In fourteen months doing Criticwire, I’ve linked to a lot of film criticism articles — but never, to my knowledge, to a film criticism short story. But here is one that crossed my desk today that’s really lovely. It’s entitled “The Critics” and it’s written by Thomas Pierce, a Poe/Faulkner fellow in the M.F.A. program at the University of Virginia. It’s now available on The Atlantic.
It’s about a single father, Eric, and his teenage daughter Ida who, at his encouragement, starts her own film review website, FlickerPopGirl.com. The precocious eleven year old’s reviews (and groupings of movies into idiosyncratic sub-genres) start to take off — becoming more popular and more widely read than her dad’s weekly column for the state newspaper:
“Films are ranked within their genres, so ‘Avatar,’ bursting with computerized wonderments, would never go up against, say, ‘The Princess Bride,’ which, as it happens, is Ida’s No. 1 pick in the genre “Romances in Which Lovers Are Separated by Great Distances and Also by Fantastical Creatures That Run Amokity Mok.” If video stores –that is, if they weren’t all being boarded up — used Ida’s system of classification, they would have to set up hundreds of separate sections: “Comedies Centered on a Hero Who Possesses an Impossible Device and/or a Superpower.” “Psychological Thrillers That End Inside Someone’s Head or With Doubts Cast on the Reality of Reality.” “Big-Budget Epics Featuring More Than Six Big-Name Actors.” Within each genre, she chooses a holy grail, a model of cinematic perfection against which all other similar films are compared. Her ratings system is actually a very complicated algorithm, and it has made her site, FlickerPopGirl .com, a popular destination for moviegoers and aspiring film buffs over the age of five. I keep a close eye on the site, and routinely patrol the Web for what’s being said about it elsewhere. But I’ve stopped responding to criticism. Once, near the beginning, a particularly nasty thread got started about a review of a Harry Potter movie (she gave it three happy hearts in the “Action Adventures About Adolescent Vamps, Werewolves, Wizards, Magicians, and Demigods Based on Successful Books Sold at Walmart” genre). I logged in secretly with the handle sitonthis_cane to inform the three commenters that Ida was only eleven years old and that in some states I could probably use pliers to rip out much-needed body parts without fear of doing any jail time. I should have known better. That only egged them on. They called Ida a slut, and worse.”
From there, you’ll have to read for yourself. I’ve never met such a gifted eleven year old writer (my movie review website at that age would have been unreadable), but I still really enjoyed the story, a fine entry in the “Domestic Dramas About Preternaturally Gifted Children Who Teach Their Parents Important Life Lessons” genre.
Read more of “The Critics.”