by ED SYMKUS & r & & r & & lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & I & lt;/span & was rooting through the ever-expanding catalogue of Sarah Palin stories on the Web the other day, when I came upon a piece about her three favorite films: Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Miracle on Ice and Rudy.
Well, of course she chose the great Mr. Smith. She was probably coached into it by her handlers. And the hockey mom in her must have led to the clich & eacute;-ridden Miracle. But Rudy? Is she kiddin'?
Rudy was the first film I reviewed for The Inlander, back in the Oct. 20, 1993 issue. I dug through my files, found my review, and realized that I was a little too kind to it. It's one of those "true inspirational sports movies," much like The Express, which I reviewed last week. But Rudy lacked any excitement or originality. It was middle-of-the-road pap, designed for undiscriminating audiences. It's about a loser who hopes to become a winner.
Well, OK, let's stop thinking about Sarah Palin. Let's switch over to what I've been trying to do at this publication for the past decade and a half.
Yeah, the masthead lists me as a "contributor," but, damn it, I'm the Inlander film critic. I'm the guy who goes into my day job early, takes off three hours in the afternoon to catch a critics' screening, then goes back to the office, or works all day, then goes to an evening screening.
Wow! What a great gig! Getting paid to see movies! Ahh, if I had a nickel for every time I've heard that line. The only problem is that, of the three new films I see most weeks (the math leads to about 150 a year), there are a few great ones, many awful ones, and all sorts of rather forgettable ones that land in between.
Don't get me wrong. I love what I do, and sometimes even the bad ones can be fun (though mostly they're just bad). I fell, really hard, for the movies when I was about 7, when I first got dropped off at the Franklin Park Theater where, on a Saturday afternoon, for a total of 35 cents, I could take in a pile of previews, a Three Stooges short, a big bug movie, and a box of Jujubes (which is likely why I have so many dental fillings).
The first film that absolutely knocked me out was The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad, as did, back then, The Incredible Shrinking Man and The Ten Commandments. I vividly recall being unable to tear my eyes from the screen at two early twin bills: A Bucket of Blood and The Little Shop of Horrors, and Dr. No and From Russia With Love.
Random movies that grabbed me over the years include: A Hard Day's Night, It's a Wonderful Life, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance and Dr. Strangelove. More "recent" titles are O Lucky Man!, The Devils, The Long Goodbye and And Now My Love, Brazil.
Movies I've hated? Don't ever see Liquid Sky. It's the only film that actually gave me the flu.
But enough of the likes and dislikes. Let me explain what I try to do when I'm sharing my thoughts on a film. I attend every screening with a pen and a notebook. I jot down plot points, snatches of dialogue, memorable shots, thoughts of other films -- things that hopefully will later let me form a knowledgeable, entertaining commentary on what I saw, one that -- without giving away anything of major importance -- will enlighten readers on what to expect for their 10 bucks (or what to avoid).
I am spoiled by state-of-the-art movie houses with great sightlines and sound reproduction, and I despise anyone who takes or makes a phone call or starts texting (on a bright blue screen) in the middle of a movie.
For the record, by the time I first appeared on The Inlander's pages, I had already been freelancing as a film critic for a number of years. My first review was thumbs-down on The Reincarnation of Peter Proud. My hopes are that I've become better at my craft over the years, and that I've been able to convey my excitement at seeing something new and refreshing -- as well as my frustration at having to sit through retreads of well-worn ideas created by committees of bean-counting studio heads.
Hey, I've been "wrong." Hard-to-sit-through crap (my opinion only) such as Independence Day, Cars, Alvin and the Chipmunks and Top Gun are among Hollywood's top moneymakers. And don't even get me started on Titanic. On the other hand, I thought big-time flops such as Innerspace and Strange Days were the bee's knees, and were going to have long box office lines.
Truth be told, I don't read reviews, and I rarely watch preview trailers. I don't want to know what's waiting for me in that big dark room. I want to be caught off guard and have my socks knocked off. I want to be a little kid again, sitting back with my box of candy, watching the first frames of The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad, and picking up the kind of buzz that lets me know I'm in for a great ride.
Thanks much to Ted McGregor for hiring me, to Andrew Strickman for making the offer, to Sheri Boggs for grooming me, and to Michael Bowen for keeping me around.