Saturday, February 4, 2012

If you can't say something nice(ly)...

After an awkward exchange on Facebook a few months back (which at least ended gracefully), I had resolved to never say anything negative about any person or any thing, anywhere on the Internet. Well, I'm about to blow that resolution in full cranky-Andy-Rooney fashion, because I just have to say this: I find Manohla Dargis's movie reviews in the New York Times all but impossible to read. If I want to read a review and it's by A.O. Scott, I read it, but if it's by Dargis, I don't bother.

I feel she often uses her reviews not to address the movie in question, but as an excuse to write about some tangentially-related topic she finds more interesting. But even when her relevant opinions are in there — somewhere — I find coaxing them out to be exhausting, and ultimately not worth the bother.

Consider these sentences from her Thursday review of Daniel Radcliffe in "The Woman in Black". The first one is awkward enough, but it's the second one I really have a problem with:
It will take time before many of us will be able to see the actor instead of his famous character, and time for him to shake that role off too, though it helps that Mr. Radcliffe is no longer encumbered by Harry's mop and especially his glasses. A movie actor's eyes can be his most expressive tool, one that Mr. Radcliffe, who has a pretty blue pair framed by thick brows — the eyes suggest watery lightness while the brows convey a heavy weight — wasn't able to make full use of as Harry.
Okay, I understand what she's saying, but does she have to say it like that? Isn't there an editor at the Times who can rewrite that for her? How about:
A movie actor's eyes can be his most expressive tool, and the role of Harry didn't allow Mr. Radcliffe to make full use of his; Radcliffe's pretty blue pair suggests watery lightness, while his thick brows convey a heavy weight.
Or cut the semicolon and make it two sentences. You get the idea.

But this is nothing compared to this incomprehensible mess from her review of "Rise of the Planet of the Apes", directed by Rupert Wyatt. Again, I'll give you a lead-in sentence for context:
Mr. Franco maintains a straight face, selling his relationships with Charles and Caesar. Mr. Wyatt, meanwhile, toggles between the large-scale, special-effects-assisted action — there's a nice moment when leaves fall like rain as the chimps take to the trees canopying a suburban street — and the cinema's greatest special effect: the face, some digital.
Wow. Will someone please diagram that one for me? I mean, when you have a spare weekend.

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