The merits of including cheap shots, puns and jokes in reviews By Richard Crouse
This week I read with cringing amusement some of the more withering critical reactions to former underwear model Rosie Huntington-Whiteley’s performance in Transformers: Dark of the Moon. Total Film’s Neil Smith wrote that she sucks “the life out of every scene she appears in like some pneumatic Dyson sexbot,” while Chris Hewitt of Empire said, “You’ll believe a robot can fly, but you won’t believe a Huntington-Whiteley can talk.”
I even posted some of these on my facebook page without thinking about it too much; nothing like a funny jab from a bitchy critic to brighten up the day. I’ve cracked wise myself a few times. Years ago I wrote “the former commercial director has a knack for making everything look shiny but having great taste doesn’t make a great film director any more than great taste makes a Snicker’s bar a gourmet meal,” about Transformers filmmaker Michael Bay.
Now, that’s a pretty good line, if I do say so myself, but it’s also a cheap shot and I sometimes find myself pondering the merits of including puns and jokes in reviews.
Having said that one of my favorite reviews of all time is also the shortest. In 1986 former Genesis guitarist Steve Hackett and Yes and Asia guitarist Steve Howe released a vanity project simply titled GTR, a hip abbreviation of the word “guitar.” Reviewing the album in Musician magazine J.D. Considine wasted no ink, writing simply “GTR-SHT.”
Considine says it the most famous thing he ever wrote and the band claimed the popularity of the review actually helped sales of the record. GRT went gold and produced the hit single When the Heart Rules the Mind.
Others haven’t been so gracious in their acceptance of bad reviews. The Story Sisters novelist Alice Hoffman responded poorly to Roberta Silman’s review of book in the Boston Globe. Her reaction? 27 angry tweets, one of which included Silman’s phone number, e-mail address and urged follwers to, “Tell her what u think of snarky critics.”
Hoffman eventually apologized for the outburst and was the subject of a number of “How not to respond to a bad review” articles.
Darren Aronofsky was a bit more direct when he chastised New York Press critic Armond White at last year’s New York Film Critics Circle Awards. From the stage he said, “Keep it up, because you give us all another reason not to read New York Press,” while staring White down.
White, who panned Aronofsky’s Black Swan and once suggested that director Noah Baumbach’s mother should have had a “retroactive abortion,” responded with, “That’s all right. Darren reads me. That’s all I want. And because he reads me, he knows the truth.”
There’s a life lesson for Ms. Huntington-Whiteley in all of this. Too bad she won’t have time to learn it this weekend. She’ll be too busy counting the truckloads of money her movie’s going to make to pay too much attention to the reviews.