comment
Published on: February 25, 2010

In advance of the release of Green Zone and the possibility of The Hurt Locker winning Best Picture at the upcoming Oscars, the members of the Online Film Critics Society have voted Kathryn Bigelow’s movie about an American bomb disposal squad in Iraq the best movie about the Iraq/Afghanistan/GWOT war. With 34 members responding to the poll, The Hurt Locker came out on top by a wide margin: 22 votes.

Other films that received at least one vote:

The Messenger (3 votes)
In the Valley of Elah (2 votes)

And with one vote apiece:

Battle for Haditha
Delta Farce
Pig Hunt
Taxi to the Dark Side
Standard Operating Procedure
The Way We Get By

Essay Question: How much should critics worry about spoiling a film?

Categories: Member Wisdom
Comments: 1 Comment
Published on: February 20, 2010

OFCS members answer the question:

“How much should critics worry about spoiling a film?”

This was inspired by critic Christian Toto calling out Rex Reed for spoiling The Wolfman in his review of that film and Stephanie Bunbury’s recent discussion in The Sydney Morning Herald about how long critics should wait before not worrying about spoiling.

Answers after the jump.

Felix Vasquez, Cinema Crazed:

Critics should worry a great deal because even in the face of our decreasing relevance we still hold the power of the film in our hands. Most, if not, all of us are able to watch new movies before anyone in America and we are the ones who get to decide whether they’re worth valuable time or not and we are the ones who also hold the secrets and twists and should not take that power for granted. We should use our advantages to help the readers and movie going audience instead of just flat out ruining an entire experience just because we weren’t pleased. It’s like Stan Lee once said “With great power comes great responsibility.” I try to use that in all of my reviews.

Pablo Villaça, Cinema em Cena:

A lot. I always use specific scenes from the film as examples for my arguments during the review, but I make a point of either not telling anything too important about the plot or cautioning the reader that I will indeed have to discuss an important plot point in order to discuss it. But to simply include a spoiler in a review without warning or a reason is an extremely douche move.

A.J. Hakari, Passport Cinema:

One’s best judgment should always be used, but I find that the “less is more” policy works best. Flat-out spoiling crucial events is a no-no, and even hinting that twists are ahead can get dicey. There’s always a way to express what you want to say and be clever about it without revealing vital information.

Marilyn Ferdinand, Ferdy on Films:

Newly released films need to be reviewed without spoilers or with spoiler alerts if the critic deems it absolutely necessary to reveal part of the plot. It’s not fair to the audience or the filmmaker to interfere with the viewing experience, which often requires some suspense to be enjoyable. Older films may stand up to more plot reveals, but again, critics should be judicious about it, as many viewers may be approaching older films with virgin eyes. It’s not always ruinous, however, to include “spoilers.” After all, Robert Bresson named his prison escape film “A Man Escaped,” and it’s still an edge-of-seat experience.

Mike McGranaghan, Aisle Seat:

I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s an incorrect assumption that people read reviews before seeing the movie; my guess is that at least 50% of the time, a reader comes to a review afterward, looking to see if others share his/her opinion. That said, there is still an ethical question at play. If a critic includes a spoiler in a review, the purity of the viewing experience will be taken from those readers who have not yet seen the film in question. On the other hand, if we are to properly review movies, we need the freedom to be able to judge all of their merits/flaws and to fully explain our reasoning. I generally reveal only what’s already obvious from a movie’s trailer. If I cannot fully articulate my opinion without giving away key plot points, I alert the reader at the top of the review. This allows those who have already seen the movie and those who have not to sort themselves out.

Oh, and one more thing – it typically takes a movie 12-18 months to play theatrically, go to DVD, and have a pay cable run. After that, I think it’s all fair game. You can’t keep secrets forever just because some people wait years and years to see a movie.

