Critical Mess: Spoilers and Censure


The first rule of Tickled is you don’t talk about Tickled.

The second rule of Tickled …. YOU DO NOT TALK ABOUT Tickled.

Such was my experience, and that of conceivably every other media outlet, in regards to this years Sundance and Hot Docs sensation. An outstanding documentary about the seedy underbelly of competitive endurance tickling, David Farrier and Dylan Reeve’s documentary is a superb investigative thriller.

But I can’t tell you why.

Let me start off by saying that this film truly is, without reproach, outstanding. It will leave you incredulous, baffled, and have you on the edge of your seat. It is insightful, intelligently constructed, and eye opening. The questions it answers seem to leave more questions bubbling below the surface – the sign of a successful documentary.

While some publications, such as The Hollywood Reporter, have opted to break down the film, plot point by plot point, publicists involved in its distribution have been diligently trying to put perhaps excessive boundaries on what gets written. I have been asked to write carefully, and to explicitly avoid talking about certain reveals. Meanwhile, suggestions were made that I reconsider my interview questions, the answers of which may reveal too much.

What this all comes down to is a major issue now plaguing media critics, columnists and other surveyors of cultural documents – **THE SPOILER**.

These publicists are doing incredible work trying to protect their product. If a review gets out revealing too much about the film, people may be less interested in seeing it. As with films like The Sixth Sense, for example, people were angry if the final plot twist was spoiled for them. Oft times, they then saw no point in even going to the theatre to see the film.

While something like this won’t do too much damage to a major Hollywood film, it could be a crippling blow for a small documentary out of New Zealand.

An article was published on May 5th by Matt Zoller Seitz on Vulture titled, Spoiler Alert: This Post Is About Spoiler Etiquette. Seitz raises several astute questions about the nature of spoiler culture: Why television shows and movies are somehow more delicate than, say, a sporting event, where the responsibility to avoid news of the game’s outcome, or a spectacular play, falls solely on the shoulders of the person consuming the media. In film and television, however, the responsibility falls on those who produce the criticism, the interviews, and the think-pieces. In other words: It is our fault, as critics, for doing our jobs.

Are there bits of information we should leave out of a piece in order to avoid spoiling rather large bits of the story? Absolutely. There always are. And, often times, that is very easy to do. However, it is becoming progressively more and more difficult to filter out what information is going to piss someone off. Our hands are tied, and it makes it incredibly difficult to do our jobs.

In the case of Tickled, there is so little I can talk about that I felt it more important to use the film as an opportunity to open a dialogue about spoiler culture.

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Not At Odds #06 – This Episode Has No Context



Hi guys! Sorry for skipping a week. Allow us to make it up to you by offering an episode free from context. Or was it an episode about context? Dang. I may or may not have forgotten the topic before starting this episode. Fling your umbrage at will. Mmm. Umbrage.


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Not At Odds #5 – Jupiter Ascending, Or How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb!



Guys! Jandy and I just got back from JUPITER ASCENDING and really enjoyed it. So much so, in fact, that we devoted 40-some minutes to talking about it in this week’s episode of NOT AT ODDS. Here’s the deal: we won’t go to mat for the flick, but we will tell you what worked for us and why we found this mess more enjoyable than some of the more polished fare we’ve seen lately. I also issue a dare that’s somewhat related to last week’s episode.

Let’s get to it!


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Not At Odds #4 – Year of Positivity!



This week on NOT AT ODDS Jandy and I talk about our journey through the year of positivity and how that has shaped our consuming and critiquing of the media. We dabble in some very strange and interesting ideas, so open your mind and get ready to be positive! Side effects may include but are not limited to: enjoyment, happiness, greater self worth, more interesting blog posts, and greater critical acumen.


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Not At Odds #2 – What Historians Get Wrong About Faccuracy!



On this week’s episode of NOT AT ODDS, Jandy and I go into the issue of historical accuracy in film and whether or not that’s a big deal. We coin a new term – FACCURACY – and admit to not having seen Selma. Lotta good truth here. Well, mostly truth. Actually, a few things were added for drama, but the moment was truthy…

Oh you get the idea. Listen to our new episode and tell us what you think!


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Review: Life Itself


Director: Steve James (Hoop Dreams, Stevie)
Producers: Garrett Basch, Steve James, Zak Piper
MPAA Rating: R
Running time: 115 min.


I knew Roger Ebert.

I never met the man nor did we ever exchange words but I knew him. I knew the movies he liked, what filmmakers he championed and that he was willing to go out on a ledge and sometimes against the grain to support something he believed in. I also knew he grew up in a small town, loved his parents and that he was an alcoholic. I learned those last things, the really personal things, well after he had left television and illness had forced him to communicate only via the written word. Roger Ebert never stopped writing.

