Entertainment Weekly's Lisa Schwarzbaum whacks Pay It Forward.
October 20, 2000 11:53 AM   Subscribe

Entertainment Weekly's Lisa Schwarzbaum whacks Pay It Forward. And I do mean whacks -- there's blood everywhere.
posted by highindustrial (18 comments total)
i liked the review. honest, straight from the heart...i brought me to tears.
posted by frank spank at 12:13 PM on October 20, 2000

Ha! She said Haley Joel Osment's face was squooshable. That's quality content right there, folks. I found this review particularly entertaining, simply for the obvious hatred of Haley Joel Osment seeded deeply within the bosom of Schwarzbaum.

I just wanted to say bosom.
posted by Hankins at 12:40 PM on October 20, 2000

Wow. Rare form indeed for Lisa. Generally I'm an Owen Gleiberman man myself, but I've never read a review from Lisa Schwarzbaum with more vehemence. Ah, melodramatic pap......
posted by Awol at 12:44 PM on October 20, 2000

The Trib also exposed it as emotional blackmail, both in story and in effect. Not what I was expecting from three recent Oscar nominees (and two winners). On the other hand, I was curious whether Mimi Leder could have made such a good film ... and I guess my instincts there were right.
posted by dhartung at 12:59 PM on October 20, 2000

I'm a Gleiberman fan as well, generally speaking -- in fact, I usually just ignore Schwarzbaum's reviews -- but this one was brought to my attention, and is indeed uncharacteristically dandy. Also, one of the reader comments made me laugh: "Haley Joel Osment is not a child. He's just a little old man studio execs stumbled upon. He's going to look like a goblin by the time he hits puberty. I really wish he would just go away. It would free up more roles for that kid in Magnolia." Obvious hatred of little Haley, most definitely.
posted by highindustrial at 1:07 PM on October 20, 2000

My favorite hateful movie review is still Roger Ebert's review of North.
posted by dnash at 2:00 PM on October 20, 2000

Really harsh reviews of movies (especially ones I haven't seen) are oddly relaxing. It's a form of entertainment more than of information; a really well done movie-flame delights with the sheer twistiness of its vitriolic language.

Check out Mr Cranky's review for another blast.

posted by Mars Saxman at 2:35 PM on October 20, 2000

Blech. What the fuck ever.God forbid we have any movie where someone does something nice.After all, isn't this the era of brain dead cynicism?Kind of makes me want to go out and see this movie. Fuck off, Schwarzbaum!
posted by Mr. skullhead at 4:06 PM on October 20, 2000

It's difficult not to be cynical about something that's cynical to begin with (from Andrew O'Hehir's typically sharp write-up -- or should I say, dressing down? -- in Salon): "Pay It Forward marks a newly evolved brand of cynicism: high-concept moviemaking with one eye on next year's Oscar ceremony and the other on the prime-time newsmagazines.... I think the filmmakers picture themselves on TV, dressed in classy Prada suits and discussing Relevant Social Issues with Stone Phillips: 'Can individuals really make a difference in these troubled times? The movie that's sparked a surprising movement for a new personal morality, next.'"
posted by highindustrial at 5:05 PM on October 20, 2000

That Roger Ebert review of North was great. Out of curiosity, I searched for other Ebert reviews with zero out 5 stars.

There's only 24 films. Some are obvious, like "Jaws the Revenge" and "She's Out of Control." But others are total head-scratchers.

He gives no stars to "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead," "Erik the Viking," and "Pink Flamingos." (I thought all three of these were well worth seeing.) The same for Russ Meyers' "Beyond the Valley of the Dolls," a film for which Roger Ebert co-wrote the screenplay.

(The entire list, for those too lazy to look it up: An Alan Smithee Film, B.A.P.S., Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, Breaking the Rules, Dangerously Close, Dice Rules, Erik the Viking, Frogs for Snakes, Frozen Assets, Jaws the Revenge, Key Exchange, Last Rites, Little Indian Big City, Mad Dog Time, North, Pink Flamingos, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, Rude Awakening, She's Out of Control, Sour Grapes, Speed Zone, the Doom Generation, the Hitcher, and Walker.)
posted by waxpancake at 5:14 PM on October 20, 2000

Half those titles are in permanent rotation on Comedy Central, and I'm pretty sure the other half are USA "Up All Nite" staples.
posted by highindustrial at 5:21 PM on October 20, 2000

So, I will wait to see Pay It Forward on USA any of the 240 times they will show it next year?
posted by dhartung at 6:05 PM on October 20, 2000

At Rotten Tomatoes, which basically is a census of every review they can find, it's running about 40% positive reviews: 36 positive, 53 negative, 89 total. They don't give it a "Fresh" rating unless it tops 60%, so this one's "Rotten".

As to the movie version of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead you have to have seen it on the stage in order to understand how badly it was butchered in the movie. Ebert is exactly correct that the movie was a complete waste of time. The reason is simple: an essential part of the play is feeling of claustrophobia caused by the fact that neither of the title characters can figure out how to leave the stage, even though other characters arrive and leave at will. They can't even figure out how to follow them off. That's totally missing from the film, where they have complete freedom of movement, and because of it the entire feeling of the work changes. I'm aware that the movie was made by Stoppard, who wrote the play, and I am amazed that he himself could have missed such an essential part of the story. But part of the reason why is that movies are precisely about presenting vast vistas and numerous locations and beautiful scenery, and as such that completely prevents that feeling of claustrophobia which in the stage play helps contribute to the growing feeling of impending and unavoidable doom: R&G CANNOT avoid their fate because they can't get away; they're trapped. In the movie, they could have done so simply by leaving the area at any time. It destroys that buildup and completely devalues the payoff of the story.

I saw Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead performed at the Oregon Shakespearean Festival when I was in highschool (about 1970) and I still remember it vividly. I can think of no play which has stuck with me like that. The set itself was extremely minimalist, with no props at all, and everything was painted white. It was a superb production. The contrast to the movie couldn't be more stark, and the movie suffers from the comparison.

posted by Steven Den Beste at 7:44 PM on October 20, 2000

David Edelstein of Slate mentions the idea behind this movie might’ve worked better as a comedy.

But, otherwise he didn’t like it so much:

Pay It Forward overcompensates like mad and piles horror on horror. I half-admired that strategy until the ending, which I'm enjoined from disclosing but which answers to the name “overkill.” The movie isn't just gunning for Academy Awards. It wants the Nobel Peace Prize. It wants to found a religion of goody-two-shoes.”

Has Kevin Spacey been pissing anybody else off lately, or is it just me?
posted by capt.crackpipe at 11:50 PM on October 20, 2000

I liked the movie. I think I watched it differently though, because to me it was not about WHAT he was doing at all, it was just about a kid seeing if he really could affect the world in some way. Everything else was details, including the piling on of crap.
posted by Nothing at 6:27 AM on October 21, 2000

I didn't think it was bad at all, til the end, where there's a plot development I didn't even consider because it was so obviously tearjerking schmaltz.

Exactly how many dozens of movies is Helen Hunt in this fall season?
posted by evixir at 9:33 PM on October 21, 2000

Hunt is coming on a bit strong this season, no? Last I checked, she was in no fewer than four relatively concurrent releases: Dr. T and the Women, Pay It Forward, Castaway, and What Women Want. Making up for lost time, I guess.
posted by highindustrial at 6:53 AM on October 22, 2000

I liked North. Of course, that was six years ago, I was a naive college freshman. It was a wacky fantasy. Like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory or The Princess Bride. I really don't understand why Ebert hated it so much. Ah well.
posted by daveadams at 8:27 PM on October 23, 2000

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