The Bottom Feeders.
March 29, 2002 3:18 PM   Subscribe

The Bottom Feeders. Are these truly the 5 worst movie critics in America? Personally, Ebert gives me migraines and Joel Siegel makes me want to claw out my eyes. Who's your most hated movie critic?
posted by tankboy (30 comments total)
the pastel-suited jackals object. FFPer is leading the posters.
posted by jcterminal at 3:22 PM on March 29, 2002

Who's your most hated movie critic?

All of them.
posted by Trik at 3:23 PM on March 29, 2002

Easy. Jay Carr. I honestly do the opposite of whatever he says, and it's going to happen again, because the AV Club loved "Panic Room." They and Owen Gleiberwhatever in Entertainment Weekly are the only steady critics I've found.

Peter Travers in Rolling Stone is pretty bad too; it seems like every review is wet kiss to some movie star he wants to know.
posted by yerfatma at 3:28 PM on March 29, 2002

I'm still of the opinion that a good critic should describe that which is being critiqued, and describe the kind of audience who would appreciate it in a positive way, without giving the ending away. I don't think a critic should say whether or not something's BAD, beyond his/her personal opinion. For my money, Roger Ebert is consistently the most successful in doing this for me. He still admittedly gives his thumbs up and down thing. Sure. However, he generally offers respect for the material he's covering, even when he admits it's not his personal taste.

I can't think of any names of critics who I hated so much I make a point to remember them and criticize them. I just ignore the bad critics and remember the names of those whose words actually speak to me. I like to think of that as a more optimistic approach.
posted by ZachsMind at 3:36 PM on March 29, 2002

Ebert gives everything 3 stars. He explains that you really need to read the review, because the star system is subjective, but his reviews give away the whole movie.

He also seems mildly confused about relatively simple things in movies, which I find disturbing. I think he was confused about something in AI, which is pretty sad, having seen the movie.
posted by Doug at 4:00 PM on March 29, 2002

Those of you in Los Angeles may remember my pick for all-time worst -- Channel 2's Gary Franklin. Now, remember that voice ...

On the Franklin Scale of 1 to 10, 10 being best ...

Boy, ya just wanna smack that guy in the face with a shovel. Perhaps the nadir of his career was giving the ridiculous Christopher Reeve movie "Monsignor" (which was an unintentional laugh riot, and was in fact laughed off the screen when I saw it) ... "A strong 10 -- a real thinking man's movie!"

Thank Gawd he's no longer on the air.

I have to disagree with the original poster -- I actually think Roger Ebert is a fine critic (ignore the TV show and read his writing sometime), but as far as I've ever seen he's the only one on television who's even remotely good. Any self-described "critic" who hawks his or her opinions exclusively on television (worse, local televison) is to be ignored.
posted by chuq at 4:00 PM on March 29, 2002

PopCult's rating of Mike Sargent as the worst reviewer ever is right on the mark. For years I've refused to see any movie that put his reviews in their ads.

As for that "David Manning isn't real" thing mentioned in the article- he sure seemed real when we made this page.
posted by dogwelder at 4:06 PM on March 29, 2002

A really good critic: the Washington Post's Stephen Hunter. He clearly loves movies, he has a good schooling in film, and even when I disagree with his take on a movie he does a good enough job at describing it that I can determine on my own if I'll like it or not. And he's a good enough writer that even if he couldn't review to save a life his columns would be worth reading.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 4:12 PM on March 29, 2002

Sheehan's inclusion on this list is rather amusing, in the sense that his new "everything is splendiferous" pose is the opposite of his attitude during the 80s and early 90s (when I last saw him). Then, as one of my high school English teachers put it, he came across as "someone who had failed at everything," and bitter about it, too--he hated every movie known to mankind. He was nicer when he reviewed musicals. (In fact, the one thing I remember him really shilling for was the LA production of Cats at the now-defunct Shubert.)

I was impressed by how genuinely upset he was when Bob Fosse died, however--he looked like he was about to cry. (Sheehan produced this.)

I definitely agree about Gary Franklin.

Roger Ebert I usually like, although I agree that he sometimes gets confused about things that he shouldn't. I always enjoyed the Chicago Reader film critics.
posted by thomas j wise at 5:16 PM on March 29, 2002

They forgot Kenneth Turan of the LA Times and Jan Wahl of KRON 4 in the SF Bay Area, who both generally only like feel-good schmaltz. If the movie has violence in it, Jan Wahl hates it.

