6 Movie Critics Whose Reviews Were Acts Of Pure WTF
No matter how much they might claim otherwise, good reviews do matter to filmmakers -- if not as a validation of the artistic statement they were trying to make with their latest tale of cars that are also robots, then because of the effect reviews can have on the bottom line. People don't want to see bad movies. Weird!
Critics know this too, and have on occasion gone to great lengths to not only warn people away from movies, but to outright hurt the people behind said movies. For instance ...
Rosie O'Donnell Spoiled The Ending To Fight Club To Prevent People From Seeing It
For a decade or so, Fight Club had an outsized and probably detrimental influence on the thinking of many young men, filling them with misguided ideas about punching and IKEA. The internet has more or less come to its senses since the time, with every community coming up with its own memes about Tyler Durden and his rules, but one person was several steps ahead of the crowd: actress and presidential nemesis Rosie O'Donnell.
To remind everyone of the historical context here, Fight Club came out in late 1999, as the United States was still reeling from the Columbine High School massacre. Everyone was on edge about anything that seemed to glorify violence, and along came an oiled-up Brad Pitt who literally advocated punching your problems away. A whole lot of critics were unkind to the film for this reason, but O'Donnell took it a step further. In order to dissuade people from going to the film, she up and spoiled its big twist on national TV.
It's hard to say for certain how much of an effect this had, or how many young men watched The Rosie O'Donnell Show (millions, certainly), but the movie was a bit of a box office flop, and director David Fincher was pretty upset about O'Donnell's actions. "Unforgivable" he called it years later, although again it's unclear whether he was referring to that or The Rosie O'Donnell Show in general.
Oh, and speaking of spoiling movies out of spite ...
Gene Siskel Doxxed The Cast Of Friday The 13th
Gene Siskel is one of the most famous movie critics of all time, known for his keen eye, acerbic wit, and ability to partially conceal his disdain for Roger Ebert. If for some reason you don't watch reviews of movies that came out 30 years ago, you might not know he was also known for getting really, really angry at films. Arguably the most insane he ever got was after he watched Friday The 13th.
The whole review is worth reading, but here's a quick breakdown. He starts off by immediately spoiling the twist ending -- again, specifically to discourage people from going to see it. He then goes into more details about its flaws, including the acting, direction, basic premise, mere existence, etc. All standard stuff. But then in the last paragraph, he goes way over the line:
"IT'S ABOUT ETHICS IN FILM JOURNALISM!"
Betsy Palmer is the actress who plays the villain in the film, and yes, that is Gene Siskel disclosing where she lives in a major newspaper and encouraging people to write her hate mail. Palmer never got a single letter, but that's more a matter of luck than anything else.
Now, obviously this was in an era before the concept of doxxing and its dangers were really understood, and although stalkers were certainly around, it still wasn't a problem people took that seriously. (It would be a few years before anti-stalking laws started showing up.) But hate mail was still a known thing, and Siskel surely knew he wasn't inviting fun times upon his hated enemies -- who, again, were just people who made a movie.
Several Critics Suggested Do The Right Thing Would Cause Riots
Spike Lee is a celebrated filmmaker with a career that's spanned decades, but one of his earliest works is still probably his best. We're talking about Do The Right Thing, and if you haven't seen it yet, you should, and in the next several seconds if you can, because we're about to spoil its memorable ending for you. On a scorching hot day in a neighborhood simmering with racial tension, a young black man is killed by the police. With a riot about to break out, protagonist Mookie stands between the crowd and the white owners of a pizza restaurant who are the focus of the crowd's anger, and ... sparks the riot himself.
It's a surprising ending. A reasonable initial reaction is that Mookie doesn't do "the right thing" hinted at by the movie's title. But there are a lot of "wrong things" in this movie, racist acts big and small by characters of varying degree of sympathy -- a black youth being choked to death by the police being one of them. The movie is, among other things, a portrayal of why reasonable people become angry enough to riot. But for at least a few critics, that didn't matter.
David Denby, writing in New York Magazine, had some reasonable criticisms of the story and its message, which he found somewhat muddled. But he went way past reasonable when he wrote: "The end of the movie is a shambles, and if some audiences go wild, he's partly responsible." In the same issue, Joe Klein ratcheted up the rhetoric a notch more, criticizing the way he thought police and white people were portrayed as the enemy, and warning "if black kids act on what they see, Lee may have destroyed his career in that moment." For some reason, he also tried to tie this into the city's upcoming mayoral election, wondering what effect this probably riot-causing movie would have on the chances of David Dinkins, a black candidate.
