A 20th century of scathing film reviews
- Rebecca Davis
- 19 Jan 2012 (South Africa)
Okay, so it’s not only the 20th century we’re talking about, but this week sees a milestone many movie directors won’t be celebrating: it’s 100 years since the birth of film criticism. We take a look at a few of the most memorable reviews. By REBECCA DAVIS.
The first ever ‘kinema’ review was published on 17 January 1912 in the London Evening News. The writer was WG Faulkner, who justified the decision to introduce a weekly feature on film because the “picture theatre”, as he called it, “is no longer a matter of wonder; it has become an everyday part of the national life”. Since then, movie-goers have come to rely on film reviews from trusted critics to shape their decisions as to whether to fork out the cash to buy a cinema ticket. Naturally, sometimes bad reviews aren’t enough to stop a film killing it at the box office (ref. Twilight). But there’s undeniable enjoyment to be gained from a real stinker of a write-up – unless you were involved in the film’s production. Here are 11 of our favourites, in no particular order:
11. Leonard Maltin reviewed the 1948 film Isn’t It Romantic? in just one word: “No.”
10. Legendary critic Roger Ebert had the following to say about the 1994 film North, starring Bruce Willis and Elijah Wood: “I hated this movie. Hated hated hated hated hated this movie. Hated it. Hated every simpering stupid vacant audience-insulting moment of it. Hated the sensibility that thought anyone would like it. Hated the implied insult to the audience by its belief that anyone would be entertained by it.”
9. Ebert again, on the 2001 comedy Freddy Got Fingered: "This movie doesn't scrape the bottom of the barrel. This movie isn't the bottom of the barrel. This movie isn't below the bottom of the barrel. This movie doesn't deserve to be mentioned in the same sentence with barrels."
8. Anthony Lane’s New Yorker review of Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith deserves to be read in full, but here’s a taste: “The general opinion of Revenge of the Sith seems to be that it marks a distinct improvement on the last two episodes, The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones. True, but only in the same way that dying from natural causes is preferable to crucifixion.”
7. Another New Yorker great, Pauline Kael, on Charlize Theron’s Sweet November (2001): "I'm sure movies like this give people pimples.
6. Ed Naha gave a concise review of 1957 horror B-movie From Hell it Came: “And to Hell it can go.”
5. A O Scott, for The New York Times, took against Mike Myers’ 2008 comedy The Love Guru: “To say that the movie is not funny is merely to affirm the obvious. The word ‘unfunny’ surely applies to Mr. Myers’s obnoxious attempts to find mirth in physical and cultural differences, but does not quite capture the strenuous unpleasantness of his performance. No, The Love Guru is downright antifunny, an experience that makes you wonder if you will ever laugh again.”
4. Current Guardian film critic Peter Bradshaw wasn’t impressed by 2008’s romcom Fool’s Gold, starring Kate Hudson and Matthew McConaughey: “Matthew McConaughey, whose continuing Hollywood career deserves a separate chapter in any future book by Richard Dawkins on the non-existence of God, is reunited for this romcom caper with Kate Hudson, who is herself uncompromisingly abysmal in everything, perennially doing her haddock-on-a-slab facial expression. Together, these combustible elements of mediocrity trigger a two-hour explosion of rubbishness.”
3. Another Bradshaw goodie, reviewing 2008’s The Incredible Hulk: “Hulk smash all hope of interesting time in cinema. Hulk take all effort of cinema, effort getting babysitter, effort finding parking, and Hulk put great green fist right through it. Hulk crush all hopes of entertainment.”
2. One more from the king, Roger Ebert. The closing line of his review of 1980’s controversial erotic drama Caligula read: " ‘This movie,’ said the lady in front of me at the drinking fountain, ‘is the worst piece of shit I have ever seen’."
1. Lindi West’s must-read review of 2010’s Sex and the City 2 is a masterclass in scathing criticism. Find the whole thing here, but here’s a sample: “It is 146 minutes long, which means that I entered the theatre in the bloom of youth and emerged with a family of field mice living in my long, white moustache. This is an entirely inappropriate length for what is essentially a home video of gay men playing with giant Barbie dolls.” DM
Photo: Charlie Chaplin's The Gold Rush
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