Recently my friends have been taking me to task whenever I use my column to rip on movies I haven’t seen. Now, if I haven’t seen a film, I don’t say I have, but that’s apparently a moot point. And it doesn’t matter that they routinely confuse a critical piece, where I have to see the movie in order to write the review, with an opinion piece, where anything is fair game. It seems that some of my friends (and casual acquaintances) would like me to stop picking on movies like “”Snow Dogs” and “”Miami Vice” because I haven’t subjected myself to their tortures. “”It’s only fair,” they say, “”to see the movie before you make fun of it.”
A bullet from a .45, which weighs a mere 230 grams, is capable of doing a lot of damage to the human body. Once inside the victim, many different factors come into play. If the bullet hits bone, it can either shatter the bone or ricochet off it (sometimes both happen), causing it to exit where one would least expect. (In smaller caliber guns, it has been noted that men trying to kill themselves with a shot to the head are sometimes surprised that a bullet that goes through the roof of the mouth may come out an eye or even travel along the surface of the skull and miss the brain entirely.) Bullets also don’t retain their shape. Some mushroom. Some splinter. Hollow points are designed to actually get trapped inside the body (and are often used so that people behind the intended target don’t get hit by an exiting bullet). If a hollow point .45 bullet leaves the victim, as rare as that is, its exit wound is significantly larger than its entrance wound. This means that while wounds may have some universal patterns, one constant is inconsistency.
.45 caliber bullets have killed. They have paralyzed. They have even gone through lucky souls without hitting any major organs, leaving an exit wound as clean as the entrance wound. “”Clean” isn’t exactly the proper word, though. As these bullets enter the body, they tear flesh, which leaves a wound ripe for all sorts of nasty bacteria. And if these bullets happen to tear an intestine on their route, fecal matter can complicate the healing process.
I know all of this through research. I’ve read up on the subject, and I’ve seen real-life footage of people who have been shot. I’ve examined autopsy photos, and have listened to experts drone on and on about the subject. I have never been shot with a .45 bullet.
That said, I know enough about it to realize I really don’t want to be.
When I bust on “”Radio” or “”Happy Feet,” it’s the same thing. I know enough about the film to be able to take it to task. It’s not judging a book by its cover, either. It’s judging by common sense, reading reviews, watching trailers and listening to what other people have to say about it. It’s the same exact process normal people use when deciding what movie they want to see. I just use it to tell me which ones I don’t want to watch. (Other people do the same thing, but apparently don’t realize it.)
I’ve been involved in “”entertainment journalism” long enough to know when something makes for good comedy. I won’t write a review of the skewered film (unless I have seen it), but that doesn’t mean I can’t and won’t comment on it. Like it or not, I’m going to speak my mind about crap like “”Snakes on a Plane,” and there’s nothing that can stop me. And while that may irritate some readers and friends, I must say I don’t care.
The role of a critic is closely tied to the role of a commentator. There is a subtle difference, however. A critic usually focuses on one set piece of work, or body of work. A commentator can be broader in scope. I don’t know why some people don’t get this. It’s really not my problem, though. My problem is coming up with new and clever ways of belittling people who paid to see “”Fantastic Four.” (I can’t call them “”socially retarded wannabe pedophiles” because some people take that the wrong way, and it paints real pedophiles in a bad light.) My problem is not making sure I don’t offend a “”Star Trek” fan. My problem is making sure I do.
I’m glad people defend film. That’s important. If more people did it, maybe there would be no need for the MPAA or directors’ versions (because that’s what we’d see in the first place). Instead of fighting for those things, though, people want to tell me to stop “”dissing” “”Lord of War.” In a country where you’re still pretty free to say almost anything, this is what they chose to speak about. I have a problem with that. Sure, defend film, but at least pick something worth defending. Something with some actual guts. Something of substance.
When people defend films as “”mindless fun,” I’ll attack that. Some are mindless fun. (“”The Corpse Grinders” comes to mind.) But when people call them “”mindless fun” and then act as if these movies have some honest-to-God relevance to the world of cinema, I will definitely call that as I see it, even if I haven’t watched the film. Let’s face it, in twenty years from now nobody is going to be calling “”Urban Legend” a horror masterpiece. To defend it as such is to declare your ignorance of film both past and present. Yet it happens all the time. People get so caught up in the moment, fed a steady diet of nothing, that they can’t identify films of true importance. To them, a classic film is what came out last summer. It’s the girl on myspace.com who is twenty-five and declares “”Legally Blonde” to be her favorite movie of “”forever” because it really taught her “”what’s important in life.” It’s someone saying they had low expectations for a film before they even saw it, but went anyway “”just because.”
And I’m the one who gets s**t for saying “”The Dukes of Hazard” looked like a poorly planned execution that went horribly wrong. Where’s the justice in that?
Here’s my challenge to the people who say I shouldn’t poke fun at a movie I haven’t seen: If you stop seeing crap, I’ll stop telling you it looks like crap. If you start watching films of actual merit, are able to discuss them in terms other than “”really good,” “”cool” and “”the special effects rocked,” I’ll stop “”dissing” remakes and “”reimagings.” If you stop going into films with “”zero expectations” and start watching films you think are actually worth your time and money, I’ll stop pointing out what a tool you are. If you stop going to see nonsense because “”there was nothing better to do,” I’ll stop reminding you that with all the entertainment choices in the world there is no longer any excuse to be bored.
It’s a tall order. I understand that. But I’m willing to hold up my end of the bargain. I can write plenty of columns about movies I enjoy. The thing is, I don’t think you folks can hold up your end. Your sweet tooth dictates far too many of your viewing choices. Seeing garbage is so ingrained into your psyche that quality films no longer look good. In fact, I think you’d rent a film you’ve seen before — and disliked — just because it’s on the new shelf instead of trying something that is actually new to you.
I’ve got your number, and I don’t even know some of you all that well. I guess I’m guilty again. Maybe it would be harder if you weren’t so damn predictable. Think about that the next time you sit down to write me a letter about how “”wrong” I am to dismiss something like “”The Departed” without even seeing it. Think about that, and then think about my little piece on the .45 bullet and to what I wrote about guys shooting themselves in the head. If you don’t believe me about exit wounds, give it a try. Just don’t put the gun in your mouth. I don’t want to take the chance that the bullet would miss your brain.