by Peter Wassell
Who reads movie reviews anymore?
The days of Siskel and Ebert, and before them Pauline Kael, are surely past. With the rise of Rotten Tomatoes and the imminent demise of the newspaper, it seems like movie critics have been marginalized. All insight and analysis is distilled into a succinct quote with a rotten tomato or a fresh tomato.
Which is a shame.
Without thoughtful analysis and opinion, what are filmmakers doing? If we’re not attempting to breakdown motives, intention and execution of an art form so closely tied to metaphor and subtext, then movies will cease to venture into the deep end of the pool where real creativity and insight lies.
For the purpose of this article, I set out on a quest to find a critic who still carries the torch. A person who brings to the table an honest and thoughtful opinion. To that end I found that person.
Mancini writes for the small film site filmdrunk.uproxx.com. He is a comedian who lives in San Francisco and also hosts a film and entertainment podcast called Frotcast. I highly suggest you read his reviews and listen to his podcast. He brings comedy and thoughtful analysis to film critiques where, even if you don’t agree with him, you at least understand his point, which he is able to make clearly and concisely while also providing you with a new lens through which to view the film.
The review that initially piqued my interest was for the film Beasts of the Southern Wild.
I had just watched that film and couldn’t put my frustration into words. I cruised around Rotten Tomatoes and read this quote from Vince:
“When you live in the city and you buy your meat wrapped in cellophane, it’s a pleasant fantasy to believe that people who sleep in the dirt and gut their dinners are possessed of a spiritual richness that you’ve always felt you’re somehow lacking.”
This intrigued me. I was impressed by how he was able—in one short quote—to make a sweeping critique on the movie and what he felt was the motivation of the filmmaker.
So I read the full article and there it was! My frustration with the film was written down.
I immediately started reading his previous reviews and have, ever since, been a reader of his religiously.
I don’t always agree with Mancini, but that’s what is so refreshing. He isn’t aiming for you to agree with him. He’s not trying to get you to watch or not watch a movie. He’s telling you his opinion and making you curious to see it for yourself. He inspires you to watch the movies he doesn’t like just as much as the ones he does, and that is what I feel is desperately lacking in the movie critic game today.
We are so entrenched in right and wrong, yes and no, left and right that we forget that the real world—and art especially—doesn’t operate on that plain. There is no definitive right and wrong. It’s all mashed together, and it’s up to us to analyze and interpret and make up our own minds without trying to make up the minds of others.
Vince Mancini carries the torch, and it burns bright.