Thursday, November 5, 2009

Approved - psych!

Or it is "sike"? I don't know, it's stupid teen-speak anyway. But it fits here.

In the past, when people have asked to read my reviews, I have regretfully told them that they can't search the website by my name. So I offer them a ridiculous alternative way to find my reviews: I send them a list of all the films I have ever reviewed. Hey, I said it was ridiculous, and I usually only do this if it's someone I know well. But I figure, this way, they can choose which films they actually want to know my opinion about, rather than just giving them a handful of my greatest hits.

When I send this list, I invariably include the following qualification: that there are approximately 30 of these titles where my review no longer appears, or never appeared in the first place. As I may have mentioned before, some of my reviews have been replaced over the years if another writer thought they could better summarize the consensus opinion about the film, or if they just really wanted to review that film. And then there were a handful of times when two writers received approval on the same film at about the same time. I figure I ought to tell my prospective readers this, in case the first title they choose happens to be one of those 30. Don't want them to think I'm delusional, especially since I've just sent them a list containing 1,000 movie titles.

Well, now I have another one to add to that list.

Last Thursday I submitted a review of Marc Webb's (500) Days of Summer. I had gotten approval to review it the day before. It was accepted, processed and billed, since Thursday was the last day of the billing period.

Yet when I went to look for it on the site, I found the work of another reviewer appearing instead of mine.

I don't really know what happened. Actually, I had been kind of surprised that the film was still available to review in the first place. Even if the full-time staffers weren't reviewing almost every new release in real-time these days, this would still be a movie that would draw special attention because of its hip cast and narrative structure. Bewildered, I decided to request the review for myself, and was granted permission.

One of three things probably happened:

1) The woman who ended up reviewing it -- who was the logical person to review it, given her history -- had had it assigned to her all along, but hadn't gotten around to reviewing it until this past week. Approving it for me was, then, a mistake on my editor's part.

2) The review was written back in July when the film first came out, but due to some kind of glitch, it never posted. Seeing a new review by me made someone realize the oversight. Approving it for me was, again, a mistake on my editor's part.

3) I was legitimately approved to review it, but when they saw my somewhat negative review, they hurriedly got her to write up something that would more accurately reflect the 4.5 star rating they had given the film.

It doesn't really matter, because I get paid either way. Not like the time I wrote a review for the documentary American Teen, then realized I had not actually been approved to review it, and that another writer's work was already up on the site. I didn't even submit it in that case.

But it's probably just as well. I did, indeed, like (500) Days of Summer less than the average person. And for a website that makes its money selling content to sites that are trying to move DVDs, it's problematic when you have a lower-than-average opinion about a movie most people consider to be quite good.

So if you saw my Most Recently Reviewed section to the right, and were biding your time to read my review of (500) Days of Summer, now you'll understand why you won't see my work on the site. This is only, of course, for people who actually know me, and actually know the correct website to visit.

Hey, gotta have my qualifications. Especially since I am now making my day-to-day movie activities so public on this website. I don't want you to think I'm delusional -- or more delusional than you already think I am.

And since it will never appear on the site, I thought I would publish my review of (500) Days of Summer here, for your edification. Let's see if you agree or disagree with my perspective:

(500) Days of Summer has a hip cast, hip structure, hip songs, unhip songs reinvented as hip songs, and even hip titular punctuation, which shows a hip disregard for convention. None of this, however, can help Marc Webb's film linger in a viewer's memory. One basic problem is that the ipod shuffle narrative -- scenes from the relationship between Summer (Zooey Deschanel) and Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) are shown out of chronological order -- can't rise above the level of clever gimmick. Committing the same sin Alejandro Gonazalez Inarritu committed in 21 Grams, Webb doesn't offer a compelling reason why viewing these events out of sequence contributes to our understanding of them. It's as random a decision as why we're given their relationship to study in the first place, since the details of their life together are unremarkable, and it's established in the opening moments that things don't work out for them. What's more, both characters are a little frustrating. Summer is presented as whimsical yet capricious, Tom as a doting walkover. Surely, Webb's going for a non-traditional love story here; in fact, in the opening narration, the film actually declares that it isn't a love story. Some details do stand out, such as when Webb presents two versions of the same events side by side on the screen -- one as Tom wishes they would unfold, one as they actually do, with only slight yet telling differences. There's also a delightful musical number where Tom and a cast of dozens kick up their heels to Hall & Oates' "You Make My Dreams," one of the aforementioned unhip songs turned hip. In all, though, (500) Days of Summer doesn't feel as original or as different as it clearly aspires to be. The result is a pleasing enough viewing experience with minimal staying power.

Okay, I didn't exactly punch the movie in the gut. But it's no 4.5 star review. And I wouldn't buy the DVD on my recommendation, would you?

1 comment:

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