The big story of the past week was the passing of Roger Ebert; he had fought cancer pretty valiantly but in the end it took him. And of course we got all the tributes and whatnot from people, many of whom probably hadn’t read him in years, because Ebert meant a lot to people in various phases of life. But the thing that stood out most to me was one sentiment, outside of hacky jokes about it being “jaw-dropping,” is that this marks the end of an era.
With the death of the newspaper coming around the corner, as the traditional print media is struggling to maintain its financial relevance, we’ll never have anyone like Ebert again because the nature of criticism in any aspect is essentially being crowd-sourced.
There’s a reason why people rely more on Rotten Tomato scores and general opinion before seeing a film, or justifying their love of it, more than any single person’s viewpoint about a film. Ebert had long since stopped being a cinematic tastemaker, if those have ever really existed, because the power of the mob has become that much more popular with the advent of social media. The power of the mob has dictated the way we view events, for better or worse, and how we view film has changed.
It’s why most studios don’t care about film critics anymore … not like they used to in the first place. Or ever did, really. There’s a reason why Ebert tried to sell early thoughts on films before the viewing public could read them, et al, and tried to find a way to reinvent how he did business as a film critic using social media before he died. Ebert would never have left the Sun-Times … but one imagines they won’t be having a massive hiring spree to replace him, either.
That’s the thing of it all. We’re never going to see another guy like Ebert because that era is over. Film will always matter, as will opinions on it, but the era of important film critic is over. It began with the downfall of traditional media, accelerated with the advent of social media and finalized with the downfall of the most important film guru of them all.
A Movie A Week – The Challenge
This Week’s DVD – The Marine
The WWE had a fairly novel idea in 2002: instead of waiting for Hollywood to come and pluck someone from their roster for movie stardom because of their popularity with wrestling fans why don’t they just make their own? By bringing in Hollywood types to work on their projects, instead of waiting for a studio to go out on a limb and ask for someone on their roster they could make and market their own films, to try and eliminate the middleman. Plus you have Hollywood accounting in play so one imagines Vince could learn something on that end, too.
You figure once they realized that Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson was leaving to become a much bigger star than he could ever be in the WWE that they wanted some control over the process in future considerations. Plus if a wrestler decides they want to be a film star they can get their teeth wet while still remaining on friendly terms with Vince McMahon and the gang.
It’s a pretty interesting concept that hasn’t made for any film that wasn’t outright awful. But it’s made for a glowing direct to video market for their films, which regularly make more on DVD than they do in theatres, And the first one made by the WWE starred John Cena as The Marine.
It’s a simple premise. John Cena is the world’s most awesome Marine, expelled from the USMC for being too awesome in a combat zone, and now is at home working a crappy security job. He’s married to Kimber from Nip/Tuck (Kelly Carlson), too, so his life can’t be all that bad. But a generic evil-doer (Robert Patrick) doesn’t and decides to mess things up. He kidnaps Mrs. Marine and unleashes all sorts of hell onto himself and his goons.
It’s not all that shocking that Cena would star in a bad film, considering it was commissioned by the WWE and whatnot, but it’s just rancid by any standard or measure. The Marine is the sort of film that is made by someone who hears the term “action film” but thinks the pinnacle of the genre lies somewhere between Steven Seagal’s greatest DTV hits.
Avoid at all costs.
What Looks Good This Weekend, and I Don’t Mean the $2 Pints of Bass Ale and community college co-eds with low standards at the Alumni Club
42 – Jackie Robinsin’s story is told. Harrison Ford stars as Branch Rickey.
Skip It – I’d have rather seen a documentary than a fictional film on the subject of Jackie Robinson; Sports films are moving that way in terms of quality anyways. Compare the last 30 sports films of note to ESPN’s 30 for 30 and you’ll know exactly what I mean.
Scary Movie 5 – Apparently they’re making fun of movies again? I don’t know. So far the hook has been Charlie Sheen and Lindsay Lohan in bed … which would be something I’d want to watch if it were a sex tape but not as a sloppy intro to a crappy movie.
Skip It – The whole franchise has gone from being a spoof of horror films into just a generic spoof of films that were popular 2-3 years ago. If this is your kind of film then you should be fired from being able to discuss film in any capacity.
Scott “Kubryk” Sawitz brings his trademarked irreverence and offensive hilarity to Twitter in 140 characters or less. Follow him @ScottSawitz .