The gap between critics and the rest of us

Rotten Tomatoes is an aggregator that assembles movie reviews and then, depending on the number of positive or negative reviews, assigns any given film a “freshness rating. ” The higher the rating, the more favorable the majority of reviews are.

For example, as of today (11/25 at 18:06 PST), Enchanted gets a 93% freshness rating (which is a percentage point higher than yesterday). In other words, there’s a fair degree of critical unanimity that Enchanted is a really nice movie. That unanimity carries over to the non-professionals too. At the bottom of each movie’s Rotten Tomatoes page, non-professional critics can add their two cents, either by writing a review or simply by voting for the movie. The non-professional critics give the movie a 92%, while the user rating is 8.4/10 — pretty high. And if you get away from the rarefied world of professional critics or people who take the time to contribute to sites such as Rotten Tomatoes, the news is still good. By voting with their feet, film-goers gave the movie a $50 million opening, which is nothing to sneeze at.

Things are a little different for famed director Brian de Palma’s Redacted, both in terms of box office revenues and, most strikingly, in terms of the way the professional critics see the movie and the way the rest of the world sees the movie. In this last regard, it is, once again, a striking reminder that our media is populated by people who are very anti-War — which, as I always say, is their prerogative, if only they didn’t pretend to some Olympian objectivity.

So, back to Rotten Tomatoes, this time to the Redacted page (again, as of 11/25 at 18:06 PST). Generally, the movie hasn’t been well-received. What’s fascinating is that, the more “important” the publication (in a declining scaled from the New York Times down to the Podunk Review, and yes, I made that last one up) the more likely it is that the critic approves of the movie. Thus, while the critical average for the movie is 47% (that’s aggregating all professional critics) the top critics (or, as they’re called, “the cream of the crop”) gave it a 54% rating. Even more strikingly, some of them acknowledge that it’s a lousy movie. They just like the message so much, they really think you ought to see it. For example, David Edelstein, who reviews movies both for NPR and New York Magazine, has this to say:

Critics have called the movie crude and punishing. All right, the defense concedes all that, but the movie does a harrowing job of depicting the psychological toll of the occupation on both Iraqis and U.S. soldiers. Despite the presence of two American sociopaths (one named Rush, perhaps in honor of the radio commentator who likened torture at Abu Ghraib to frat-house antics), this is not an unsympathetic portrait. In the film’s best scene, we watch a car approach a checkpoint from the Americans’ point of view. It takes a long time, and who knows who’s inside it? All at once, you understand the corrosiveness of living all the time with that threat. And is it unpatriotic to point out that soldiers on their third tours of duty in a place where they have little knowledge of the culture, where they can’t tell who is on their side and who wants to blow them up, stand a good chance of losing both their moral compass and their minds?

If I read Edelstein correctly, he’s saying that Redacted is a lousy movie, but you should see it anyway, because it shows that our soldiers are going insane in Iraq. Okay. He may have framed it in the guise of compassion (those poor babies at the checkpoints), but I think the underlying message is pretty unmistakable, don’t you?

While the faux-intellectuals may be impressed, the public is not. The bottom of the Rotten Tomatoes page starts to give the game away. Non-professional reviewers give the movie only a 30% approval rating, which is enough to drive anyone away from the box office. Likewise, those who merely vote (without a written review) give it a 3.4/10 — again, a singularly uninspiring showing. But that’s the world of words. How about the marketplace? Therein lies the real story (H/T Power Line):

IT’S hard for Hollywood pacifists like Brian De Palma to capture the hearts and minds of America if Americans won’t see their movies. While the public is staying away in droves from “Rendition,” “Lions for Lambs” and “In the Valley of Elah,” audiences are really avoiding “Redacted,” De Palma’s picture about US soldiers who rape a 14-year-old Iraqi girl, then kill her and her family. The message movie was produced by NBA Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, who insisted on deleting grisly images of Iraqi war casualties from the montage at the film’s end. Cuban offered to sell the film back to De Palma at cost, but the director was too smart to go for that deal. “Redacted” – which “could be the worst movie I’ve ever seen,” said critic Michael Medved – took in just $25,628 in its opening weekend in 15 theaters, which means roughly 3,000 people saw it in the entire country. “This, despite an A-list director, a huge wave of publicity, high praise in the Times, The New Yorker, left-leaning sites like Salon, etc. A Joe Strummer documentary [of punk-rock band The Clash] playing in fewer theaters made more in its third week,” e-mailed one cineaste. “Not even people who presumably agree with the movie’s antiwar thesis made the effort to see it.” (Emphasis mine.)

