Film Review Controversies
Film Review Controversies
Kevin Maynard (Film Critic and Entertainment Writer, Special to USA Today, Variety) gives expert video advice on: How do film companies decide which quotes to put on their advertisements?; Are the critic's quotes on film advertisements misleading?; What should I know about film critic quotes? and more...
How do film companies decide which quotes to put on their advertisements?
Movie studios decide which quotes to run in the ads for their movies by what are the most favorable ones and whether they can get them ahead of time. Studios will look at quotes by well-known, well-respected entities, like "The New Yorker" or "The New York Times", if it's a movie that's really going to be sold on critical acclaim. I think for any movie, you want those favorable critical reviews, and you'll take them where you can get them and you'll run them. Sometimes, they're in danger of running them with exclamation points that might not have been there in the first place, but...
Are the critic's quotes on film advertisements misleading?
I think the studios are a little bit more careful these days with quoting film critics. I don't think they would do something like take 'hilariously awful' and make 'hilarious'. Studios know that they would have a problem there. However, they do often take quotes from film critics out of context. They do magically create exclamation points to make a movie sound more exciting than it is. The big problem is, there are some reviewers actually who will refuse to show their review to the studios ahead of time. They respect their writing enough that they don't want things taken out of context: they don't want to mislead an audience into thinking they like a movie unless it's very specific.
What should I know about film critic quotes?
Here's the problem with quotes that run out of context in a films advertising campaign, ok. A film review is a piece of writing, it's a piece of writing that stands on it's own, an original piece of writing. An ad campaign for a movie is selling a product. When you're selling a product, you're gonna try and tell her everything you can to get the people you want to see that product in the seats. So, you're at odds, you're dealing with what is an original piece of writing and an ad campaign and they're different things and I think that critics have a hard time when studios take their stuff out of context, even when it's a favorable review for that very reason. If you want to see a movie and the only good blurb is from "The Gettysburg Gazette" and something called like "Talking Wacky Pictures" dot com and you have no idea who the hell those are, chances are the studio's reaching and it's not a movie that you necessarily want to see or you shouldn't go see it based on the critics reviews if you haven't heard of the critics. What does happen sometimes is there are better critic reviews, but because the critics didn't want their reviews out ahead of time just because they're not interested in any kind of environment where they feel like they're catering to the studios. The reviews that will run with the movie are from "The Gettysburg Gazette" because they are the one's willing to give them a review ahead of time. But, if you wait a week, the better reviews will be rolling in too and you'll see the review for the "New York Times". It's just that the "New York Times" is sometimes hesitant to give the good review ahead a time, for a big studio movie anyway.
What is film critic "quote-whoring"?
I don't think the term 'quote-whoring' is a very official term, but there are certain film critics who you'll see love everything. They love every movie out there. You can always count on them to love the movie. You can always count on the exclamation point, and frequently, the quote-whoring critics are putting them in themselves. These are people who the studios trust; they can always count on them for a rave. You as a viewer should probably not take what these critics say seriously. It undermines what they do. But they have a different relationship to the studio. You're never going to see that from a film critic in "The New York Times." You're never going to see that from "The LA Times." You are going to see quote-whoring from some little outlets that want some press. It happens.
Are film critics compensated by those whose films they are reviewing?
Could these things unduly influence the way people go to the movies? Well, not if you're a good film critic but if you're the "whores" then yes.
What is a junket?
A press junket is usually a weekend set up by the studio where journalists are flown in, usually to New York or Los Angeles but occasionally somewhere kind of exotic that fits the movie, and they see the movie and they do round table interviews with the cast and sometimes the director. Then sometimes they get some quick one-on-one time. A lot of TV outlets do a press junket because it is quick and they only need five minute interviews anyway. You'll find TV is sort of the priority for the press junket, so if you're a journalist, and you don't work in TV, you'll probably want to avoid the press junket. You feel like you're kind of getting canned answers and you're not getting the actors in a different element as they're surrounded by the crew and the publicists and they're being micromanaged. But the press junket really a one stop shopping for a lot of journalists to get their outlet coverage of this big event movie.
Do studios or publicists try to influence film critics?
Studios and publicists do try to influence film critics, for sure. I mean, they know they can't write a review for them, but they'll really go out of their way to make sure that this film critic sees this movie. They will set up a private screening if it's a critic they really care about. I mean, they will go above and beyond to get that critic to see the movie, and then of course they're disappointed if the critic doesn't like it because they feel they've done everything they can. But, you know, that's their job, to sell the movie, and it's the critic's job to analyze the movie and determine its merits on their own. And I think most publicists respect that and most critics respect publicists for facilitating them getting to see the movie, but it doesn't mean that they're going to decide that the movie's good.
What was "the David Manning scandal"?
The David Manning scandal was a particularly interesting moment in film critic history because not only was David Manning not an actual critic, he wasn't an actual person. He was a creation of two executives at Sony. He apparently worked for the Ridgefield Press. He praised movies that nobody else praised like "A Knight's Tale" and "The Animal". I think people just started to get suspicious when someone praised the Rob Schneider vehicle and it was even from the Ridgefield Press. And what ended up happening was these Sony executives had to pay a $1.5 million settlement for making this guy up.