Margot Harrison, Seven Days:

I’m adamantly against spoiling third-act twists and the ending. However, some readers seem to think almost any plot-related information is a “spoiler.” One commenter on the New York Times review of Edge of Darkness called out A. O. Scott for revealing that the bullet that kills Mel Gibson’s character’s daughter was actually meant for her, not her father. To my mind, this was obvious early on and doesn’t count as a “twist”; it’s part of the plot setup. On the other end of the spectrum, I had an editor who insisted I reveal that Bridge to Terabithia has a distressing twist toward the end (if not what it was). She thought parents might be upset otherwise. Of course, just saying, “There’s a twist” starts readers speculating. I think I might have been more enthralled by The Sixth Sense (and not spent the whole movie wondering, “Isn’t it obvious he’s dead?”) had I not read a review that mentioned a gargantuan twist at the end.

But in the end, a good movie is good whether it’s been spoiled or not. And spoiling a bad movie (like The Wolfman) can be a critic’s none-too-subtle way of encouraging readers not to bother with it.

Jonathan Richards,

Many people — including members of my own family — won’t read reviews before seeing a movie. They don’t want to know too much. A reviewer’s responsibility is to give the flavor of the movie without giving away too many specifics. The temptation is strong to quote the most quotable lines, but the critic must resist the temptation to be like those trailers that throw a film’ s best moments up on the screen over and over again until they’re dulled when you come to see the movie. Key plot twists and suspense elements can’t be spelled out. There’s a reason they’re called “spoilers.” It’s an imperfect art, but as much as possible we have to remember that we’re not the main event. The movies are.

Rob Gonsalves, eFilmCritic:

I try not to spoil movies if I can help it; if I absolutely have to, a spoiler alert should suffice. Sometimes, in order to unpack what’s wrong with a film, you kind of have to spill some plot. For all that Reed deserves to get kicked around, it’s not like he reveals the plot twist just to be a dick; he makes it part of his overall criticism — it’s not like “Oh yeah, and then this happens.” And it’s not like the plot twist isn’t telegraphed miles in advance anyway. So Christian Toto is, as usual with conservative bloggers, blowing off steam about nothing. Stephanie Bunbury, on the other hand, raises interesting questions about the statute of limitations on spoilers — how old and/or well-known does a movie have to be before we can discuss its plot with impunity? There probably are still people out there who don’t know Darth Vader’s true relationship to Luke, or (more likely) what Rosebud is. I suppose a well-placed spoiler alert would work well there, too.

Mark R. Leeper:

It is the responsibility of a critic to improve the movie experience for his/her reader. Barring that the critic should do no harm. Within those constraints the critic should inform the reader about the film if possible. I try to make it a point not to spoil any plot twist after the first ten minutes of the film. If I want to tell something that breaks those rules, I do so after the main body of the review and label it beforehand “Spoiler…” Sometimes avoiding spoilers becomes an interesting game. (Spoiler: When I reviewed Terminator 2 I had to find a way to describe the plot without mentioning that Arnold Schwarzenegger was a “good guy” in this film. Mine was the only review I saw that did that.) Some films are extremely hard to review within my spoiler rules. The major premise of Ladyhawke is a plot twist that does not come until well into the film. I had to sacrifice being informative in order not to spoil the plot twist. I should add my rules apply only to a review of a current film and do not apply to a retrospective analysis. I would have no qualms in revealing that “Rosebud” is …

Kevin A. Ranson,

As a rule, I pride myself on spoiling nothing that hasn’t already been revealed through advertising or trailers; after all, you’ve got to know something about the film if you have any interest in it at all. It’s always difficult to critique specifics that audiences aren’t yet aware of, so I look for examples from other films to bring my thoughts across as often as possible while taking care not to give away the farm. Nonetheless, I personally know purists out there who refuse to read any reviews or watch any trailers for fear of learning too much and ruining their enjoyment, and I can’t say I blame them.

Robert Roten, Laramie Movie Scope:

When I first started writing reviews, I didn’t worry about spoilers. Then I started getting complaints from readers. They clearly don’t like critics who reveal too much about the endings of films.

