If The Critic Doesn't Say Exactly What You Want, Change It

Speaking of blurbs and quote-whores, Gelf Magazine has compiled a list of the most egregiously misrepresented blurbs cherry-picked from various reviews last year.

This one makes us shake our heads.

Stephen Holden, from the New York Times seemed to like Across the Universe, and was quoted as saying, “Extraordinary. Across the Universe captured my heart. I fell in love with this movie. It convinces you that love is all you need. Fantastic… gorgeous… delirious… oh-wow!”

Here’s a portion of Stephen Holden’s actual review of Across the Universe with the portions that made up the quote highlighted:

“Another extraordinary scene follows Joe to a United States Army induction center… [skip 10 paragraphs backward] Somewhere around its midpoint, ‘Across the Universe’ captured my heart, and I realized that falling in love with a movie is like falling in love with another person. Imperfections, however glaring, become endearing quirks once you’ve tumbled. … [skip 15 paragraphs forward] during the time it lasts, the intoxicating passion of Jude and Lucy, both innocents by today’s standards, convinces, for a moment, that love is all you need. … [skip 14 paragraphs backward] a fantastic array of puppets, masks and synergistic effects… [skip seven paragraphs forward] A visceral peak arrives with ‘Strawberry Fields Forever.’ In this gorgeous production number… [skip three paragraphs forward] Bono appears as the acid guru, Dr. Robert, a Ken Kesey-Neal Cassady fusion who sings ‘I Am the Walrus’ at an acid-drenched party and conducts Jude, Lucy and a roiling band of Merry Pranksters on a delirious bus journey through a rainbow-colored countryside. … [skip one paragraph ahead] its oh-wow aesthetic …”

What? Does Mr. Holden write movie reviews on his fridge with magnetic poetry?

The Best Worst Blurbs of 2007 [Gelf]


Edit Your Comment

  1. punkrawka says:

    If that’s the most egregious one, it’s actually not as bad as I expected. The review is effusively positive, and the quote just cherry-picked the best words/phrases to use as blurbs. It didn’t change the actual character of what the reviewer was saying about the movie.

  2. IrisMR says:

    Well, the review looked positive to me… It would be worse if they took a bad review and turned it positive. But man they sure like picking the words far apart.

    Sorta pathetic.

  3. headon says:

    I’ve never gone to a movie because a Blurb convinced me to. Does anybody? Blurbs are a really old advertising gimmicks that just don’t work anymore.

  4. quail says:

    The number one warning sign that a blurb shouldn’t be believed is when they use one or two words and lots of “…”. Also look out for when the person being blurbed has his credentials in unreadable type below his name. A movie that needs to resort to quoting FoxTV movie critics in it’s national promotions has serious issues.

  5. dirty foreigner says:

    This just shows how awful a movie without any blurb must be.

  6. Mariajl says:

    Oh that isn’t horrible at all. As another poster said, it keeps to the ideal of the review. What I love are the blurbs that say “Amazing” — when what the reviewer said was “It’s truly amazing how bad this movie is.”
    And yeah, check the credentials. Doesn’t say much if they had to score words like “great” and “fun” from the Tyler Texas Journal or the Smithville News Crier.

  7. davere says:

    Oh! I want that job!

  8. rmz says:

    All the more reason to completely ignore all studio-endorsed tag lines from critics. Even if the critic liked the movie, nine times out of then the quote doesn’t even resemble what the critic really said.

  9. t0fu says:

    That is too funny. I always suspected this.

  10. Electroqueen says:

    @davere: Indeed it is a great job.
    Here’s how I would handle the piece of $#@$@ “Epic Movie:” (from the New York Times review)
    -“Thankfully… “Epic Movie…” is short…”
    -“The humor… is witty.”
    -“This critic… was amused…”

    “One Missed Call”
    -“[fantastic]… is the only possible response.”

  11. Skiffer says:

    If you follow the link, there are better examples of turning blatantly bad, or at least apathetic, reviews into positive blurbs.

  12. crackblind says:

    My favorite is from the 80’s. Blurb said “The movie to see.” Critic had coninued the line with “.. if you’re suffering from insomnia.”

  13. skittlbrau says:

    @punkrawka: The best movie blurb quote picking was when that god-awful movie “Volcano” came out with Tommy Lee Jones and Anne Heche. The Time magazine review was profoundly negative (since the movie was terrible) and ended with a statement that said something like “If you like stupid schlocky movies you’ll have a hell-lava time.” Rimshot.

