Of course, every time I make this vow, something yanks me back.
I was never comfortable doing reviews. They're not my strong point and they take me longer to write than straight essays or articles. Others can knock them out a dozen at a time. Me, I'm lucky if I can get one out per hour. Maybe I'm too close to the business -- too much empathy for the filmmakers behind the movies because I've been there. It's hard for me to see the flaws in indie films. (Hollywood films, I have no problem with this...)
A while back - several years, actually - I stopped reviewing movies I didn't like. I'm not good at the insult review: "This movie is worse than having a glass rod inserted into your urethra and broken off!" I'll leave those to the reviewers who have mastered this art. Again, I'd feel bad later. What's worse, I'm too accessible to filmmakers. I'd get nasty email for weeks following a bad review from the artists, their friends, family, co-workers. It wasn't worth my time. Particularly when, more often than not, I'm not paid for the review.
But then an odd thing began to occur, almost immediately, after I'd give glowing reviews. I'd get the same email messages nitpicking the review. "You said you loved it, but then you commented on the bad edits. Do you know how long I spent editing that thing??" Or "I don't think her acting was 'weak' at all." Keep in mind, again, these were little things mentioned in an overall positive review. No one can make a perfect movie.
Recently, I was contacted by acquaintances to do a rush review. I was asked to set everything aside, watch their movie and expedite a review to help them out. Because I'm an abject moron who still believes that every request could possibly be coming from Jesus in disguise (thanks to my many years of Catholic school), I set everything aside and watched their movie. I loved it. I wrote a review. I got it to my editor with amazing speed, even proof-read it and everything. I basically compared the film to something smiled upon by God.
I didn't get a 'thank you' from either one. I got called on a fact that there was no possible way I could have been privy to (that who I thought was their distributor in fact was not, but one of their investors, despite the fact that the film began with the distribution logo as the very first image!). Keep in mind, I received a shiny DVD-R in a plain envelope without even a letter accompanying it to explain what the friggin' thing was. No press kit, nothing. (Of course, the last time these guys had asked me to review something, they couldn't be bothered to even send me a copy of the movie!) And, of course, not even a "thanks for your time". And the one guy called me at home four times to make sure I received it.
I'm not going to name names. They're good guys, they work hard, and their movies are really terrific. I cannot take that away from them. They're doing the movies right and everyone should see them.
But they're indicative of defensiveness of the artists we deal with on this level. The slightest criticism (or, in this case, a fact that should have been clarified on their end) and filmmakers can't handle it. So I'm done. No more reviews. If this sounds like whining, so be it. But I'm too busy and I don't like being told how to do favors for people.
Sixteen days until Genghis. The tension mounts!
Post-script five minutes later:
Okay, I just re-read the one guy's email. He did give me a half-hearted "Thanks for the review, just read it, but..."
So I take it back. I was thanked. But shit, what have I done for them lately?