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This film sucks! User reviews that really wind me up
A personal rant by Gort | 17 December 2012

I know I've got a bit of a cheek having a go at the reviews of others when I'm a reviewer myself, one whose output many doubtless regard as tawdry, self-satisfied and ill-informed. They may well be right. I'm sometimes half drunk when I submit my reviews and frequently have to revisit them the following day to sort out the flurry of spelling and grammatical glitches. It's like the pot calling the kettle black, as my mum used to say. Except my pots are grey and my kettle is white.

Nowadays, of course, anyone can be a reviewer, and that's both a good and not so good thing. Anyone can blog, and anyone can post a user review on sites like IMDb, Amazon and Play.

Maybe, just maybe, not everyone should.

Before I go off on one, I'll state up front that I regard such reviews as an invaluable resource and that the best of them are just superb. Many of the IMDb user reviews are of publishable quality, and the technical breakdown of disc contents and quality on some Amazon reviews are better that those found on media specific sites, this one included. You can also find a wide breadth of opinion in one place, which saves you some legwork (well, finger work, really) when researching a film or a newly released disc. But there are certain types of review that really get on my tits and that I can no longer get past the first few words of.

Not all of the categories here are down to the reviewer in question, but most of them are, and a few are so inarticulate or ill-considered that if verbally delivered they would send even tolerant listeners scurrying to the bar. It's a very personal collection that many will disagree with and I'm happy for you to do so. Feel free to draw up your own list and include "Opinionated idiots like Gort at Cine Outsider" on it. And yes, this is an opinionated piece, and as we all remember from school, opinions are like arseholes – everybody's got one. But from conversations I've had with others, I've a suspicion that some of these might just ring a few bells. And so, in no particular order...


"This film sucks!" / "This film is awesome!"

I forget which American writer it was who, a couple of years back, bemoaned the dumbing down of our native tongue by suggesting that in just a few years the entire splendour of the English language would be reduced to the words "awesome" and "sucks", but I'd say he was onto something. It's come to the point where these two words are the only ones a sizeable portion of American – and increasingly British – youth have of expressing their opinion. If they don't like something it sucks, if they do then it's awesome, and there's nothing in between. And if they say "awesome" out loud, it's almost always pronounced as if they're experiencing a powerful and pleasurable bowel movement while doing so.

This polar viewpoint, I should point out, is in no way specific to the youth of today – I was exactly the same in my younger days. It's how we are at that age. There's simply no cred in sitting on the fence on anything when you're young. But the "sucks" and "awesome" thing has been going on for so long now that the fear of that writer-whose-name-I-can't-recall looks in real danger of being realised, and like many on this list is the result of dumb-ass copycat behaviour. Sorry, but if you use either of those words on a regular basis, and especially if you're willing to commit them to print, then you need to save up and buy yourself an imagination. Until then you just don't deserve to be read. Please, please expand your vocabulary, and then we can talk. And yeah, I know, my opinion sucks...


"The worst film I've ever seen!"

No it isn't, and you know it. Next week there'll be a different one, and another the week after that, and so on. As with the above, this is the product of unimaginative souls who are only able to express opinions in binary oppositional terms. It's probably a coincidence that a fair number of such reviews are grammatically sloppy and represent the first person singular as a lower case "i". We leads nicely to...


"i c lotts of flims nd this 1 is awful dont waist yr time on this crapp"

Okay, plummeting literary standards are not exactly big news any more, and we're very aware that a fair few struggle with things like spelling, grammar, punctuation and even basic sentence structure. But the illiteracy of some of the user reviews on IMDb makes it seems likely they were written either by mouthy six-year-olds – who've not seen enough films to pass critical comment anyway – or tossed off in a few seconds by a fingerless idiot mashing the keyboard of the smallest Blackberry. I'd have a lot more sympathy for these reviews – dyslexia, after all, is a genuine and debilitating problem – if their content were not every bit as moronic as their presentation, suggesting that the problem here is not illiteracy but rank stupidity.


"The film is terrible and the direction and acting are awful"

The majority of critics, both professional and amateur, appear to labour under the delusion that their opinions are somehow statements of fact. They're not. They never are. An opinion is just that and should carry no more weight. But we humans are, on the whole, enormously insecure creatures, and with no scientific way of measuring a film's quality, all we have to judge any film with is personal opinion, and people tend to value their own opinion highly. Thus if you disagree with my expressed view of a film then it's not because your film taste differs from mine, but because you are wrong. And technically you can only really be wrong if the opinion you disagree with is presented as fact.