I mostly agree with Elvis Mitchell of the New York Times. I like reading Ebert, David Edelstein of Slate, and Paul Tartara of
posted by maschnitz at 5:39 PM on March 29, 2002

I don't read Kenneth Turan often enough to make a considered judgment, but, maschnitz, are you talking about the same Turan who panned Titanic as poorly done schmaltz? Just for that, he's my hero.

(I've never seen Titanic because the TV ads showed a scene where a character shouts, "This is it!" People didn't shout "This is it!" back in 1912. If that was an example of dialogue that they were willing to put in a commercial ["This is it"? -- is that supposed to be eloquent or something?], I knew it was a lousy movie and the makers and marketers didn't even realize it was lousy.)

Gotta respect Turan for calling Titanic what it was.
posted by Holden at 6:20 PM on March 29, 2002

Our local movie guy, Christopher Potter, described David Lynch's Dune as "quite possibly the greatest movie ever made." He also had a weird Kathleen Turner fetish... but I digress.
posted by rodii at 6:22 PM on March 29, 2002

Jon Katz. Complete retard. 'nuff said.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:49 PM on March 29, 2002

i'm surprised no one has brought up mick lasalle yet. admittedly i have not read his reviews, but he wrote a book called complicated women that was allegedly about feminism in pre-code movies. it's actually about his raging hard-on for norma shearer. while she's hardly a bad actress, the extent of his necrophilia got a bit disturbing after a while.
posted by pxe2000 at 7:00 PM on March 29, 2002

I'm mad that most reviewers only do the bubble-gum-get-the-teens-who-want-to-get-away-from-home crap. I'd love see reviews and critiques of really inspiring movies like Tape, One Hour Photo or Waking Life. More importantly, after I watch a movie I'd just love to see some kind of professional analysis of it (the symbolism, the meanings). Much like what one can do when spending a half hour discussing and dissecting a poem.

Sure most films lack anything but a story, but a lot of films, if they were well made, can leave a lot of room for intellectual discussion (a good easy example of this is the color red in American Beauty). I have yet to find anything resembling a discussion like this on the internet. I can't even find book discussions like this on the internet. Just pointless drivel about the plot. I could give a crap if some film school jockey likes a film, I want to know how it'll enhance society damn it!
posted by geoff. at 7:22 PM on March 29, 2002

I used to waitress in a resturant that was frequented by Gene Shalit. He was a cheap solo eater who never ever ever tipped me. He's one of those critics who can never seem to bring themselves to say that they disliked a movie. Here is a pic of Gene Shalit posing behind an Art Deco-style cabinet. And here's his recipe for crumb cake, which he developed with Miss Piggy. It's really quite good.
posted by iconomy at 7:52 PM on March 29, 2002

I can't believe this list of shameless quote factories doesn't include Susan Granger or Rex Reed or Gene Shalit or Joel Siegel.

Kenneth Turan doesn't bug me, but the LAT's other critic, Kevin Thomas, is another story.'s two critics, Paul Clinton and Paul Tatara, are just awful. I can't read their reviews because I get too embarrassed for them.
posted by jjg at 8:14 PM on March 29, 2002

Oops, I meant Kevin Thomas of the LA Times, not Turan. Sorry.

Thomas is the guy who is always attached to this week's Big Marketing Push. In the ads, his paper is always in a bigger typeface than his name. Recent picks include 40 Days and 40 Nights and I Am Sam. A company guy in a company town.

I don't agree with Mick LaSalle usually, but for me he's a bit of a guilty pleasure. He's a populist reviewer, like Ebert. And, yeah, like Ebert, he's a dirty old man; at least, when he gets older. What's not to like?
posted by maschnitz at 8:16 PM on March 29, 2002

geoff, check out metacritic. They manage to dig up coverage of even the most obscure art-house films. (Scroll down until you spot "limited releases" in the left nav.)
posted by jjg at 8:17 PM on March 29, 2002

Peter Travers is, by far, the worst critic I have read. I swear there is probably a copy of "Triumph of the Will" somewhere with a rave review from Travers.
posted by pixelgeek at 8:54 PM on March 29, 2002

I stopped reading the New York Times when Janet Maslin said that Star Wars: Episode One was "up to snuff." She's gone now, but Elvis Mitchell isn't too much better.