Since then, I’ve been very careful about spoilers. If I do talk about the ending of a film, I give the reader fair warning that I am going to do just that and it put those comments in a separate, well-labeled section of the review.

Most of the time, however, there is no good reason to reveal the ending of a film, other than to be lazy or arrogant or to annoy people on purpose. I am sometimes guilty of some of these sins, especially when I find a particular film especially annoying in some very offensive way.

Don Levit, Reel Talk:

I try not to, though more and more my editor inserts “Spoiler” somewhere in my reviews. I suppose it’s not the best thing, although frankly many new films are so obvious — especially when they try not to be — that it’s impossible to “spoil” them. Probably best to try to avoid giving away too much, though critics should not flagellate themselves about it.

Wesley Lovell, Cinema Sight:

I know that when I write my reviews, it’s very difficult to discuss some aspects of the film without giving away pertinent information. How often did we want to break down and analyze the big reveals in The Crying Game or The Sixth Sense or any other film that relied on the shock factor to embellish the quality of the movie. Sure you can refer to them tangentially, but for an in-depth discussion, it’s very difficult to not do so. And what if the ending is terrible? If you ruin it for others you’re saving them, but maybe they don’t feel the same way. If it’s so critically important to my writing, I will preface the spoiling material somehow (spoiler brackets, an all-caps prep notice, etc.) so that I can preserve some measure of suspsense for those that haven’t seen it.

Tyler Foster, DVD Talk:

If a film is more than a year old, I generally wouldn’t have a problem spoiling parts of it in a review, although, in those cases, I will always add at the beginning of the review that I am going to spoil some information within. I also have reviewed films (like the early ’90s Hulk Hogan film I’m currently writing up) where I just don’t think the appeal of the film or interest in it is even predicated on the twists and turns of the plot.

Still, there are some things in films I would refuse to reveal, such as the ending to David Fincher’s Se7en.

Gabe Leibowitz, Film & Felt:

If I feel like going into something that requires a spoiler, I just start the review by stating “this review contains some spoilers.”

David Cornelius,

It’s all a matter of remembering your audience. Reviewing a movie when it opens? Nobody but your fellow critics and the people that made the movie have seen it, so spoilers should darn well be avoided. There are some “fair game” grey areas around what’s been revealed in the film’s marketing, but anything else should either be skipped outright or, if a fair discussion absolutely demands spoilers, plenty of warning must be given. Analyzing a classic? Spoilers are pretty much mandatory if you’re offering a full critique, while a more introductory review deserves a more delicate touch. Of course, if the spoiler in question has become a pop culture punchline of the “I am your father” variety, then all bets are off.

Survey Says: OFCS members chose their favorite Martin Scorsese film

Categories: Member Wisdom
Comments: 2 Comments
Published on: February 18, 2010

In advance of the release of his latest film, Shutter Island, the members of the Online Film Critics Society have voted Goodfellas their favorite Martin Scorsese narrative (ie, non-documentary) movie. The 1990 mob drama came out on top by a slim margin: with 37 members voting, 10 named the film their favorite, but the second ranked movie was close behind. Other films that received at least one vote:

Taxi Driver (9 votes)
Raging Bull (6 votes)
The King of Comedy (3 votes)
Bringing Out the Dead (2 votes)
Casino (2 votes)
The Aviator (1 vote)
Cape Fear (1 vote)
Kundun (1 vote)
Mean Streets (1 vote)
New York, New York (1 vote)

One member took exception to the exclusion of Scorsese’s documentaries:

I find it impossible to believe that the list presented does not include his many incredible documentaries. The Last Waltz and No Direction Home are far more qualified to be on a list of Best Scorsese Movies than Age of Innocence, The Aviator or Bringing Out the Dead. And then forcing one to pick a single film above so many greats! I must pick what will be considered an underdog, Kundun, for its simple beauty and unparalleled humanity. A true classic waiting to be discovered by less snarky, mean-spirited and grossly over-entitiled generations.