This does, of course, touch on what film criticism is all about, shaping your opinion into coherent and persuasive articles so that others can make a judgement about whether this is the sort of film that might also appeal to them before handing over their cash. But to claim that you somehow know more than the filmmakers about how they should tell their chosen story and to proclaim him or her wrong because they do not to pander to your suspect taste is the height of arrogance.

Which leads us nicely to...


Everyone else is pretending to like it

When you're that insecure and precious about your taste and you dislike a (usually non-mainstream) film that critics are raving about, then there's clearly only one explanation: that the movie's actually shit and those who claim to love it are all shallow posers who are feigning admiration in a pathetic attempt to look trendy. After all, if I didn't like it, then it can't be any good, can it. My taste, after all, is the only true barometer of what constitutes quality. Why are you laughing?


ANY REVIEW WRITTEN ENTIRELY IN CAPITALS

If you have to shout, there's a jolly good chance that what you're saying is simply not worth reading.


"Avoid this film!"

Don't you tell me what you to do you bossy, self-important tosser. I'll watch what I fucking well choose. I'm certainly not going to avoid watching a film just because you don't like it. You're clearly an idiot, so why should I take any notice of a word you say? This extreme response has been brought to you by someone who detests being told what to do by others, and particularly by someone who wouldn't know a good film if it swam up and bit them in the arse.


"Pretentious rubbish!"

Usually written by those who dislike anything not made in America and in the English language, and who don't actually know what the word "pretentious" means.


"Two hours of my life I will never get back"

Good. You don't deserve them. If I see this bollock awful attempt to sound clever one more time, I swear I'm going to find the address of the author and force a live and angry porcupine into their rectum. This probably seemed funny once, and I do mean only once, but has since been copied by just about every witless twerp looking to shit on a movie they were probably too dumb to understand in the first place, presumably under the delusion that it makes them sound terribly droll. And even if it were possible to return these two hours, there would be little point in doing so, as the complainers in question clearly lack the imagination to do anything useful with them. Get your own phrase, for fuck's sake.

Regular gamers will be all too familiar with this endless recycling of unfunny phrases, thanks to an oft-repeated line in the hugely popular Skyrim, which saw legions of witless teenagers misusing the phrase "but I took an arrow in the knee". If you want an idea of just how widely this spread, take a look at how quickly it comes up as an auto-suggestion on Google if you start typing that phrase (at the height of its popularity, you only had to type "ar" for the whole phrase to appear). Eventually the craze prompted this extreme but hilarious response: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mSDfxde8fSg (sorry about the ad).


Amazon reviews that aren't for the disc in question

I told you there was one that isn't down to the reviewer. There's nothing more frustrating when checking out reviews for a DVD or Blu-ray on Amazon and realising after a dozen or so that the comments are not about this particular release. Thus the Blu-ray version of Guillermo del Toro's fab Cronos gets slated for its picture quality because the reviews in question are actually for a six year-old DVD release. This is not a case of the reviewer being dopey, but Amazon's obsession with filling up space, even if the reviews are for a different product. And to have a useful technical review tagged to the wrong release insults the reviewer and benefits no-one.

In the spirit of which...


Reviews posted for a product that's not yet been released

So The Maltese Falcon is finally coming out on UK Blu-ray. We know it's a great movie, and if you nip over to IMDb you'll find a couple of hundred user reviews spelling out why. But what Amazon is selling is a new Blu-ray edition of the film, and if I'm willing to cough up the dosh for the disc then I've probably already made up my mind about the movie and just want to know how the HD transfer measures up. Yet even though the disc is not out until late January, at the time of writing there are 71 user reviews of this new Blu-ray. How can that be? Well, they're all either reviews of the film itself or of previous DVD editions. Great. And they'll doubtless stay there when the Blu-ray comes out, meaning you have to wade through a sea of reviews not specific to this release to find the few that are.

Of course, if it's the first time a film has been released on home video, getting in there well ahead of the release date allows the "don't watch this film" crowd to ensure that their complaints are publicly viewed before they're buried by the more considered reviews. Which is just what happened with the self styled "James the King" (no ego at work here) and his pre-release lambast on Amazon of Pasolini's masterpiece The Gospel According to Matthew. Unsurprisingly, perhaps, his tirade ends with the order for us to avoid the film. Three times. Up yours, god boy.