The Rex Reed Conversation

As I’ve mentioned on a number of occasions, part of my desire to start my own site, with its own agenda, was to not necessarily have to always be feeding into the voracious entertainment news cycle. Keeping that in mind, this is why I didn’t immediately jump all over the latest Rex Reed fiasco.

To be another voice in the chorus that chided Reed for going way out of bounds in insulting Melissa McCarthy in his review of Identity Thief would add nothing to the conversation. As Scott E. Weinberg eloquently pointed out, and I’m paraphrasing, if Reed’s sole purpose was to slam the film for having one joke, and going back to that well far too often, this was not the way to do it.

I will preface my further comments by saying I’ve never liked Reed’s work. Growing up I saw three critics on TV frequently: Reed, if I recall correctly, added film reviews to The Gossip Show on E!. Then there was Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert.

Of the three, I held the late great Gene Siskel in the highest regard. Roger Ebert is a great source of knowledge, but I don’t frequently agree both with what he says and how he goes about saying it. My last piece on a critical blunder was on the first in now a string of spoilers by him (and it shan’t resurface on here lest he does so again). Reed’s latest gaffe comes about a year after his egregious errors in fact on The Cabin in the Woods, which were embarrassing whether he liked the film or not.

To get back on point, corrections and admonitions of Reed based on the content of his piece and his track record, which is unquestionably long, are fine. However, it was only in this debate wherein Reed’s sexuality was confirmed to me based on people’s comments. This fact was brought to light in part due to the fact that he is insulting a woman on her appearance and weight. The veiled insinuation being that this latest breach of professional etiquette is due at least in part to his sexual orientation, which is completely and utterly asinine.

Boorish writing and unprofessional behavior is perpetuated by those in all walks of life. There’s no excusing Reed’s behavior, and to try and explain it is wasteful. Especially considering the fact that Reed has gone on to defend his comments and not retract them.

Anyone who either dabbles or works solely in the arena of opining likely has made regrettable statements or pieces, I know I have. My real contribution to this conversation is the following: In general terms, when criticizing someone’s insensitive remarks do not make generalizations or you’re stooping to their level (e.g. “Oh, well he/she would say that because they’re this). More specifically, if we’re debating the quality of someone’s work their sexual orientation has no bearing on the issue.

For example, I’d go so far as to say Joel Schumacher is one of the more wildly inconsistent directors there is, but when he’s good I think he’s very good and when he’s bad, well, you’ve seen it, and believe me there’s worse than the one you’re thinking of. However, any debate of on works of gay directors whether highly regarded like Gus Van Sant or not-so-much like Joel Schumacher almost invariably brings the fact up at some point. Anyone who strives to do something, and do so well, doesn’t want a qualifier: you don’t want to be a great gay filmmaker, black quarterback or female senator. You want to be a great filmmaker, quarterback or senator. It works on both ends of the spectrum. If Rex Reed is a bad critic, which I always found him to be, it’s because he’s not good at his job. Period.

Film Thought: No List Is Ever Complete

I recall once that Roger Ebert tweeted a link and added to it something to the extent of “See this is why I don’t do lists.” I got his point. It was a completist’s one, meaning how can you legitimately make such and such a list claiming it’s ever or all-time when you haven’t, you couldn’t possibly, have seen every qualifying film. Fair enough.

However, it was only recently that I followed this line of thought out further when thinking of my own lists. If I say these are the 10 Best Examples of This I Ever saw, am I disingenuous? No, if I haven’t seen something or disagree, that film, performance or whatever else isn’t on the list. Surely, there are year-end best film lists made by people who saw less than every film released that year. How do those lists differ? They don’t.

Therefore, what I resolved is that if I make a list, barring year-end ones which are time sensitive, that for all intents and purposes it is perpetually a work in progress. Why should it not be? Do I anticipate never hearing another new voice actor (referring to an older not re-posted here list)? I’m preparing a Spielberg ranking, will it not automatically re-shift when Lincoln comes out? I will also no longer be married to round numbers. If something should demand 11 choices, there will be 11. Much in the way my best films of last year lists were assembled, I felt there were 25 films worthy of being cited. Clearly there were still only 10 in the top 10.

The important thing is to do these things in order to express oneself, create discussions and learn. I may be pointed towards a film I have not yet seen or heard of through a list or a post, and why shouldn’t I?

Similarly, I plan to continue to write on the new releases I see but in ways I find enriching, which will not always mean a standard review. I did as such for The Dictator and I think that Brave and Madagascar 3 should be treated in a unique fashion also.

These new precepts I feel will encourage me to re-post more, to write on films more quickly and to avoid procrastinating, and ultimately I believe they will make my content more interesting and dynamic. I hope you do too.

Review- Waiting for ‘Superman’

Geoffrey Canada in Waiting for 'Superman'

Waiting for ‘Superman’ comes out on video today

When I was about 14 years old the film Hoop Dreams came out. At the end of that year Roger Ebert cited it as one of, if not the best movies of the year. This is not an Ebert rant but a point shall be made. At the time being young, naive and having not seen it I didn’t know how that could be possible for a documentary to earn that kind of praise. I have become enlightened since then and this film is proof that it can indeed happen and is likely to stand amongst the best films of the year.

Another reason that anecdote was relayed is that this is a personal film. It is personal in many ways not only in that it focuses on individual children while examining the system as a whole but also because as you watch it you’d be hard pressed not to think back to your public schooling experience and either remember something very reminiscent from your own past or come to some greater understanding of the monstrous machine in which you were raised.

Which brings me to my next point: this film is not propagandist. There are several statistics illustrated and cited (if you look close you can see sources). So there is support for the film’s claim that the system is broken and what a bulk of the information is trying to discover factors that lead to that and what possible solutions are.

It is most jarring especially if you were public schooled but were perhaps not well-versed in the politics of the system and some of the terminology. By highlighting a nauseating systemic issue with the individual struggles of children today in our educational system it does become a very emotional experience indeed.

Not to give much away but there are many issues that will be examined like Tracking, The Lemon Dance, The Rubber Room, Tenure and Union Dysfunction. Hearkening back to an earlier point, aside from humorous and creative use of archival footage there is nothing done in the edit to paint anyone in a worse light than they are painting themselves.

Documentaries are a tough business. You have to go where the facts and the footage take you despite what you set out believing. What Guggenheim does well is not only personalize his subject matter but pick topics for which there is overwhelming statistical data to support his hypothesis.

The film shows you the odds these kids are facing as they are trying to get into a school that will give them a better chance, one that won’t allow them to get lost in the shuffle. They are odds that seem insurmountable and surely the results aren’t always great but the film does allow for a glimmer of hope.

First, it is creating a dialogue much like his previous film An Inconvenient Truth did for global climate change. However, in another great piece of marketing from the folks at Paramount it is allowing people to make a difference, even more than the Pledge to see this film which is similar to the Demand to see Paranormal Activity campaign. Everyone who purchases a ticket gets a $15 voucher to donate to their favorite educational program. Details are available here.

Davis Guggenheim was last in the news for backing out of the Justin Bieber 3D film due to the need to promote this film. It was the right choice. John Chu is more than capable of handling that and this film needs its director supporting and publicizing it much as we need it seen and it needed being made.