I don’t receive hate mail often. Probably because I’m usually considered pretty fair in my writings, whether it’s taking on a company or a film or an issue. In the grand scheme of opinion-making, I’m also quite insignificant, so I never understood why anyone would bother to take the time to insult me (that’s why I never could figure out why Stu VanAirsdale used to take such potshots at me.) But you don’t have to look hard to find frustrated filmmakers (or frustrated film-writers) and it’s only a matter of time before someone would call me a “coffee shop blogger.”
So this is the note that I received in my inbox this morning (I have excised the name of the movie in-question, so not to implicate anyone):
“If you are a film critic – then that would connote a love of film. Intrinsic to this should be a healthy respect for the viewing experience and the hard work of actually making the films.
In your blog you speak of walking out of films, an inability to get through a film, and watching in an airport on a laptop in lieu of having internet access.
The blogosphere has given people the ability to have an outsized voice – you should try to use that voice more responsibly.
I would invite you to give XXXXX another shot – it is a deeply honest piece and worthwhile on more than a few levels
Sadly – yours is really the only notice for XXXXX given by Indiewire – independent film is the province of masochists I now realize and it is as polluted by PR and politics as any other capitalist venture – even more so – depressing – and then some coffee shop blogger shits on you – because he can.”
What’s odd about this email is that it’s not in response to a bad review that I wrote, but it’s because I chose to stop watching the movie in question. Frankly, I thought I was doing the filmmakers a favor by NOT sticking through the film and saying what I thought of it. Especially at film festivals where a poor review can really hurt an indie looking for a home, I try to stay away from movies that I probably won’t like. Unless I’ve been assigned to review a film, I usually use my blog for championing films, not chiding them. So I hardly think that I shat on the film; if I had, the emailer would surely have reason to get a little pissed off. But the movie was simply not made for me, and thus, I decided not to go into it.
Having said that, the emailer is right that I probably should not have seen “Stuck Between Stations” in an airport on my laptop. I should have gone to a festival screening and watched it shimmer beautifully on the big screen. But screeners are a necessary evil, giving film writers a leg-up and an ability to give advance word to their readers of their opinions. In the case of “Stuck Between Stations,” as I wrote before, the circumstances of my viewing experience didn’t diminish my appreciation for the film, which is a testament to its craft. Which is something that I can’t say for every film that I see.
I also agree that critics have a certain amount of responsibility, especially when reviewing indie films, which are usually personal passion projects, with lots of folks investing their hearts and souls into them. But critics also must trust their own opinion. And if a movie isn’t their cup of tea, well, then, they don’t have to drink it.