Another film generated several comments from voters:

Several movies are obviously better, but King of Comedy remains a favorite in terms of rewatchability.

The King of Comedy anticipated 25 years of fame for fame’s sake.

On Casino, one voter said:

Because the first time I saw it I hated it, and the second time I saw it I loved it.

And The Aviator’s one adherent said:

What I love about The Aviator is how much of his love of film history is embodied within its gorgeous frame.

Essay Question: Which technical Oscar category interests you most?

Categories: Member Wisdom
Comments: 1 Comment
Published on: February 14, 2010

OFCS members answer the question:

“With regards to the Oscars, what technical race (editing, production design) do you follow with the most interest and which films would you have nominated?”

Answers after the jump.

Wesley Lovell, Cinema Sight:

Every year, the tech category I like to watch shifts from one race to the next based on what the Academy nominates. Some, like Sound Mixing and Sound Editing aren’t all that interesting, so I generally don’t pay a lot of attention to those.

The others, however are open game. The Editing category holds a certain place in my thoughts as it is the one category I have defended regularly as having a great impact on the Oscars. After all, very few films in history have won the Oscar for Best Picture without also getting an Editing nomination. Matter of fact, you have to go back to 1980 to find the last occurrence where the Best Picture winner, Ordinary People, didn’t also have an Editing nomination. It happened previously only 8 times since the category’s inception in 1934. That’s an 88% success rate, most Oscar prognosticators would die for that kind of result. So, editing is one of my favorites to watch for nominations, but the winners seldom interest me.

The Art Direction and Costume Design awards are interesting because they are sometimes the most evident examples of the work and trying to guess if they’ll line up perfectly (both prizes going to the same film, which happens consistently) or to different films is often entertaining. Visual Effects has seldom delivered shakeups, but when they do (The Golden Compass, anyone), you feel a slight tingle at the unpredictability of it all (something many top-line races don’t do much of anymore). Makeup can often be a jaw-dropper, but not always in the most pleasant way. And Cinematography is another of the categories you can appreciate the work and cheer on having seen the fruits of their labor.

But, Editing is just one of my favorite tech categories overall. It can be shocking in its outcome, it acts as a great nominee-to-Best Picture winner predictor, and it’s one of those awards that so few people understand, but to which so many great films owe their success.

David Cornelius,

Well, since sci-fi/fantasy films were what originally drew me in to loving movies as a kid, I still keep a sharp eye on the Visual Effects category (although the rapid evolution of CGI has completely changed the category since my childhood days). But I also have a weird fascination with the Sound Mixing, Sound Editing, and Editing categories, if only because I still marvel at how the Academy as a whole thinks in terms of “most” instead of “best.” There’s no room for subtlety here when it comes to Oscar voters; carefully constructed quiet doesn’t stand a chance against a bombastic action flick, and a well thought out juxtaposition of shots can’t get noticed compared to a flashy adventure movie where the average shot length is under one second.

Nell Minow, Movie Mom:

I am most interested in the costume design award. As the mother of a costume designer, I have learned that it is not about pretty clothes or high fashion or even research or making the clothes look lived in. It is about using the costumes to help create the characters and tell the story.

Rob Gonsalves, eFilmCritic:

I suppose Best Costume Design, because is the Academy going to go for realistically, historically scruffy over showy and pretty, or will glitz win out? It’s also more or less the only category left more or less untouched by computers — presumably, humans still have to design and sew these outfits for however many cast members; even art direction or cinematography can be tweaked on a Mac. As for this year’s nominees, the Academy totally overlooked Fantastic Mr. Fox with all its awesome tiny little costumes (Fox’s was made out of Wes Anderson’s actual clothes) and so the entire category is hollow and filled with nothing.

