#2. Ads Take Critic Quotes Out of Context to Make Them Seem Positive
Of course, the real value of praise from a professional critic is that the people selling the product get to paste a glowing quote right on their ad. The customers don't need to go look up no reviews for this shit! The review is right there in the ad! Gene Shalit said it was "mesmerizing!"
But here's where it gets sad: Getting positive blurbs for, say, a movie isn't that difficult -- there's a special type of critic lovingly known as a "quote whore" who will intentionally fill every review with short, enthusiastic phrases in the hopes of seeing their name on a movie poster or a TV ad. That's how the poster for Will Smith's I Am Legend ended up looking like this:
"I literally dug up Orson Welles' corpse and shat in his mouth!" -Ben Lyons, E!
Some critics provide the blurbs to the studio on demand and are rewarded by being invited to junkets (free trips to screenings where critics are treated to a fancy time) or just by having their picture taken with a star. Others willingly sign off on studio-created quotes they never wrote. But the problem with quote whores and junket queens is that their names soon lose credibility, so the studios have to figure out how to get good quotes from more respected reviewers ... even if it means pulling their words out of context to make them say something they never meant.
Let's say you have a reviewer calling Live Free or Die Hard "hysterically overproduced" and then "surprisingly entertaining," which isn't exactly the sort of endorsement you'd put on a poster. No problem -- just shorten it to "hysterically entertaining" and call it a day. This happens all the time: In 2010, one reviewer at Variety described the show Lost as "the most confusing, asinine, ridiculous -- yet somehow addictively awesome -- television show of all time." Naturally, the folks at NBC omitted the "confusing, asinine, ridiculous" part for their ads, completely changing the meaning of the sentence.
"Ah, ellipsis, you've done it again, you magnificent bastard."
Not desperate enough for you? Well, another common trick is to find a sentence where the reviewer is saying good things about something other than the movie, then pretending it's about the movie. For example, one blurb for the famously shitty Norbit read: "Eddie Murphy's comic skills are immense." What it didn't mention was that the critic was actually speaking about Murphy's other, non-terrible movies, before wondering why he would appear in what he defined as "a comedy for masochists."
The poster's tagline was taken from Murphy's therapy sessions.
The studios will even do this for reviews that aren't completely negative. A 1995 review for Se7en gave the film a B grade, while pointing out that the opening sequence was "a small masterpiece of dementia" in itself. The studio simply took that one word -- "masterpiece" -- and slapped it on their ads.
#1. The Critic Whose Review You Read Might Not Even Exist
And here's where it gets even sadder. Let's say you're a studio executive and your usual quote whores aren't giving you enough exclamation marks to convince people to see your movie. No problem: Just do what Sony Pictures did and make shit up.
You see, if you paid attention to movie ads between 2000 and 2001, chances are you read several blurbs from David Manning, a critic working for The Ridgefield Press who consistently wrote good reviews for the movies Sony crapped out, including Rob Schneider's The Animal. Knowing that no critic could possibly give a good review to a film where Schneider says anything more than "You can do it" without self-destructing, Newsweek decided to do a little investigating and found out that The Ridgefield Press had never heard of "David Manning." Sony then admitted that Manning was invented by their marketing department.
They fashioned him with magic, like a golem, only from cocaine instead of clay.
Sony lamented the lapse in judgment ... and then proceeded to do it again. When Mel Gibson's The Patriot came out in 2001, a commercial was aired showing two ordinary moviegoers calling it "the perfect date movie," except that they weren't so ordinary -- they both worked at the marketing department at Sony. Man, what are the chances, right?
We suppose we should point out here that this practice is older than Sony, or even movies. When Walt Whitman released his poetry collection Leaves of Grass in 1855, the first line was "I celebrate myself," and that's exactly what he did. When critics called the book "a mass of stupid filth," among other things, Whitman simply wrote anonymous reviews for his own work, calling it "transcendental and new" and comparing himself to William Shakespeare.
"Indeed, the only fault one can find in Whitman is his inconveniently large penis size." -Anonymous
If Whitman had had an Internet connection, he probably would have taken his trolling even further, like British thriller writer R.J. Ellory, who got himself in a heap of trouble when it was discovered that he used multiple Amazon accounts over the course of 10 years to praise his books. He'd call his work "a masterpiece" and give himself five stars, at the same time using the same accounts to give one-star reviews to other writers.
That shit happens all the time. Orlando Figes, one of Britain's leading historians, also used Amazon to anonymously praise himself while trashing his rivals. When people began challenging him about the reviews, Figes threatened legal action on those people and later blamed the whole thing on his wife, eventually admitting that it was him all along.
"And by 'me' I meant the dwarfs who live in my keyboard."
Sammy Trujillo has a Tumblr about his love of movies.
For more stupid things people do on the Internet, check out 6 Places You Should Never Twitter From and 5 Wacky Internet Pranks That Can Get You Jail Time.
If you're pressed for time and just looking for a quick fix, then check out Why McDonald's Has the Most Insane Twitter Account.
And stop by LinkSTORM to see what we thought of the new Gold Bond cream with aloe.
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