December 17th, 2006


by Judes Dickey • in Personal
2 Comments Post a comment

There’s something I have to tell you before we start any of this. It’s a small thing, but I really have to get it off my chest.

I hate reviews.

Seriously. They make me angry. I know I should be bigger than this, but I can’t help myself. I’ve often wondered why mainstream media affects me in this way and to be honest I haven’t really come up with a reason that makes any sense. I figured my first installment would be a little therapy session on this dysfunctional relationship. Just for you. Just so you know.

I know a few critics. I even like some of them, although I tend to avoid reading most of their reviews because I’ m afraid I won’t want to speak to them again. You see, it’s not the job itself that bothers me, but the inherent self-congratulatory nature of most reviews. You know the type… “ I am MUCH smarter than you. You should therefore listen to what I have to say and ye shall know the truth”?. That kind of thing. Open a newspaper, read a glossy magazine. These are the people that are being hired to fill up their entertainment sections when Paris Hilton, Britney Spears and the other Bimbos of the Apocalypse aren’t blowing some loser on a grainy cell-phone video. So who ARE these people? Why do they do this? How did they get so much smarter than the rest of us?

Let’s start with film reviews. I hate to tell you this, but most film critics don’t seem to know much about film. Their one true talent seems to be the ability to annoy people so much that they eventually get what they want, which usually consists of free movie passes, their photograph in the paper and complimentary drinks at festivals. I remember reading a review in a Montreal free weekly that barely mentioned the film until the last paragraph, and even then did so mostly as a footnote to to the reviewer’s (supposedly) witty observations on how her life should be made into a film. I’m all for self-promotion, but there’s a time and a place for everything. If you’re going to review something, talk about IT. Talk about the craft of it, or the emotions it stirs, or why you feel cheated… but for God’s sake, please don’t tell us about what a film isn’t or how much of an authority you are on the subject. More than likely, you’re not. This isn’t to say that we need an elitist roll-call of film reviewers that can quote Vertov and Bazin at the drop of a dime. Far from it. There are great scholarly reviews out there that are made for the hardcore film-studies crowd (like the good folks at but they’re not for everyone. It just seems that it’s about time for mainstream film reviewers to cater more to the audience (for better or for worse) and less to their inflated egos that have swelled to the size of a gaudy multiplex.

Well. That’s that. I think I got most of the bile out. From here on out it should be all rose water and dancing elves.

I don’t have nearly as much contempt for music critics. I suspect that this is due to the fact that they are usually guided by more noble goals. Free CDs. That’s all they want. The reviewing aspect seems much more incidental in this case. Most of the time. There are a fair number of music critics that fall into the self-important category but they’re usually the boring, sober ones. Which brings us to the tragedy of the music critic. Mostly, they’re frustrated musicians. Not frustrated in the I’m-going-to-stick-this-guitar-string-up-my-ass-until-it-bleeds-because-I should-have-made-it way (does that actually exist?) but merely in the I-am/was-in-a-band-and-now-I’m-going-to-look-at-my-beer-with-a-distant-look-in-my-eye way. You can feel the passion in the reviews of the latter. They review music because really, they can’t do anything else. It’s their life. I can’t bad-mouth these people. But certain daily newspaper music people who clearly think they are walking encyclopedias and therefore KNOW that music died in the 60s… well, they’re just cunts, aren’t they?

Don’t get me wrong, there are a few very good critics out there. I have gone out to buy music based solely on what a complete stranger has recommended. I even did so reading a Chinese newspaper once. I saw exclamation marks and figured it was a rave…. I am now very pleased to own this. I have seen a film that I may have had no interest in seeing after reading a review. In this case, I usually look for the bad reviews. If it’s been panned, I’ll probably like it. The point is we either have to call these people out when they’re being twits (hell, let’s get them fired!) or come up with a system where people stop putting so much stock in what they have to say.

Oh… and also… if they’re going to review something, they really shoud see the film, or read the book , or listen to the CD. I think we all deserve more than a re-hashed press release because someone needs to feed their blind and crippled dog at 9pm, or is really too good to give that CD a second listen.

This happens. More than you think. Trust me. I’m an authority.


stephanie said:

more than half the fun of reviews is disagreeing with the reviewer. in a best case scenario, they open you to something you’d never have tried otherwise, in a worst case scenario, incense you by panning something close to your heart. most important to remember is that every single review is merely one reporter’s opinion (credit to mike watt for that one), not the universe casting its judgement. and for the record, some reviews are written for the sheer passion of one’s reaction to something, be it positive or negative…not sheerly for freebies and kickbacks and ego stroking.

December 17th, 2006 at 5:14 pm

Steve said:

I should review this review! Great stuff man.

December 19th, 2006 at 3:32 pm

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