Thoughtful reviews, the Boulder film scene

Noi Albinoi

Mystery and ambivalence about this Bleak portrait of isolation are amplified on DVD —Marty Mapes (DVD review...)

Noi the Albino spends winter in Iceland alone

" We now have discrimination down to a science "
— Ethan Hawke, Gattaca

MRQE Top Critic

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“I just want you to hurt like I do” is a great song by Randy Newman. If you haven’t heard it, you really have to go out and buy it, right now. It’s so honest and sarcastic and funny that I just can’t recommend it highly enough. It’s a love song, but instead of being all romantic, it’s totally cynical and somehow, right on the money. If you don’t have it yet, go to iTunes and buy it. I’ll wait.

Sucker.

Actually, I do like the song, and the title hits too close to home, a little too often. It’s a sentiment people have, including critics on occasion, and including myself sometimes, though I try to be careful not to. Whenever someone recommends something to me that just doesn’t sound that interesting, I have to wonder whether they just want me to hurt like they do.

Caveat Emptor

It’s something consumers of criticism of any kind need to be wary of. People want to connect. They want to share experiences. Recommending a book or a film or a restaurant or a vacation is only natural.

But is the recommender really being a critic? Are they really evaluating what is being offered and recommending it over other possible alternatives? Or do they just want to have something to talk about with you. They’ve already spent their time and money. They won’t admit it wasn’t worth it because they can’t afford to. Now they want you to spend your time and money on the same common ground.

O Canada!

If I haven’t made my case yet, let me give you some examples.

I started reading a book on the early settlement of Canada, written by a European woman. She was clearly all alone in this foreign land, clearly feeling disconnected, and her book would praise every bank, shoreline, and eddy as God’s most wondrous landscape. She so wanted the world to understand her own life that she practically insisted that every reader of her memoirs hop on the next boat and follow in her footsteps.

She didn’t come across as an informed critic, nor a travel writer with broad experience, but as one who was lonely, wanted human contact, and recommended her own experiences to friends from fear of loneliness rather than from informed critique. She sounded practically selfish.

Mea Culpa

And yes, I have to admit, I’ve even done the same thing myself. Whether I’ve done it in the last year, I can’t say. Ask my most loyal readers.

But when I went to L.A. to try to make it in the film biz after college, I felt exactly the same way the European-Canadian woman did. I was lost in a strange land with no friends, who had all stayed back home. I fancied myself quite the epistler and imagined I’d start a little movie newsletter through which we friends could keep in touch, me recommending whatever movie I happened to see that week as a sort of common ground.

Ever the sensitive person, I was brought back to earth by some smart-aleck remark about my “newsletter.” But I like to think I’ve learned my lesson. Every critic sometimes overpraises an underdog movie, but I’d rather not be the kind of person who wants the rest of the world to suffer, just because I did.

  • Neil: Interesting. But, I'm trying to remember if I've ever suggested something that I didn't really like to someone. I'll think about it.

    I didn't understand, did the newsletter actually exist or were you just thinking about it. And what was the smart-aleck remark about your "newsletter?" It's obviously had an effect on you as you have progressed to such a highly-evolved technologically advanced "newsletter" now.

    While we're on the topic, maybe you would like to write an article about your experience in L.A. (unless you already have and I missed it). I've been watching the Project Greenlight series, and am realizing how incredibly difficult it is to get into the movie biz. Also, how dishearting it can be even if you do get in. April 4, 2006 reply
  • Marty Mapes: The "newsletter" existed for about two weeks. I forget what the smart-aleck comment was or who said it, but I realized I was just being desperate and lonely, rather than actually saying something someone would want to hear. I guess I do the same thing on the Internet now. How about that?

    And yes, maybe I should write about my brief experience in L.A. I loved the first season of Project Greenlight (the only one I've seen). Maybe "loved" is the wrong word -- I found it painful -- and yet I was gripped by everything you mention, and more. More people aspire than succeed, and those who succeed, as you say, aren't so sure it was worth it. April 4, 2006 reply