A.J. Hakari, Passport Cinema:

Out of each year’s technical categories, I tend to follow Visual Effects with the most interest. This is where the mighty blockbusters usually reign supreme, but since so many have been getting dicey recently when it comes to visual pizzazz, it’s fun to see which flicks the Academy thought got it right.

Karina Montgomery,

I have always loved to admire production design/art direction, though I am not always on board with whomever they choose. I was very surprised that The Last Station was not nominated, it was the one of the stronger design I had seen in a long time. I am pleased that Avatar was recognized for its design work; people get into this mindset that if it’s created in a computer, it wasn’t really designed like a physical set, which is ridiculous. With Dr. Parnassus, Terry Gilliam again demonstrates his usual wonderful art direction, but I was also impressed with the many small details that the team managed to get onscreen in The Young Victoria. As Blu-Ray and 3-D movies expand in popularity, we are going to get to see some really wonderful detail work in films to come. I will cheer alone for them at my Oscar party.

Survey Says: OFCS members chose the least-worthy Oscar Best Picture

Categories: Member Wisdom
Comments: 1 Comment
Published on: February 11, 2010

By a relatively wide margin, the members of the Online Film Critics Society have voted Crash, which won the Academy Award for Best Picture for 2005, as the film least deserving of that award in Oscar history.

With 38 members voting, 11 chose Crash as the film as the least-worthy Oscar Best Picture ever. One member complained:

I’m just going to pick Crash as a movie I felt was flatly undeserving, since I’ve been writing about movies. There are many years where I think the movie that won was the wrong movie (Rocky over Network, Forrest Gump over Pulp Fiction), but Crash isn’t just worse than all of its competition, it’s just a poor, melodramatic movie. American Beauty has some of the same problems, but that has several excellent performances in it to make up for it.

Beyond this “winning” film, however, there was less consensus, with the remaining votes spread across 15 movies:

2001: A Beautiful Mind (4 votes)

2000: Gladiator (3 votes)
1997: Titanic (3 votes)
1989: Driving Miss Daisy (3 votes)

2002: Chicago (2 votes)
1995: Braveheart (2 votes)
1994: Forrest Gump (2 votes)

2008: Slumdog Millionaire (1 vote)
2004: Million Dollar Baby (1 vote)
1999: American Beauty (1 vote)
1998: Shakespeare in Love (1 vote)
1996: The English Patient (1 vote)
1982: Gandhi (1 vote)
1952: The Greatest Show on Earth (1 vote)
1939: Gone with the Wind (1 vote)

Asked to optionally comment on their choices, however, the detractors of Driving Miss Daisy were most vocal. Said one member:

Spike Lee is correct. How does the Academy justify rewarding such a “safe” formula flick like this and ignore Do the Right Thing? (but this is only one of many erroneous selections over the years–tough choice to make)

And another:

Although Miss Daisy is a good film, the actual Best Picture of 1989 wasn’t even nominated. I’m referring to Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing – a movie whose power is still felt today, unlike Miss Daisy, which has become irrelevant. The snub of Lee’s masterpiece remains one of the most egregious errors in Oscar history.

Titanic garnered several tongue lashings, too:

There’s a category for CGI work, which is all Titanic deserved recognition for. Otherwise it’s a familiar and sappy romance that should have been blown out of the water by Good Will Hunting or As Good as It Gets.


Titanic was obviously a crowd pleaser but in the face of a more deserved candidate like LA Confidential, it just doesn’t stack up. Not to mention I consider Titanic to be one of the worst movies ever made.

Finally, the one voter for Gandhi said:

A fatuous bore, and historically dishonest to boot. Who would ever deliberately set out to watch this squareheaded snoozer today?

