By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
McCollum did not return the Weekly’s phone calls.
What’s next? Will McCollum join the Bush brothers, learn Spanish and hang a "Bienvenido" sign outside his campaign headquarters? We’ll hold our breath for a GOP initiative that helps the bulk of Latino immigrants from Mexico and Central America.—Sandra Hernandez
PAGING PAULINE KAEL
For some six months, L.A. Weeklyfilm editor Manohla Dargis was the lone alternative voice in Entertainment Weekly’s Critical Mass column, featuring prominent reviewers issuing letter grades to big new movies.
That ended Monday, when Dargis was unceremoniously dumped via voice mail from the unpaid position. In a phone message, senior editor Doug Brod told Dargis she was being canned because her grades were "overwhelmingly negative" and "sort of stand out" in the magazine’s box-score format. Brod also mentioned that Dargis had "too many blanks" next to her name because she hadn’t seen some of the movies to be graded.
"They kept asking me to give grades for movies I didn’t want to see, and didn’t seem to want grades for movies I thought were very interesting," Dargis said Tuesday. "I don’t grade on a curve. I’m not going to say Wild Wild Westis a B . . . I’m guessing what caused a little bit of a stir is that I gave Star Warsan F earlier in the year. More and more, critics are being encouraged to promote and hype movies, not only by production companies, but the magazines they write for."
The irony is that Time Inc.’s Entertainment Weeklyis considered the cream of the industry rags, having built a reputation for edgy writing and maintaining a certain distance from the Hollywood machine. Brod points out that his staff thrashed such summer blockbusters as Eyes Wide Shut, The Hauntingand Wild Wild West. Where Dargis parted company with her peers was on movies like An Ideal Husband, he added.
"It’s not a matter of particular films that she gave negative reviews," Brod explained in a telephone interview. "The box score is all about quantity rather than quality. All you see is the final grade, you don’t get to see what’s behind it . . . When readers see overwhelmingly negative marks, they get the impression the critic is cranky or a sourpuss." ("Who cares?" responded Dargis. "I am cranky.")
On the other hand, E.W.is not exactly the Emma Goldman of the film world. Online reporter Matt Drudge has questioned the number of Warner Bros. films that make the cover (Time-Warner is the magazine’s parent company). E.W.film dean Owen Gleiberman recently confessed that he "never stopped getting razzed" for panning the Julia Roberts–Richard Gere blockbuster Pretty Woman; apparently, the memory still smarts, because he apologizes for his "grouchiness" in his review of the new Roberts-Gere vehicle Runaway Bride.
Every summer, Hollywood films seem to get worse, but the critics just get cheerier (viz. The N.Y. Times’ Janet Maslin). It’s a sad commentary on the state of film criticism when even the best of the industry bibles can’t find room for someone who in Brod’s own estimation is a "terrific" writer with a "provocative" voice.
"When Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut and Blair Witch Projectwere touted as masterpieces, I thought there just aren’t that many film masterpieces in a given week," Dargis said. "They say they wanted an alternative voice, but clearly that’s not the case."
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