Steve James’ Life Itself isn’t just a documentary about a great man, and there is little doubt that Roger Ebert was a great man, but also a document of a life well lived. It’s apropos that Ebert’s life is celebrated in flickering images because they occupied so much of his life for so long. He was a great critic because he could appreciate the art of filmmaking but he was a great writer because he could articulate those ideas in simple, beautiful language.

Inadvertently, Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert are responsible for a majority of today’s ardent movie lovers and critics. The internet may have given us a soapbox but Siskel and Ebert gave us the OK. Their TV show brought movies into our living rooms but more than that, they encouraged us to talk about them. They encouraged us to watch with a critical eye and to discuss the medium in a way that had, for the most part, been limited to critics. They taught us that it was OK to argue and disagree and to commiserate in movies and that they were a perfectly acceptable and more than that – a great – form of art.

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Booksmarks for March 1-4

  • Artifice and truth: From Mean Streets to Shutter Island
    To salute the surprise success of “Shutter Island” (top of the box-office for two weeks running), [Jim Emerson] took some excerpts from an introductory interview Scorsese did for the now out-of-print 2005 MGM DVD release of “New York, New York” and interpolated frame grabs from that movie and others. The result might serve as a primer on how to watch any Martin Scorsese picture.
  • Jeff Bridges Voice-overs Almost Scotched Hyundai Oscars Ads
    With just a few weeks to go before the March 7 Oscar ceremony, Hyundai was told its commercials were unfit for air. The problem? Actor Jeff Bridges has been doing voice-overs for Hyundai since 2007. But Mr. Bridges is also a nominee for best actor in this year’s contest for his role in “Crazy Heart.” So the automaker is keeping the ads but has enlisted seven other celebrities to read the marketing copy.
  • An End Without End: Catastrophe Cinema in the Age of Crisis
    “Dusting off the tedium and ash deposited by Hollywood’s recent spate of catastrophe movies, Evan Calder Williams takes aim at their world-affirming pessimism and calls for some real apocalypse”
  • Are You F*cking Kidding Me? Junket Jornalism Gone Bad.
    Not that the bar was ever set high for the Junketeering set, but this Alice In Wonderland conference seems particularly high in the doofus quotient.
  • A Third Way: The Rise of 3D
    Anthony Lane gives an exhaustive overview of cinema and the Z-axis
  • We Champion Stuff – Five Years of Twitch Love.
    “Twitch turned five years old back in September of 2009 and over those years Todd and his small army of writers have turned up trailers, shed light on numerous ‘strange films from around the world’ and have become a happy crossroads between the art-house and the grindhouse.”


You can now take a look at RowThree’s bookmarks at any time of your choosing simply by clicking the “delicious” button in the upper right of the page. It looks remarkably similar to this:

VIFF 09 Review: Rembrandt’s J’Accuse!



How can one not love a filmmaker who, in the opening five minutes of his film, states that most of humanity is “visually illiterate” and that it’s this illiteracy that may account for the world’s “impoverished cinema?” Though I laughed, a large part of the crowd in the nearly sold out screening coughed and shifted uncomfortably and you could nearly make out what they were thinking: is he going to insult us through the entire film? Peter Greenaway wasn’t trying to hurt anyone’s feelings, he was merely stating fact as he sees it and frankly, I can’t say I completely disagree.

Regardless, the comment, though it initially comes across as a poke, gets at what Greenaway intended to do with Rembrandt’s J’accuse namely, study a painting like one would a novel to attain some meaning and understanding as to what Rembrandt was trying to say by painting it.

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Bookmarks for August 24th through August 25th


What we’ve been reading – August 24th through August 25th:

Bookmarks for August 12th


What we’ve been reading – August 12th:

  • My Father, The Inglourious Basterd…
    …He belonged to a secret unit made up of refugees from the Nazis. They went on reconnaissance missions in enemy territory; they stormed the beaches of Normandy on D-Day; they shot at, blew up, captured, and interrogated German soldiers. They didn’t take scalps or carve swastikas into anybody’s forehead.
    Those fanciful elements are present in Inglourious Basterds, Quentin Tarantino’s cartoonish tale of an American death squad made up of Jewish soldiers. Their commander (Brad Pitt) exhorts them to bring him the scalps at least 100 Nazis each. The real story is better.
  • A.O. Scott calls the American Moviegoing Public "Infants"
    One of the key articles on the recent wave of Critics criticizing mainstream audiences for something that has been true for a long time now. It is still strangely condescendnig for Scott who will soon be talking to the masses on the revamped AT THE MOVIES. The Hurt Locker, Funny People, Up and Transformers 2 serve as Scott's key examples of the divide.

    (See also Hitfix's summary below, or Glenn Kenny articulate take, or Roger Ebert's ominous one, or Jeffrey Wells cantankerous one.

  • Why do older movie critics suddenly want everyone off their lawn? –
    A well developed and interesting read on film critics and t he idea that they are out of tuch with the movie going audience. Do critics really hate movie goers?

Bookmarks for August 7th


What we’ve been reading – August 7th: