Gelf Magazine - Looking over the overlooked

The Blurbs

November 22, 2009

'Genre Traps' Trap 'Blind Side'

In this week's edition of The Blurbs—the feature in which we take a close look at those critic blurbs that are a fixture of ads for movies—see breakdowns of blurbs for 'Blind Side,' 'Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans,' '2012,' and more.

David Goldenberg

The critic blurb is a staple of arts advertising. Yet if you look behind some blurbs, you'll find quotes out of context, quote whores, and other questionable ad practices. Blurb Racket exposes the truth behind critics blurbs in movie ads from the New York Times. Movie titles link to, which compiles movie reviews in a far-more honest way than do movie ads. See the inaugural Blurb Racket column for background and useful links, and find out what critics think of the racket.

"… way too much football and a couple of corny montage sequences …"—Boxoffice Magazine's Pete Hammond on Blind Side

Blind Side (Warner Bros.)
Metacritic Score: 52

Pete Hammond, Boxoffice Magazine: "This is the best performance of Sandra Bullock's career."
Not quoted: "… overlong … likely to be dwarfed opening weekend … does occasionally fall prey to some genre traps (including way too much football and a couple of corny montage sequences) …"

Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans
Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans (First Look)
Metacritic Score: 70

Manohla Dargis, New York Times: "One of the best movies of Herzog's career. Here Mr. Cage and Mr. Herzog take you into a hell that leads straight to movie heaven."
Actual line: "Werner Herzog screened one of the best movies of his career ('Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans') and one of the worst ('My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done?'). … Here Mr. Cage and Mr. Herzog take you into a hell that leads straight to movie heaven."
Not quoted: [More on that "one of the worst" movies of Herzog's career] "… a thin, strained kookfest about a lunatic (Michael Shannon, who should beware of taking on too many such roles) that plays like an inert pastiche of a David Lynch film."

2012 (Columbia)
Metacritic Score: 49

Dan Kois, Washington Post: "**** Enormously satisfying and astonishingly accomplished. It gets everything right."
Actual line: "If a film critic awards four stars to a movie directed by Roland Emmerich—Hollywood's reigning king of catastrophe, the critically scorned director of 'Independence Day' and 'Godzilla'—will the world come to an end? That's a question the ancient Mayans never asked, but it's the one facing me after the enormously satisfying, astonishingly accomplished, reprehensible-yet-irresistible '2012.' " … It gets everything right."
Not quoted: "… lacks all reasonable perspective. It's the kind of movie that expects that audiences, shortly after watching the entire population of India subsumed by a tidal wave, will urge on a fluffy white dog as she crosses a chasm and leaps into her owner's arms. It's the kind of movie that has a father conduct a heart-to-heart with his son shortly before belly-landing a jumbo jet on a glacier. It preys on an audience's willingness to cheer for heroes even as we consign faceless masses to the narrative dustbin. It recognizes the thrill of the vicarious experience and the appeal of the clean slate. Behind on your mortgage? Overdue library books? Don't sweat it. … Is '2012' art? Absolutely not. … It should (but surely will not) be the last movie of its kind ever made."

Shawn Edwards, Fox-TV: "Phenomenal!"
Edwards's streak of endorsing otherwise poorly reviewed movies continues.

The Messenger
The Messenger (Oscilloscope Laboratories)
Metacritic Score: 75

New Yorker: "A fully felt, morally alert, marvelously acted piece of work with moments of explosive humor—an entertainment."
Actual line: " 'The Messenger' has also taken on the unwelcome task of telling its audience what it doesn't much want to hear—how families are devastated by war. Yet the film is neither dutiful nor solemn. This is a fully felt, morally alert, marvellously acted piece of work. Despite the grim subject, it's a sweet-tempered movie, with moments of explosive humor—an entertainment."
Not quoted: "Box-office wisdom holds that it's too early to make movies about this conflict, but how can it ever be too early to make a good movie?"
The film's ad people apparently wanted to overturn that wisdom by eliding the bit about the film's grim subject. (They also changed the New Yorker's spelling of "marvelously.")

The Missing Person
The Missing Person (Strand Releasing)
Metacritic Score: 55

David Edelstein, New York Magazine: "Delightfully strange noir."
That's from a profile of Michael Shannon. The capsule review forgave "the flaws of this affected, slightly too-referential neo-noir."

Uncertainty (IFC)
Metacritic Score: 45

Stephen Holden, New York Times: "A taut, skillful exercise in cinematic clockwork."
Not quoted: " For most of the rest of the story Bobby and Kate are chased by a gunman over the streets and rooftops of Manhattan (mostly Chinatown), as they hatch a foolish plan to collect half a million dollars. Even as you're watching this story, it feels implausible."

David Denby, New Yorker: "Gripping to the end."
Actual line: "The way the two stories comment on each other is more a structural gimmick than a dramatic device, but the directors achieve an unusual degree of intimacy between the lovers, and the movie is gripping to the end."

William Kunstler: Disturbing the Universe
William Kunstler: Disturbing the Universe (Arthouse)
Metacritic Score: 59

New York Times: "The most hated and most loved lawyer in America."
That line certainly wasn't in the Times's article about the film last week, which quoted Vanity Fair as calling Kunstler "the most hated lawyer in America." That quote (again without the "loved", and this time without attribution) appeared in the Times's Carpetbagger blog last year. Nor was it in the review, which describes the film but doesn't express much critical judgment beyond that the film "is by no means a hagiography." The closest the Times came to delivering this quote came way back in 1993, when the filmmakers—Kunstler's daughters—were teenagers. A profile quoted him as saying, "I'm more loved and more hated than I ever was." And another article reported, "Some have called Mr. Kunstler the most hated lawyer in America," then quoted his then-16-year-old daughter Sarah as saying, "I love him and respect him, whatever he does." For distorting 16-year-old quotes that don't even comment on the movie, this ad wins Gelf's Bogus Blurb of the Week Award.

David Goldenberg

David Goldenberg is the co-founder and editor of Gelf, and the host of Geeking Out, Gelf's monthly science speaking series.

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Article by David Goldenberg

David Goldenberg is the co-founder and editor of Gelf, and the host of Geeking Out, Gelf's monthly science speaking series.

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