2009 top 10s from OFCS members: part 5 (finale)

Categories: Member Wisdom
Comments: No Comments
Published on: February 8, 2010

John J. Puccio, “Top Theatrical and Disc Releases of 2009”

Mark Dujsik, Mark Reviews Movies: “The 10 Best Films of 2009”

Felix Vasquez Jr., Cinema Crazed: “Best of 2009” and “Worst of 2009”

Ed Howard, Only the Cinema: “My 2009 in Movies”

Christopher Null, “The Year in Film – 2009”

Susan Granger: “Best Movies/Performances of 2009”

Christopher Long, “Top Theatrical and Disc Releases of 2009”

Robert Roten, Laramie Movie Scope: “Top, bottom films, etc. of 2009” and “The aught decade in review”

Wesley Lovell, Cinema Sight: “2009 Year in Review”

Mark A. Pfeiffer, Reel Times: Reflections on Cinema: “The Best Films of 2009”, “The Honorable Mentions,” and “The Worst Films of 2009”

Essay Question: Do you watch trailers? If not, why not? If so, do you worry about having a movie spoiled for you before you see it?

Categories: Member Wisdom
Comments: No Comments
Published on: February 7, 2010

OFCS members answer the question:

“Do you watch trailers? If not, why not? If so, do you worry about having a movie spoiled for you before you see it?”

Answers after the jump.

Karina Montgomery,

I definitely watch trailers, but I am always deeply disappointed if not angered when I watch the movie and find that the trailer gave too much away. I love a montage and it’s of course the story hook that makes me want to see in the first place. If the previews can convey the tone without ruining the plot, I will watch them again and again, getting excited about the upcoming film. Conversely, sometimes I am grateful to an overexposure trailer showing me that this movie is most definitely not worth my time. It’s a fine balance. Since critics are on the frontlines we don’t have the luxury of waiting to hear buzz, we are the ones who create it. It’s a dance of information and mystery that not enough studios are willing to pay for.

Felix Vasquez, Cinema Crazed:

I watch trailers only for movies I really want to see because (when pulled off correctly) they can give us an incredible look in to what could be incredible movies. Some of the best movie trailers give you an idea of what the story of the film is without ruining everything. For a long time trailers just stopped trying, but what with studios’ missions to bring audiences in to theaters, trailers have now almost returned to its former glory and have helped in bringing theaters back to life. Trailers for films like Cloverfield, Transformers, Shutter Island, Avatar and The Crazies have all but guaranteed an audience, and they keep me coming back again and again.

David Cornelius,

I’ve been a trailer junkie since childhood. Sure, I grumble quite loudly whenever some of them give away too much, but I’ll never stop watching them. Sometimes they’re the perfect introduction to a future favorite, sometimes they’re lousy enough to earn a hearty chuckle in the “who in their right mind would love that?” variety (oh, and there’s always someone in the crowd that loves it), sometimes they’re just a way of getting you in the perfect mood for a night at the movies.

James Plath,

Watching trailers isn’t a steady part of my movie-reviewing regimen, but there are times when I want to see how a film has been “packaged” before I write up my review. Though marketing, not creative people are behind the trailers, it’s still a main way in which the audience is pulled into the theaters. If there’s a disconnect between trailer and film, I want to know about it . . . because viewers want to know about it.

Dave Johnson, DVD Verdict:

I can’t get enough. I love trailers. My wife falls squarely in the “why bother and having the movie spoiled for you?” camp, and while she’s probabl right, soaking up a well-executed sneak peek — especially for a movie I’m anticipating — simply increases my hype factor. There are exceptions of course: the second I finished watching the Avatar trailer I knew a) exactly how that movie would unspool and, b) I would likely enjoy it as much as impromptu dental surgery. And I was right!

Don Levit, Reel Talk:

I miss the old days, when there were cartoons, news of the world, and lots of what were called “coming attractions,” though later living in Europe I learned that the latter were called (and now here, too) “trailers.” Trailers/coming attractions don’t ruin movies for me and are often the best part of the movies they advertise; I’d like more of them nowadays.

