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It's Your Right to Create; It's My Right to Criticize the Creation

5 Oct, 2004 By: Holly J. Wagner

I'm proposing a new column for our magazine. It would be a single column in the reviews section called “Not Worth Your Time.” Or maybe, “Two Hours of Our Lives We'll Never Get Back.” All of the reviewers would be eligible to nominate titles.

You see, we got an e-mail last week from an indie producer whose movie I panned in a review. I like the genre, and I really wanted to like the movie, but about halfway through I found myself struggling with a decision of whether to finish my mineral water while watching or just break the bottle and eat the glass shards.

So really, what is the point?

One editor here said it's our job to “weed out” the bad films that shouldn't get to market anyway but do because digital technology makes it easier for anyone to get a movie to video.

I wrote a review and someone got thin-skinned. It happens all the time: to people who have invested their lives in one project for months or years, it's the most important thing in the world. To people who see a much bigger universe, it's a blip on the screen. They view it as the whole world, and we see it as an entry in the mad derby that is the whole world of entertainment.

But there's the rub, isn't there? All of those indies invest their time and dreams hoping to be the next Blood Simple or Blair Witch Project, but most of them are deluded. Just like I wish I had a Pulitzer, but I don't. I'm learning to live with the pain.

We all do what we do. I had to learn a long time ago that if you are in a profession that demands professional and public scrutiny — like, say, filmmaking or journalism — you'd better have a thick skin. Or consider a career in the exciting field of dental assistance.

If memory serves, the law that established Fair Comment as a doctrine for reviews and editorials (and a defense against libel claims) had something to do with a drama reviewer saying that Glenda Jackson performed like “a trained seal” in a big Broadway play.

The overarching principle is that if you create something for delivery to a broad, public audience, you are opening yourself to whatever comment observers might make. If you send a film for review, you have to accept where the chips fall.

When I write a commentary, I know that you all will keep me honest. You may not agree, and usually I learn from that. Once in a while, y'all are off your flippin' rockers. Somebody has to say so. Just like you write in when you disagree with me.

My special skill in life is seeing the emperor's new clothes. It's not my fault if some people don't want to know when the emperor is naked.

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