Eric D. Snider

Eric D. Snider's Blog

Archive for February, 2006

Once again, among Utah’s finest

Tuesday, February 28th, 2006

Little did I know when The Daily Herald fired me in August 2003 that I would continue to be one of their readers’ favorite writers and that I would keep winning their reader surveys every year, beating out people who actually write for them. It’s sort of like how Elvis Presley continues to be one of the top-selling recording artists every year even though he hasn’t released anything new. It’s embarrassing, really. Stop, people of Provo! Stop telling me I’m better than the people who actually live and work there!

In case you forgot, last year I was voted Best Local Print Journalist by readers of The Daily Herald. This year, the results of the Herald’s 2005 Reader’s Choice Awards are in, and we have these results:

Best Local Print Journalist
1. Becky Beaton
2. Chance Cook
3. Eric Snider

Most Controversial Print Journalist
1. Eric Snider
2. Gordon Monson
3. Robert Kirby

Gordon Monson is a sports columnist and Robert Kirby is a humor columnist, both for the Salt Lake Tribune. I had never heard of Becky Beaton or Chance Cook, so I did some googling. Cook is mostly known as a TV news reporter, though apparently he has written some outdoor/sports articles for various Utah publications. He doesn’t seem to be a staff writer at the Herald, the Tribune or the Deseret Morning News, as far as I can tell.

I couldn’t find Becky Beaton anywhere at first, and then I stumbled across her name on the Daily Herald’s Web site. She’s a sports reporter for them — but her name is actually spelled BEKY, not Becky. That’s right, folks: The Herald misspelled their own reporter’s name when they honored her in the “Best of Utah County” special section. (They did the same thing to me when I worked there. The special sections are mostly overseen by the advertising department, who are hired based on skills other than spelling and fact-checking. And, to be fair, Beky kinda threw them off by misspelling her own name in the first place.)

Anyway, I’m a little disappointed to have only placed third in the Best Local Print Journalist category, coming in behind two people who actually ARE local print journalists, and one of them only sort of. I mean, what’s up with that?

But first place in Most Controversial Print Journalist! That’s like a Pulitzer. So what if I haven’t written for a Utah County publication in 2 1/2 years, haven’t lived in Utah County for 1 1/2 years, and haven’t lived in Utah at all for almost a year? The fact that the voters remember me — or that the voters haven’t actually picked up a Daily Herald since 2003, whichever — makes me tingly inside.

Ratings vs. grades

Monday, February 27th, 2006

Over the years I’ve been accused a few times of favoring R-rated movies over squeaky-clean wholesome ones. This accusation is always from people who are upset that I have failed to enjoy some crappy (but clean!) movie or theatrical production, and it’s a charge that only takes about 10 seconds of browsing to disprove.

I posted a blog entry about the most recent incident, in which a fan of the mediocre (but clean!) “Suits on the Loose” said, “I imagine you are R-rated movies or nothing!” This prompted a faithful reader and EricDSnider.com message board regular named Matt to do some calculating, to determine what my average grades are for each rating.

Not surprisingly, he found little variance among the ratings. (The message board thread where he posted his findings is here.) But Reed Price, another reader and expert Excel user, wondered about the results and did some calculating of his own. He sent me the Excel spreadsheet with the results that I believe are conclusive.

Like Matt, he first translated my grades (A-, B+, etc.) into numbers. The system he used was as follows:

A = 4.000
A- = 3.666
B+ = 3.333
B = 3.000
B- = 2.666
C+ = 2.333
C = 2.000
C- = 1.666
D+ = 1.333
D = 1.000
D- = .666
F = 0.000

(Matt had used .700 and .400 instead of .666 and .333, which accounts for some of the variance in his and Reed’s findings. I think .666 and .333 make more mathematical sense.)