Tyler Foster, DVD Talk:

If I’m “sold” on a movie already — i.e., I love the cast, or the director, or the story, etc. — I make some effort to avoid the trailers if I haven’t seen them already. Sometimes, my willpower is not great enough when presented with the opportunity (say, when someone links it to me), and sometimes I end up catching it when I go to the theater, but I usually don’t make serious efforts not to watch movie trailers. That said, there have definitely been movies where I regretted watching the trailer, for all the hints it gave me where the movie was going. I’ve often found myself thinking, “the film can’t be over yet” because a specific shot, scene, or line from the trailer hasn’t appeared yet.

Anton Bitel, Channel 4 Film:

I tend not to watch trailers unless they are drawn specifically to my attention, but I do consider them as ‘authorised’ paratexts, spoiling only what the filmmakers are broadly happy to have spoilt. That said, I definitely prefer trailers that take an oblique approach to their material (the trailers for Burn After Reading and A Serious Man come to mind) – nothing makes me want to see a film more than a bit of mystification.

Mike McGranaghan, Aisle Seat:

It’s kind of hard to avoid trailers, so I do see them. However, I try not to pay attention to them too closely. So many of them give away far too much, and I prefer to go into a movie with as little advance knowledge as possible. It is not too difficult for me to zone out a little bit while the trailers are running. If there’s a “red band” trailer, I will refuse to watch it altogether. These are notorious for giving away the best parts of a film, especially if it’s a comedy. I avoid red band trailers like the plague.

Sarah Boslaugh, Playback: stl:

I watch trailers to find out how a movie is being marketed. Plus they are an art form (of sorts) unto themselves and it’s fascinating to reflect on how trailers have changed over the years. But as a guide to what the movie is actually like, they are often worse than useless.

OFCS members 92% accurate in Oscar nominee predictions

Categories: Member Wisdom
Comments: 1 Comment
Published on: February 2, 2010

All through January, the members of the Online Film Critics Society were polled for their best guesses about Oscar nominations in four major categories: Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress, and Best Director. The nominees were announced this morning. How did the OFCS predictions measure up? Amazingly well. We went 5 for 5 in the Best Actor and Best Director categories, 4 for 5 in Best Actress, and 9 for 10 in Best Picture. Over 25 guesses, we picked accurately 23 times. That’s an accuracy rate of 92 percent.

Take a look:


OFCS predictions:
The Blind Side
An Education
The Hurt Locker
Inglourious Basterds
A Serious Man
Up in the Air

Oscar nominees:
The Blind Side
District 9
An Education
The Hurt Locker
Inglourious Basterds
A Serious Man
Up in the Air

How we did: 9 for 10


OFCS predictions:
Jeff Bridges, Crazy Heart
George Clooney, Up in the Air
Colin Firth, A Single Man
Morgan Freeman, Invictus
Jeremy Renner, The Hurt Locker

Oscar nominees:
Jeff Bridges, Crazy Heart
George Clooney, Up in the Air
Colin Firth, A Single Man
Morgan Freeman, Invictus
Jeremy Renner, The Hurt Locker

How we did: 5 for 5


OFCS predictions:
Sandra Bullock, The Blind Side
Vera Farmiga, Up in the Air
Carey Mulligan, An Education
Gabby Sidibe, Precious
Meryl Streep, Julie & Julia

Oscar nominees:
Sandra Bullock, The Blind Side
Helen Mirren, The Last Station
Carey Mulligan, An Education
Gabby Sidibe, Precious
Meryl Streep, Julie & Julia

How we did: 4 for 5


OFCS predictions:
Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker
James Cameron, Avatar
Lee Daniels, Precious
Jason Reitman, Up in the Air
Quentin Tarantino, Inglourious Basterds

Oscar nominees:
Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker
James Cameron, Avatar
Lee Daniels, Precious
Jason Reitman, Up in the Air
Quentin Tarantino, Inglourious Basterds

How we did: 5 for 5

«page 1 of 2

Awards Announcement Schedule

Nomination Announced:
Monday, December 8, 2014

Award Winners Announced:
Monday, December 15, 2014

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