I have been intending to write this note for a very long time, probably years. When I read Cranky Hanke’s words in the Asheville Film Festival program—something to the effect of “when I went from being a fan who wrote nasty letters to critics to being a critic who receives nasty letters from fans”—I knew I really needed to get this done. It’s only taken me a few months this time; not bad.
Background: When Cranky Hanke started with the Mountain Xpress, I wrote a virulent, angry letter saying, in effect, “Get this a••h••• out of here!” The only part I remember is something to the order of: “Everyone in the world isn’t a film critic, and I don’t give a damn about the director’s other films—I just want to know if it’s a movie I want to go see or not! What kind of story is it, does it have violence, is it for stupid nincompoops or thinking, mature people etc.?” Also, I have no interest in horror movies, and when I read that they were Cranky’s favorite genre, the write-off was complete and confirmed!
So, I owe it to Ken Hanke and the Xpress to tell Cranky: You have completely won me over with your humanness, your fairness and your kindness in reviewing films for local, unknown and small-time filmmakers. I now really enjoy your reviews. They are evenhanded—describing the good and bad no matter what the ideology of the film—and you put your prejudices and preferences out front so someone can ascertain how the movie fits for them, whether they agree with you or not. And you have not bought into the cynical nihilism of our times. Many reviewers seem to think they can be popular by sinking to the lowest common denominator (or maybe they are just a••h•••s; it’s hard to tell these things). I enjoy your independence, enthusiasm and obviously deep knowledge about the art form. (I’ve even learned a few interesting things about directors!) When I pick up the Mountain Xpress, I make a good cup of coffee and turn first to the film reviews. I know they are going to be enjoyable and informative.
Ah! My conscience is relieved. And excuse me while I wipe this crow off my chin.
— Amina Spengler