Then he applied those numbers to the 1,617 reviews on EricDSnider.com and came up with the averages grades for each rating:

G: 2.67 (B-)
PG: 2.40 (C+/B-)
PG-13: 2.30 (C+)
R: 2.61 (B-)
NC-17: 2.08 (C)
Not rated: 2.59 (B-)
All movies: 2.48 (C+/B-)

As you can see, G-rated movies actually get the highest average grade from me, though it’s neck-and-neck with the R-rated ones. But the difference between the highest (G) and lowest (NC-17) rating is only 0.59 — about two-thirds of a letter grade.

In other words, a film’s rating has no influence on how highly I rank it. It’s the movie’s merit as entertainment and art that matters. This is obvious to most people, of course, but it’s fun to have some math to back it up.

‘Brokeback’ and ‘bravery’

Sunday, February 26th, 2006

I’m getting tired of people lavishing praise on Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal for being “brave” enough to star in “Brokeback Mountain,” like it was the acting equivalent of rescuing a crippled child from a burning building.

It’s a great film, don’t get me wrong. Ledger’s and Gyllenhaal’s performances are both fantastic, and I don’t deny it must have been difficult to shoot the more intimate scenes. But a brave performance — being vulnerable, doing something outlandish or unusual in front of the camera, etc. — is not the same thing as being “brave” for taking the role in the first place.

What’s “brave” about it? I keep reading, “Oh, so many people didn’t want to touch it, it’s so risky, even in 2005 it’s still controversial to play a gay character, blah blah blah.” But that line of thinking doesn’t hold up to scrutiny.

I think there are two fears that are supposedly being overcome when actors go gay for the movies. One is that audiences will start to believe the actor is gay in real life. The other is that playing a homosexual character will somehow damage the actor’s career.

But here’s the thing: If the actor is famous, people don’t believe he’s gay just because he played a gay character. (In some cases, if it’s a new, unknown actor in a gay role, audiences might assume it, simply because they don’t know anything about him.) And as for the second fear, I can’t think of a single actor whose career has been hurt by playing a gay character in a film. Can you?

Here’s a list of some (presumably) straight actors who have played gay, bisexual or transsexual characters in films. (There are more than these; this list is more or less off the top of my head.) See anyone who suffered because of it? See anyone you now believe is gay in real life because of it? I didn’t think so.

Antonio Banderas (“Philadelphia”)
Matthew Broderick (“Torch Song Trilogy”)
Steve Buscemi (“Parting Glances”)
Michael Caine (“Deathtrap”)
Matt Damon (“The Talented Mr. Ripley”)
Jeff Daniels (“The Hours”)
Colin Farrell (“A Home at the End of the World”; “Alexander”)
Colin Firth (“Where the Truth Lies”)
*Tom Hanks (“Philadelphia”)
*Ed Harris (“The Hours”)
*William Hurt (“Kiss of the Spider Woman”)
*Greg Kinnear (“As Good As It Gets”)
Jude Law (“Wilde”)
John Leguizamo (“To Wong Foo Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar”)
*John Lithgow (“The World According to Garp”)
*Al Pacino (“Dog Day Afternoon”)
Guy Pearce (“The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert”)
River Phoenix (“My Own Private Idaho”)
Dennis Quaid (“Far from Heaven”)
Christopher Reeve (“Deathtrap”)
Keanu Reeves (“My Own Private Idaho”)
Paul Rudd (“The Object of My Affection”)
Wesley Snipes (“To Wong Foo Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar”)
Terence Stamp (“The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert”)
Patrick Swayze (“To Wong Foo Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar”)
Hugo Weaving (“The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert”)
Robin Williams (“The Birdcage”)

* Indicates the actor got at least an Oscar nomination for this role. So yeah Heath and Jake are brave — brave like a fox!

Eric’s Sack of Mail: OMG, Damascus

Thursday, February 23rd, 2006

In Eric’s Sack of Mail, we answer letters that warrant polite replies (i.e., letters that aren’t angry or stupid). So here are a couple non-angry e-mails that need answered. (That sentence included foreshadowing, by the way.)