One of my favorite film ads was for Lost Highway: "Siskel and Ebert give it two thumbs down!"

If you want to read good film criticism, you should read Film Comment.
posted by panopticon at 9:05 PM on March 29, 2002

Lots of critics have had good things to say about "Triumph of the Will," which, subject matter aside, is a brilliant piece of filmmaking. A critic should have something more nuanced to say than either blanket raves or blanket condemnation.
posted by rodii at 9:26 PM on March 29, 2002

Lots of critics have had good things to say about "Triumph of the Will"

The more important question is whether they have a sense of humour.
posted by pixelgeek at 10:04 PM on March 29, 2002

geoff, for an intellectual discussion of Waking Life, read this by one of my favorite critics, Godfrey Cheshire.
posted by Dean King at 11:19 PM on March 29, 2002

As 'yerfatma' has Jay Carr, I have the film review staff of Gazeta Wyborcza, Poland's largest daily. While our tastes do sometimes 'meet', most of the time I just check out what they bashed and go see it. Every single time I have been swayed by a good review I've regreted it. Thankfully, I'm interested enough in movies now that when they get here I've usually read a number of reviews on them online, so I skip Wyborcza all together.

And this is slightly OT, but I just wanted to mention that a great place to get links to a lot of movie reviews in one place is Rotten Tomatoes.
posted by jedrek at 12:25 AM on March 30, 2002

Ebert gives everything 3 stars

That just isn't true. Go to his search page and put in a date rage, eg. 2002 to 2002 (leave the Title field blank) and sort by Star Rating to get a feel for how many stars he tosses around.

his reviews give away the whole movie

He's usually pretty careful about announcing spoilers. Do you have specific examples?
posted by gluechunk at 1:20 AM on March 30, 2002

Holden: ...are you talking about the same Turan who panned Titanic as poorly done schmaltz? Just for that, he's my hero...I've never seen Titanic...Gotta respect Turan for calling Titanic what it was.

What a meaningful endorsement.
posted by bingo at 3:00 AM on March 30, 2002

I think Ebert is a good writer (avoid the show), and he knows his movies. The three-star criticism was weird, but it's true that he sometimes goes a bit too far in revealing plot points. Sometimes he's careful (like with Panic Room this week), but sometimes he's not.

He also write the Answer Man and the Great Movies articles, which are great.

People who don't like any critics at all are usually people who like to watch crap and don't want to feel guilty about it. The kind of people who will go running for the latest Martin Lawrence picture or Armageddon 2.

Worst: I agree about Jan Wahl on Channel 4 (?) in SF. As if her hats aren't stupid enough, her reviews are stupider. She's the critical equivalent of Message in a Bottle.
posted by MikeB at 11:59 AM on March 30, 2002

Bingo, Bingo!
One of my favorite reviews of all time was when Elaine Scholino of the New Yorker panned a dance performance without seeing it. She was annoyed by the subject matter (people with AIDS conveying their experiences with AIDS). Boiled down, her review said: "I don't need to see this dance piece to know that it's an artistic abomination."
Lots of people said that made her a bad dance critic. It's necessarily so.
posted by Holden at 2:55 PM on March 30, 2002

The only film reviews I read consistently are the Sight and Sound's (published by the British Film Institute). In films I know I will see, regardless of reviews, I only read the review afterwards. Those that I am unsure of or know that I probably won't see I read before. But the writing is so good I generally enjoy the reviews regardless of how I feel about the movie or even whether I know anything about it.

They take a completely different approach from the traditional thumbs up/down piece. It has been said that the only proper response to a work of art is another work of art, and that this should be what criticism should aspire to. S'n'S exemplifies this approach. The film in question usually merely functions as a focus for intelligent writing on genre, a filmmaker's oeuvre, recurring themes in Hollywood or a particular country's output, film history and film language. If you're skimming their reviews looking for a "positive" or "negative" you may easily be disappointed, as such judgements are rarely clear-cut. All reviews are published with the synopsis (which you're free to ignore), which emphasises their real value in reading after seeing the film.

The monthly magazine reviews all films released that month in the UK, but unfortunately only three per month are published online. The A.I. review is a good example of their style.
posted by snarfois at 3:29 AM on March 31, 2002

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