Lee, of course, thought this was complete garbage, and reasonably pointed out that black people can tell the difference between fiction and reality, and would also notice the very real anti-violence messages present in the movie as well. He also pointed out the almost complete lack of interest many critics seemed to have in the death of a young black man right before the riot; the fucking property damage was evidently more important to them. 25 years later, he was still angry about these reviews, and we can hardly blame him.
The Night Of The Hunter Was Criticized So Much That The Director Never Made Anything Again
1955's The Night Of The Hunter isn't super well-known, but amongst cinephiles, it's revered as an early pioneer of the horror movie genre, and often considered to be a masterpiece. One example might illustrate this: A lot of the stalker imagery from Cape Fear, like a guy with "love" and "hate" tatted on his knuckles, came from this movie.
The film was directed by Charles Laughton, who'd had a lengthy and successful career as an actor. Night Of The Hunter was his first chance to direct, and given how well it turned out, it seems impossible he didn't go on to the be one of the most celebrated directors of all time. And yet it was the only movie he ever helmed.
His problem may have simply been that he was ahead of his time. In the 1950s, America was still in a postwar mindset, and for the most part was looking for upbeat movies -- even Hollywood's monster movies of the time had flippin' Abbott and Costello in them. With Night Of The Hunter, however, Laughton gave us a psychological thriller about a sinister preacher menacing a widow and her children. Even the critics who judged the movie on its own terms weren't overly fond of it, and others were downright shitty. Here's The Chicago Tribune:
Yes, we always hate to have brutality and ugliness in our horror movies.
And The Pittsburgh Press evidently wanted its horror movies told without any of that fancy mumbo-jumbo like symbolism or creative camera angles:
A jimdandy yarn of a review.
Whether it was because of the critics or the lack of people getting hit in the face with cream pies, the film was more or less rejected by moviegoers. Laughton was never given another chance to direct again, and it would be decades before we got another clear look at the delightful darkness that lies in all humans.
Anonymous IMDb Voters Have Brigaded Indie Films With Bad Reviews (Without Seeing Them)
IMDb users are not necessarily the be-all, end-all of movie criticism. Their list of the top movies of all time is a little heavy on nerd-boy films from the past couple of decades. But there is something to be said for the wisdom of the crowd; the movies they like are rarely bad, and the ones they hate are rarely good.
But for some reason, IMDb users are deliberately tanking the ratings of some movies without having seen them first. For instance, a new indie flick called Kicks did reasonably well at festivals, and for a time, its IMDb score was solid.
But about a week before the movie's theatrical run began, a bunch of anonymous IMDb users began giving it low ratings, which caused its overall score to plummet. This wasn't the only case; it's also happened to other indie movies, like Other People and Demon. There's no obvious reason it's happening, either. It's evidently one of those things which make the internet such a hellscape sometime.
This is a big deal for independent films. While a lot of blockbusters are essentially review-proof, in that they have enough capes and cowls and marketing that their opening day audiences are more or less built in, small movies don't have that kind of anticipation or marketing budget. They need good reviews, and IMDb is the biggest source of them after Rotten Tomatoes. Whether it's for the lulz or because they're trying to boost the comparative rating of their own grief-based indie films, some trolls are causing real damage here.
Armond White Loves To Fuck Up Perfect Rotten Tomatoes Scores
Buckle up, because we're about to introduce you to the smarmiest and most rotten of all the tomatoes. Armond White is a critic who quite possibly literally gets off on being a contrarian. Whether it's providing glowing reviews for horrible films or bad reviews of terrific ones, White loves doing what everyone else isn't.
One of his most infamous reviews is of Toy Story 3 (which Cracked itself reviewed in turn). The movie had been carrying a shining 100 percent before White came in and took a big dump on it, possibly because he hates joy or was once forced to donate all his toys to charity. He did the same with Pixar's Up as well, seemingly to prove he can hate children and old people equally. In that one, he decried what he called "Pixarism," and pined for animation more like -- we're not making this up -- Monster House and Chicken Little. The same Chicken Little that has a 36 percent on Rotten Tomatoes.
It's not just the animated incarnation of hopes and dreams he hates. More recently, White was the guy to break the 100 percent held by Get Out. It had garnered 143 "Fresh" reviews before he came in and left a "Rotten" one. Apparently because people were becoming wise to his "criticism," the only place that would publish his review of Get Out was National Review. The fact that he referred to the film as "get whitey" and claimed it was only produced to "please the liberal status quo" probably didn't hurt either.
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