First, a long-time reader named Ian writes:

May I ask a frivolous language-related question? In your review of “Firewall” a line reads “OMG, she’s even working for another Jack!” I’m wondering where you first ran across that “OMG” usage; I have it in my mind that it is a Pacific Northwestism, but I could be wrong. I lived in Portland until just recently and the first time I ever heard it used was by my boss there last year — she kind of dragged it out as follows: “O…M…G…” (as “Friends” star Matthew Perry does with the actual words). For some reason I found it extremely funny and at the same time I wanted to know where it got started.

You may have noticed the Northwest has its own, sometimes quaint, vernacular. For example:

“My car needs washed.”
“My house needs cleaned.”
“The baby wants picked up.”

I believe the latter is a fairly common (though not universal) speech pattern up there — at least I heard it enough to make me think so.

See the foreshadowing now? DO YOU???

To answer Ian’s question, I’ve actually never heard ANYONE say “O.M.G.,” in Portland or elsewhere. I just liked the idea of incorporating chat room slang into more formal writing, and it seemed like a situation that called for an OMG.

I guess I did hear Jack on “Will & Grace” say “BTW” the other night, so maybe that sort of thing is catching on.

As for “My car needs washed,” etc., I’m familiar with that construction, though I haven’t heard it in Portland yet. I do believe it’s a regionalism found in all of the Western/cowboy/frontier states, Oregon included. I can’t imagine ever using it myself, though I do like this murder defense that I’ve seen quoted here and there: “He needed killing.” If someone ever actually used that as his defense, that’s awesome.

Next comes this correction from Marianne:

Thought I’d let you know that, although I liked your review [of "The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada"], you made a factual error in your comments regarding what someone might be capable of regarding his own redemption. Saul had his conversion experience on the road to Damascus, not Tarsus. Saul is known sometimes as Saul of Tarsus because that is where he was from.

Doh! Marianne is right, of course, and I’ve corrected the error in my review. What’s funny about this is that when I first posted the review, it said Saul had his conversion on the road to “Tarses.” A helpful reader wrote to tell me it was actually spelled “Tarsus,” and she and I both overlooked the fact that I had the wrong town altogether. It reminds me of a dumb joke from my childhood:

Q: How do you pronounce the capital of Louisiana: “New OR-leans” or “New Or-LEANS?”
A: Neither. I pronounce it “Baton Rouge.”

Link: Ultimate Showdown of Ultimate Destiny

Monday, February 20th, 2006

Lemon Demon has a very funny song called “The Ultimate Showdown of Ultimate Destiny,” and someone has put together an animated video for it. Get thee here and watch it. (Contains a bit of PG-rated language and some cartoon violence.) I recommend turning the subtitles on, as some of the lyrics are sung very quickly.

Angry Letter: ‘Suits on the Loose’

Friday, February 17th, 2006

The recent Mormon Cinema entry “Suits on the Loose” — about two juvenile delinquents who hide out by posing as Mormon missionaries in a small desert town — did nothing to help the genre, but it did inspire this angry letter from a woman named Elaine. I urge you to read the review in question first, as it will make the letter that much more enjoyable.

Eric,
So, who died and made you the know it all in scripts and movies??? [Gene Siskel.] You were way off the bat when you made your comment about the name of the movie! [What I said was that "Suits on the Loose" was obviously inspired by films like "Nuns on the Run," including in the title. There's no way a movie has the same plot as "Nuns on the Run" and a title similar to "Nuns on the Run" by coincidence.]

You need to give the writer a break, after all he is trying to bring the level of Mormon moveis up. This is not a million dollar project. [The production quality is much better than some previous Mormon films, despite the low budget. But all the money in the world won't save a bad script.]

The movie is great for good clean fun. As far as the violence and vulgarity go, wow… have you seen the latest movies, even the G rated ones are laden with real vulgarity, homosexuality, drugs, violence. [I didn't say anything about the film's vulgarity or violence, except that it's there. I didn't say it was extreme or unpleasant or irresponsible. In fact, I only said there's "a little" vulgarity. Are you saying there ISN'T a fistfight in the movie? Are you saying the word "pissed" ISN'T a vulgarity? I issued no judgments; I merely said the movie was rated PG, and explained why. The MPAA (which doles out the ratings) gave the same reason: "some language and brief violence." And for the record, G-rated movies are NOT laden with vulgarity, homosexuality, drugs and violence (except for cartoon violence, though even that has to be kept to a minimum). If movies become laden with those things, they become PG or higher. If you disagree, I urge you to point out a G-rated movie that supports your point of view.]