    Then the movie posters say “You’ll have a hell-lava time.”

  14. ancientsociety says:

    Wow, that site is confusing, not very intuitive at all

  15. freshyill says:

    It’s lame to do this in the first place, especially jumping back and forth like that, but really I don’t think the blurb misrepresented the reviewer’s words at all.

  16. veraikon says:

    Remember how The 5th Element’s blurb was “Star Wars for the 90’s!”? The reviewer was actually quoting the movie’s director…and disagreeing with him.

  17. Elijah-M says:

    @ DIRTY FOREIGNER: “This just shows how awful a movie without any blurb must be.”

    Or possibly, it shows that the people marketing the film are intelligent and creative enough to come up with more compelling ways to get my attention than a meaningless out-of-context blurb.

  18. D-Bo says:

    Is anybody really surprised by this?

  19. SacraBos says:

    Many of these “unknown” reviewers are on studio-provided “junkets”, where they get swag, lunches, and such at the screening to encourage a good review. If you see a movie and recognize none of the critics, or see wonderful reviews by critics working for small radio stations – steer clear. About the only movie that will be worse is one that’s not pre-screened for any critics.

  20. Tonguetied says:

    I think it was Cracked or Mad that did a parody along these lines. The one that springs to mind is “I couldn’t put it down…” where the actual quote was “I couldn’t put it down fast enough.”

  21. Bay State Darren says:

    Why does anyone even give a damn about “critic’s” quotes in movie ads? No matter how shitty the movie, some of them will still praise it [I’m lookin’ at you, Joel something-or-other from Maxim!] Seriously, find one movie, no matter how shitty-looking, that could find critics to laud it for the ads. And this is the time of year to look for it, January is to Hollywood what garbage pick-up day is to the rest of us.

  22. neithernor says:

    That’s nothing compared to the way the producers of “Grease” on Broadway used reviewers who didn’t like the show: [playgoer.blogspot.com]

  23. glitterpig says:

    I always check out the blurbs on DVDs – if all they’ve got is something from Harry Knowles, I know it’s going to be supremely awful. If it’s a couple of no-name reviewers from generic papers, it’s going to be mediocre/bad. If there’s an actual quote from a real critic, then it was probably taken out of context from the review and no clue at all to the movie’s actual quality. But at least you can weed out some of the chaff that way.

  24. lemur says:

    I never check the blurbs. I don’t care about the blurbs. Heck, I don’t care about what the critics in general say and I don’t think what is popular is good.

    Now that I’ve established that it would not influence my movie selections whether the FTC went after the blurb-makers or not, I still ask: are those blurbs not lies and are they not illegal?

  25. Propaniac says:

    In Ebert’s Movie Answer Man book, he discusses an instance where he was quoted for the Hoop Dreams video cover as saying “Hip Hoop Hurray!” He loved the movie and wrote a stellar review, but didn’t say anything nearly as stupid as “Hip Hoop Hurray”; that was apparently the headline one newspaper wrote when they ran Ebert’s syndicated review.

  26. mantari says:

    “The Critic[s] … say … change it!”
    It is “what you want!”

  27. bunnymen says:

    @dirty foreigner: Worse than a DVD box that proudly advertises 3 1/2 stars?

  28. BStu says:

    That’s really not that bad. Yeah, you lost some of the subtle hedging of the original review, but I don’t think it really misrepresented things. The worst thing they did was put the quotes out of order, not out of context. I don’t get why, either. Starting with “Extraordinary” in this context is the closest the blurb comes to misrepresentation. Had it be packaged with the other adjectives, though, I think it’d be totally fair.

    Look, the movie got a positive review that was written in a way that it was tough to blurb out. The blurb writer, though, found a way and while it overstates the praise a bit, I don’t think its a misrepresentation.

  29. Bay State Darren says:

    Where’s Jay Sherman when you need him? [I can’t believe I remember that name so easily.]

  30. BlinkyGuy says:

    Several years ago in SF, the Bay Guardian reviewed an album by a group that had an upcoming concert date in the City. One of the things they said was that the group could not perform like Counting Crows.

    The next week there was an ad for their concert in the very same paper that quoted “…like Counting Crows – SF Bay Guardian” in its list of reviews.

    Lesson: If you have faith in critics and reviews, be sure you read the actual review, not the quote in an ad.

  31. LucyInTheSky says:

    not that this really has anything to do with the article, but that was a great movie. i’m talking freaking fantastic.