Letter: Less academic film reviews, please

Graphic by Lori Deaton

Following up on Joe Mason’s letter to the Xpress [“Missing ‘Cranky Hanke,’” July 26], which [reviewer] Scott Douglas doesn’t really seem to get, I’ve been saying the same thing after every movie I’ve seen for the last months. I noticed right away that the new reviewers were more erudite but less accessible than ol’ Hanke was. Lots of times, I felt Hanke was leaning too far on the simplistic end of the spectrum, so thanks to the new guys for helping me appreciate him more now. I may have sometimes disagreed with him, but I never was misled by Hanke.

Fast-forward to recent times, and I can’t follow the twists and turns of unnecessarily erudite language that often comes across like a message for film academics rather than an advisory for ordinary people who like films. For example (and I honestly almost wrote you about this), I went to see The Little Hours because the review made it sound cute, if bawdy. The reviewer never mentioned that it let itself get out of hand, only that the weak script was uplifted by fine performances. The film got ugly, actually, and I finally walked out. I don’t mind bawdy, I don’t even mind porn. But cruelty and hatefulness need a warning, thank you very much.

Anyway, without belaboring the point, I’d like to echo a request for more thorough and less academic reviews that are addressed to those of us in the Asheville area who look forward to getting some good ol’ useful, if cranky, advice from reviewers at the Xpress.

— Arjuna da Silva
Black Mountain

Editor’s note: In light of recent criticism about excessive erudition, Xpress movie reviewer Scott Douglas is considering limiting his reviews to haiku form. A sampling:

The Little Hours
Boccaccio meets
Raunch-com in this black-hearted
Black Death sex satire

An Inconvenient Sequel
Al Gore does his thing.
Is he preaching to the choir?
Yes, but he’s not wrong.

Alien: Covenant
Ridley Scott f***s up
But not as bad as last time
So I guess there’s that.

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4 thoughts on “Letter: Less academic film reviews, please

  1. Big Al

    Him say you speak too pretty. Maybe one day him speak pretty too. Having speaked that…

    My issue is not with how the reviews are written, but WHEN. “Dunkirk” was out for over a week before we got a review, and it seems to be a leading Oscar contender (I cannot say that I agree, but then I tend to swim against the stream a lot these days) so that was really weird.

    “Brigsby Bear” had also played a full week before we heard anything about it. It was not a great film, but it was good enough to warrant a review before several of the week’s documentaries that DID get reviewed.

    I will not go so far as to say that popularity should determine which reviews occur first , lest we get swamped with analysis of the mass-produced CGI duds while ignoring films of value, but I would suggest leaving the docs for last, if at all. Those of us who go to see them pretty must know what we are getting.

    I miss Ken Hanky, too (even if his snark and elitism did wear on me a bit), but I think your writing style is OK.

  2. Just two guys' opinion

    Our review of the review(s) of Scott’s review(s): four thumbs down.

  3. Movie Fan

    Universal Truths
    Make good films and film reviews
    Scott D works for me

    Scott Douglas’ reviews mesh very well with my own personal approach to film. You can find a generic, descriptive film review ANYWHERE on the internet, but finding a good, synthesized opinion of how a film taps into the human condition is much harder to find (and likely even harder to create!). I accept that language and style is personal, but his somewhat verbose language connects with me. Succeeding an institution like Hanke is very difficult, and I applaud Scott for sticking to it. My wish is that Scott continues down his own path long enough that, similar to Hanke, an entire generation grows up around his reviews.

  4. Chip Kaufmann

    I like and enjoy Scott’s reviews but I vote for his haiku versions to be The Lowdown from now on.

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