You should be singing Mr. Hensons praised for trying to make a movie that families can go to. [If he were the only one doing it, and if "Suits on the Loose" were the only family-friendly movie available, I would. But other people are also making family-friendly movies, and some of them are actually making GOOD ones! So Henson gets credit for trying, but in the end, all the matters is whether the movie is any good or not, and his is mediocre.]

As I said, where did you get your training and expertise, so I know how serious to take your cute opinion? [And if I told you I had a doctorate in film studies from Harvard, all of a sudden you'd change your mind and agree with me?]

I imagine you are R rated movies or nothing! No wonder the world is getting so much more vulgar and unhappy. [Here's a fun game you can play. Take 10 seconds to browse my site. You will find R-rated movies with poor grades, some with high grades, some PG-rated movies with high grades, and some with low grades. A movie's rating has nothing to do with its entertainment or artistic quality. There are good and bad movies of all ratings.]

Get a clue, Mr. Eric. I disagree with you so much, I am sorry I can’t get my opinion published as you have. [Ah, but you can!] Hope you feel good about the things you say. [As long as I'm telling the truth about my opinion of a movie, then yes, I feel good about what I say. You should feel good about your opinions, too, as long as they are how you honestly feel, and as long as you have presented them calmly and rationally.]

So that was fun.

No matter how much you write to it, symone.raven@gmail.com will NEVER BE Raven-Symone’s e-mail address

Saturday, February 11th, 2006

A while back, I got tired of kids writing to me asking for Raven-Symone’s e-mail address. I had to keep telling them that I didn’t have it, and that there is no reason to think I WOULD have it. Yet some of these kids, who are just kids, and who aren’t necessarily very smart, kept pestering me.

So in a previous blog entry, I gave this address — symone.raven@gmail.com — and announced in plain language that it is NOT Raven-Symone’s e-mail address, and that it is in fact an address I registered through Gmail. I figured if people were going to keep harassing me for information I didn’t have, I might as well just make up some information and give it to them.

Sure enough, that fake address spread quickly within the Raven-Symone community, and I have received nearly 100 e-mails from devoted Raven-Symone fans, most of whom begin with, “Is this really your e-mail?????,” even though I clearly stated before that it is not.

Anyway, to repeat: symone.raven@gmail.com still is NOT Raven-Symone’s e-mail address. If you write to that address, your e-mail will be read by me, Eric D. Snider. If anyone replies, it will be me, Eric D. Snider, pretending to be Raven-Symone. The real Raven-Symone has no idea who I am and has no knowledge of this e-mail address.

I’m making this very plain because I think a lot of you will read it, see the words “raven-symone” and “e-mail address,” and write to the address regardless of what I’ve said about it. And later, when I publish your e-mails on this site, we will all have a good laugh at the sort of things people say when they write letters to Raven-Symone.

Four Things Muslims Cannot Take

Thursday, February 9th, 2006

Four Things Muslims Cannot Take

1. A joke
2. Criticism
3. Their land being divided and their people slaughtered, time and time again over the course of centuries
4. Advil (allergies)

From my deathbed

Monday, February 6th, 2006

Just wanted to let you know that I’m dying again. I came home Friday night from an evening of frivolity with my friend Rob, and I was feeling just a tickle of a sore throat. I said, “Hmm. I hope I’m not coming down with something.”

Well, coming down with something I most certainly was. It hit me like a ton of crap while I was sleeping Friday night: sore throat, headache, fever, chills, despair, sense of impending doom, freaky dreams you only have when you’re sick, the whole nine yards.

