By Steve Biodrowski
Have you ever wondered about those quotes you see in movie ads – you know, the ones from critics singing praises of glory as if the film were a major event in cinema history? Well, there is reason to wonder, as you will see if you turn to the capsule reviews page this issue and examine Dan Cziraky’s commentary on BARB WIRE. You will notice that it doesn’t conform to the quote that appeared in Gramercy Pictures’ newspaper and television ads, attributed to a writer at Cinefantastique.
What’s the story? Did Gramercy just make up the quote. No, the quote is legitimate; the writer in question did say it. However, there’s the rub: he said it; he did not write it in any review published in this magazine. Rather, these days, a distribution company seeking copy for its ads will screen a film for journalists with the understanding that they are looking for favorable comments. After the screening, the company will call the journalists, who – if they are so inclined – can provide a quote over the phone.
There is noting wrong with this. We all have opinions, and if we enjoy a film, it is only natural that we want our opinions to influence others to enjoy the film as well. What’s misleading is that, because most film reviewers (outside of Siskel and Ebert) are not very famous in their own right, the ad inevitably includes not only the name of the speaker but also the name of the publication where he or she works. The implication is that the quote has been pulled from a complete review printed in that publication. Thus, in a case like this, you have CFQ endorsing BARB WIRE – when in actual fact, its published review is rather critical of the film. This is a bit misleading – though not, strictly speaking, dishonest. It is just another clever way Hollywood has of tilting the odds in its favor. After all, if the writer assigned to review a film doesn’t like it, there’s bound to be another writer at the publication who honestly does. As always, let the buyer beware.