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Siskel and Ebert The Critic.jpg

What Are Your Favorite Bad Reviews?

By Kayleigh Donaldson | Film | November 1, 2018 |

By Kayleigh Donaldson | Film | November 1, 2018 |

Siskel and Ebert The Critic.jpg

It’s considered bad taste to admit you like writing negative reviews of things when you’re a professional critic. It feeds into that dull stereotype of critics being bitter shrews who lash out at the world unfairly because they are so creatively unfulfilled in their own lives. Think of every movie you can remember that features a critic character and the chances are they’re a villain, someone to be mocked, or some obvious stand-in for the director’s grievances with their ‘haters’. I don’t write criticism because I’m a failed creator who needs to destroy careers to make up for my own inadequacies. I don’t do this because I want to hurt anyone, nor does any critic I know go into the business with the express desire to burn down a few houses. But obviously there’s something to be enjoyed in writing a bad review.

Criticism, when done well, is its own form of emotional catharsis. It’s a way to express to the world how art can lead to a shift in your very well-being, and it’s a necessary part of the creative exchange. If art is to be the great machine for empathy that Roger Ebert always said it was, then it needs criticism to be a translation guide of sorts to the process. So, if you’re watching a film that genuinely angered you with its ineptitude or ethical puzzlement, then of course the emotional release offered is beyond satisfying.

Being a critic is strange in the case of that double-edged sword of negativity: You face endless accusations that you’re a nasty bully who hates art yet every writer I know will quickly tell you that it’s the list of the worst movies of the year that gets more hits, not the best ones. The reviews that go viral aren’t the ones that rhapsodize on the beauty of that new Lynne Ramsay film: They’re the ones that verbally tear Michael Bay to shreds. Cynics can talk all they want about how critics only want to slam things but it’s clear the audiences get as much of a thrill from this process as we do from writing it.

Reviews are as much entertainment as cultural commentary. They have to be, to some degree, in the age of clicks. Sometimes, we know a film is going to be bad and so does everyone else, so why not have a bit of fun with that? Other times, we just crave a smart and well-informed person being incredibly good at their job so they can tell us with pin-point precision why a film is as bad as we knew it was going to be. The film or the TV series didn’t entertain us so why shouldn’t the review do the heavy lifting?

In that spirit, I want to know what your favourite bad reviews are. They can be for anything: Film, television, video games, books, restaurants, and so on, and they can be by professional critics or that one dude on TripAdvisor who makes your day. Let us delight in the evisceration of badness this not so fine week.

Roger Ebert on Freddy Got Fingered

This movie doesn’t scrape the bottom of the barrel. This movie isn’t the bottom of the barrel. This movie isn’t below the bottom of the barrel. This movie doesn’t deserve to be mentioned in the same sentence with barrels.

Roger Ebert on North

I hated this movie. Hated hated hated hated hated this movie. Hated it. Hated every simpering stupid vacant audience-insulting moment of it. Hated the sensibility that thought anyone would like it. Hated the implied insult to the audience by its belief that anyone would be entertained by it […] “North” is a bad film - one of the worst movies ever made. But it is not by a bad filmmaker, and must represent some sort of lapse from which Reiner will recover - possibly sooner than I will.

Bilge Ebiri on Transformers: The Last Knight (Village Voice)

In the opening scene of Transformers: The Last Knight, we are presented with the spectacle of King Arthur and his knights locked in an existential battle for the survival of human civilization, even though we’re not really told who or what they’re fighting for. No matter, because this after all is a Transformers movie, so soon we’re faced with
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Laura Hudson on Armada by Ernest Cline (Slate)

Our fantasies can tell us a great deal about ourselves, and the fact that Cline’s work has often been trumpeted as the ultimate “nerdgasm” or some sort of apotheosis of nerd culture should be troubling to anyone who identifies with the label. There’s nothing wrong with nostalgia, on its own; our love for the media of our youth—and more importantly, for the qualities that made us love it in the first place—is not only worth remembering, but also capable of sparking new and wonderful creations, so long as we are able to distinguish inspiration from imitation. It’s a valuable question for gaming culture—and “nerd culture” more generally—to ask itself: Do we want to tell stories that make sense of the things we used to love, that help us remember the reasons we were so drawn to them, and create new works that inspire that level of devotion? Or do we simply want to hear the litany of our childhood repeated back to us like an endless lullaby for the rest of our lives?

Linda Holmes on Insatiable (NPR)

If only the worst thing about Netflix’s Insatiable were its lazy portrayals of fat people or its tone-deaf deployment of sexual assault and abuse as comedy or its embrace of racist tropes or its portrayals of people with Southern accents as dumb hicks or its white-hot conviction that same-sex attraction is either inherently hilarious or a teaching moment. Oh, if only.

Frank Rich on Aspects of Love (New York Times)

Andrew Lloyd Webber, the composer who is second to none when writing musicals about cats, roller-skating trains and falling chandeliers, has made an earnest but bizarre career decision in ”Aspects of Love,” his new show at the Broadhurst. He has written a musical about people. Whether ”Aspects of Love” is a musical for people is another matter […] Though ”Aspects of Love” purports to deal with romance in many naughty guises - from rampant promiscuity to cradle-snatching, lesbianism and incest - it generates about as much heated passion as a visit to the bank. Even when women strip to lacy undergarments, the lingerie doesn’t suggest the erotic fantasies of Frederick’s of Hollywood so much as the no-nonsense austerity of Margaret Thatcher’s Britain […] While ”Aspects of Love,” with its references to Huxley and Turgenev, may be the most high-minded of Lloyd Webber musicals, isn’t it also the one in most desperate need of roller skates?

TK Burton on Fifty Shades Freed (Pajiba - because of course I had to)

Fifty Shades Freed made me furious. It took a while for it to all gel together, but now that I’ve had a few hours, it’s crystal clear, an anger so white-hot and pure that it warms me on this cold New England morning. Because Fifty Shades Freed is worse than just a shitty movie about white people fucking with a limp attempt at incorporating BDSM and a stupid plotline about revenge and redemption. No, it’s insulting to every single relationship on this planet. It’s not just that it’s badly made, badly acted, horrifically written and lazily directed. It’s that it’s actively bad for people. It’s a blight on humanity.

Kayleigh is a features writer and editor for Pajiba. You can follow her on Twitter or listen to her podcast, The Hollywood Read.

Header Image Source: Fox