I spent most of the weekend in bed, though I was able to get up now and then to shuffle around the house and perform a few non-labor-intensive tasks like checking my e-mail and watching TV. Today (Monday) I believe I am on the mend, and I have been tended to by my friend Luscious Malone, who brought me some of that magic soup where you just microwave the little can it comes in and sip it, no spoon required.

Do you find that no matter how old you are, or how far away you live, your first instinct when you get sick is to call your mom? Mine is. I usually don’t call, though, because then she’ll just feel sorry for me and worry about me, and who needs that? But if we lived in the same city, I can assure you, I’d be at her house, lying on her couch, making her wait on me hand and foot until I was better.

Eric’s Sack of Mail: film vs. theater, ‘The Producers,’ gynecologists

Saturday, February 4th, 2006

It’s time to open Eric’s Sack of Mail again, to respond to e-mails I’ve received that were neither angry nor stupid, but that merit some response nonetheless.

First is this question, sent anonymously to the “Ask Eric Stuff” feature of “Snide Remarks.” Questions sent there are meant to be fodder for jokes and aren’t usually real questions that the person expects a real answer to. But this one is interesting, and it’s one I’ve been asked several times in seriousness, so I thought I’d give a reply. It is:

Do you prefer live theatre or films and why? Which is easier to review?

For me, films are easier to review for the simple fact that they are the same every time you watch them (assuming there are no problems with the projector or sound system). When there are flaws in a play, you have to consider: Is this an “opening night” problem that will be fixed by tomorrow? Was that a choice the actor made, or was it a one-time mistake? Is the entire cast having an “off” night, and if so, does it seem likely they will repair themselves for future performances, or is this probably as good as they get? All of that makes live theater trickier to review.

There’s also the fact that when you are reviewing theater, it is generally in the city where you live, and so there is the likelihood of meeting the actors and directors personally. Movie critics are generally much more distanced from their subjects, which helps them to be impartial. It’s very hard to be completely honest, either in positive or negative terms, when you have had personal communication with the participants.

As for which medium I personally prefer, it’s hard to say. I would choose movies, but only for logistical reasons: Movie theater seats are about 10 times more comfortable than most playhouse seats, and usually with more legroom. If you’re going to be seeing a lot of something, the physical comfort of the experience is not an irrelevant factor.

But the experiences tend to be very different. Live theater can have an energy that film can’t. On the other hand, movies can provide a sense of visual wonder that a play could only hint at. Maybe this tells you something: The times that I have seen a play and then seen a movie based on it, I have almost always thought the play was better.

Speaking of plays and movies, here is an e-mail from a reader named Chris. He writes:

ive been reading other reviews of “the producers” and they have all given it terrible ratings! And in my view it is one of the best films i have ever seen and it is probably the best film on offer at the moment! i was shocked at other critics views of the film and your the only one to appreciate the brilliant twisted humor of mel brooks bravo! other critics dared to call the timing and directing bad! i could of screamed! This film did not only dazel me but inspire me to see it and others on stage, if it can do it for me and other teenagers then that is surely worth a round of applause for just that! If you could see to the other critics getting some sort of verbal attack for there remarks this would also be greatly apprectaited!…..maybe not even verbal!!!!

Well, I’m probably not going to beat up any of my colleagues, but I’m glad you liked my review and the film. Stay in school and pay more attention in English class.

Finally, a reader named Alisha noticed the opening paragraph to a recent “Snide Remarks” column, which went like this: “I am a big fan of planning things. Telling TiVo to record a show as soon as it appears on the schedule, mapping out which films I’ll see at Sundance, making an appointment with my gynecologist as soon as the six-month reminder card arrives — this is like crack for me, my friends. Hot, buttered crack!”

Alisha makes this observation:

I saw the opening blurb for the most recent Snide Remarks, “French Kiss Off.” I liked the joke about a six-month exam reminder card from the gynecologist. I especially appreciated the unintentional humor, as gynecological exams are annual.

Ha! Maybe for you they are. But I like to get mine every six months, whether I need it or not.

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