The Metaphysics of Movie Criticism

By Jeremy Dauber csmonitor. com | The Christian Science Monitor, August 1, 2005 | Go to article overview

The Metaphysics of Movie Criticism


Jeremy Dauber csmonitor. com, The Christian Science Monitor


I tend to get a good bit of my news from the television, the Internet, and very occasionally from the odd passing carrier pigeon. (Hey, I'm a little old school. So sue me.) But there are times when I'm very glad I still get the newspaper, or I might have missed this item from the Aug. 4 issue of The New York Times.

"Sony Pictures Entertainment must pay $1.5 million to settle a class-action lawsuit that accused it of trumpeting the praise of a non-existent newspaper critic to promote its films, The Associated Press reported. The plaudits for films like 'A Knight's Tale,' 'The Animal,' 'Vertical Limit,' 'Hollow Man,' and 'The Patriot' were attributed to David Manning of the Ridgefield Press, but at the time The Ridgefield Press, a weekly in Connecticut did not have a film critic, the lawsuit said.

"Originated by two California filmgoers, the suit asserted that advertisements quoting Manning fooled them into seeing 'A Knight's Tale.' Under terms of the settlement in Los Angeles Superior Court, Sony Pictures did not admit any liability. It declined comment. Norman Blumenthal, a lawyer representing the plaintiffs, said moviegoers who saw the films during their original runs would have to file a claim to be eligible for a $5-a-ticket reimbursement. Money remaining after the satisfaction of claims is to go to charity, he said."

The questions, whose answers are almost certainly under court seal, abound. It's almost hard to know where to begin.

Let's start with the most obvious: how can the plaintiffs possibly complain, let alone file suit, when they only have to pay five bucks a ticket to go to the movies? I'm going to shell out over twice that much tonight to see 'The Aristocrats,' and there aren't even going to be any special effects. They should thank Sony Pictures and their local chain for just letting them into the theater.

Second, isn't it the case that anyone who is willing to be convinced under any circumstances to see the Rob Schneider picture 'The Animal' deserves what they get? You would think they might be thankful for the lesson: to venture warily wherever Mr. Schneider is concerned. I say this, aware that 'Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo' is coming to theaters everywhere, even ones, presumably, that charge less than half of what I'm going to pay tonight to see "The Aristocrats. …

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