One of the best and worst aspects of being a film critic is dealing with the directors, writers and stars of the films. They can be some of the most interesting people you meet (Beth Ulrich and Glenn Rockowitz come to mind), or they can be total terrors. Write a positive review, and they are your friends. Write a negative one, though, and watch out! They will bite your ass as soon as they think it’s safe. Case in point: the man behind “The Mongol King,” Anthony Vallone.
To set the scene for those who haven’t read my review, I didn’t really enjoy the film all that much, and I especially didn’t like Vallone in it. I mentioned that he couldn’t act and should maybe think about avoiding writing and directing, too. Harsh words, but I called it as I saw it. Keep in mind, however, as you should whenever you read a review, that it was just my opinion. I’m sure there are people who love his acting, writing and directing. I was not one of them, and I made note of that. It didn’t please Vallone one bit.
One of the critiques that gets leveled at film critics is that we are frustrated filmmakers who enjoy cutting people down to size. In truth, we are frustrated filmgoers who enjoy good movies, but are all too often saddled with crap that wouldn’t even fly as a Pauly Shore film. Good critics will try to find something positive to say about every film, but that can’t always be done — at least truthfully. We continue on with our jobs, though, because we are masochists.
Vallone, upon reading my review of his film, sent me a thoughtful e-mail. He explained a few things I wasn’t really seeking explanations for (and a few I was), and agreed with me that he can’t act, but had to out of circumstances, which I understand. It was his last words that really got to me, though.
“… I will be directing and writing again, and would appreciate if you kept your opinion of me doing so to yourself,” he wrote. In other words, he wanted me to keep my big mouth shut. That’s fine, except for the fact that I review films and his movie was sent to Film Threat for — and get this — a review. Had I given it a positive review I doubt I would’ve gotten an e-mail telling me to keep my opinions to myself.
Note to all artists out there: When you create something you want the public to view and interact with, you have to understand that not everyone will see it the same way you do. Some will love it, some will hate it, and some won’t care either way. Some of these people will make their opinions known in a public way, which is the role of the critic. If you can’t handle negative reviews, don’t put your work out there. Keep it in your closet, under your bed, or in your head. Don’t put it on DVD, canvas or on a web page for the world to view. You can’t present it and then cry “foul” when people don’t like it.
If Vallone sends more films to Film Threat, and I, in turn, are sent them to review, I will do my job. I don’t think it’s fair of him to want less from me. If he’s making a public film, he is fair game for all comments — positive and negative. And here’s the real kick in the balls: Vallone doesn’t want me to voice my opinion of his future work, but I am actually curious to see what he does because I really want him to succeed. Why? Because I’d rather watch a good movie than a piece of garbage that can’t even attract flies, and I find it far more enjoyable to write a positive review than a negative one. If Vallone can make a good film, I want to see it. I want him to blow me away. I want to be wowed. But he doesn’t have the same goals in mind. Instead, he’d rather that I (and I assume any other critic who would dare to voice a negative opinion) keep my pie hole closed and go on my merry way. That’s sour grapes and not very becoming for a director or writer.
There are directors/writers out there, including some of my friends, that I give “bad” reviews to and they don’t take the same path as Vallone. Some say they disagree with me, others say they can see my point of view. They are mature and professional enough to understand that I do my job as honestly as possible, and they know I wouldn’t expect any less of them.
If Vallone and people like him want to survive this world of film, they’ll understand the critic’s role — and their own. It takes a thick skin sometimes, and balls (or clit) of steel to push on, but if you are a true artist, you do it despite what people say.
To be brutally honest, our job would be a lot easier if these writers and directors did what they’re supposed to do and made good films. We do our job, now do yours.
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Posted on March 10, 2005 in Features by Doug Brunell
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