It kind of gives you hope for America, doesn’t it? We may be bombarded by intellectually superior people urging us to do our moral duty by seeing a movie that implies — heck, that says straight out — that American troops are so morally and psychologically weak that serving in Iraq has turned them into monsters, but we, the People, ignore that type of crap. Good for us!

UPDATE: Hot Air reminds me that America was never the real target market in any event. It’s sad when anti-American propaganda, rather than being created abroad and sent here, is created here and sent abroad. It’s an inversion of the normal way people should feel about their home.


13 Responses

  1. I haven’t seen Redacted and don’t intend to; I was almost ready to pitch by DVD of The Untouchables, also directed by Di Palma, in disgust but decided I liked DeNiro and Connery and Mamet’s dialog so much that I should overlook its director. One can ignore the preachy antiwar movies like the Robert Redford move, Pearls Before Swine, I mean Lions for Lambs, whatever. But I have a gut feeling Redacted is a much more corrosive movie; it was made for propaganda, unfortunately it seems, theirs not our, like the antithesis of the Why We Fight movies from WWII. From what I have read about Redacted and what others have said, it’s a movie that distorts and could be used for agitprop to generate hatred for American soldiers; Ralph Peters has termed it a movie than will get U.S. troops killed. To me that’s unforgivable. Merely being bored by preachiness and assailed with liberal pieties is one thing; but putting American soldiers in harm is quite another.

  2. ‘but we, the People, ignore that type of crap. Good for us!’

    Ha! I love it. It’s happening a lot, too. It’s not just the MSM losing out for their politics.

    But you’ll still find the left insisting that Hollywood and the MSM are corporate run and far too profit driven to advance their private agenda at the expense of their bottom line. Despite their lyin’ eyes.

  3. I promise to try not to rant. Look these people do not give a wit about the real stress people face in combat. It is soul changing. You might put a label on it, but you feel it for the rest of your days. All the regrets, the doubts, the fears, and the sorrows. It never goes away.

    They are trying to capture a reality they have never known, and frankly don’t give a damn about.

  4. Pretty astute, there. It’s a pleasure and a duty to read between the lines of professional opinion-makers.

  5. […] [Discuss this article with Bookworm over at Bookworm Room…] Share Article Rotten Tomatoes, Abu Ghraib, Redacted, Brian De Palma, De Palma, America    Sphere: Related Content Trackback URL […]

  6. Edelstein’s review also palms a card in plain view of the audience. He praises the movie for revealing the terrible psychological toll the war takes on our soldiers — thereby taking as given that the war _has_ in fact taken such a psychological toll.

  7. Book,

    I second Zhombre’s statement. I’ve not seen Redacted nor will I… and I don’t know Di Palma from “De Plane.”

    But a betting man should put his money on this filthy propaganda. Just watch — it will sweep the Hollywood awards. Lefties love living and swimming in their sorry swill.

    Hey, if that slime from AlGore can win multiple awards, why not another anti-American film?


  8. I can find no other explanation for the bulge in anti-GWOT and anti-U.S. military movies as the year ends except to assume that Hollywood was setting up these movies to serve as the recipients of Academy Award nominations and winners. However, given the absolutely abysmal box office of ALL of them, I cannot believe that Hollywood will further embarrass itself by nominating these sows ears as silk purses. Remember, Brokeback Mountain was not doing terribly well at the box office but the PR machine was cranked up to the max until they hit the minimum acceptable level of $75M prior to the awards ceremony. With so many losers out there now, though, that strategy isn’t going to work. The Academy Award process this year might actually be interesting just to see what political or cultural left-wing nuggets they can mine.

  9. […] Bookworm Room, “The Gap Between Critics and the Rest of Us” […]

  10. […] Bookworm Room: The gap between critics and the rest of us […]

  11. […] critical gap Posted on December 5, 2007 by Bookworm I wrote generally about the gap between critics and the rest of us.  Patrick has taken one critic, deconstructed his criticism, and explained precisely why that gap […]

  12. I find it interesting that Hollywood convinced itself that anti-war (that is to say, anti-American) movies would make money. I think this phenomenon highlights the delusions in which the elitist Left has wrapped itself. Of course, that a growing consensus is now conceding that the Surge is working helps.

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