How I Lost My Respect for Rex Reed

04/12/2012 1:30 PM |

Rex Reed testifying before the House Committee on Whippersnappers
  • Rex Reed testifying before the House Committee on Whippersnappers

Unless I’m misremembering, I’m pretty sure I was at the same Cabin in the Woods screening as Rex Reed. I know this because I recognize Rex Reed when I see him at screenings—he’s a famous writer who’s been at it long enough to have been anthologized in Tom Wolfe’s New Journalism collection, which I held dear as a journalism student. I respect Rex Reed for his accomplishments, his stature, his experience.

I respect Rex Reed a lot less after reading his review of the movie we saw together.

The man just had a “Bosley Crowther Moment,” after the Times critic who, as the old story goes, got canned after he panned Bonnie and Clyde, proving himself so out-of-touch with the then-contemporary cinema. Sure, Cabin in the Woods is unlikely to join the pantheon of American classics. But Reed’s dismissal of it amounts to smug, confused ramblings.

He can’t even get the basics of the plot down; his review is literally about 50 percent inaccurate—factually, objectively wrong. “Vampires circle the moon and suck the hot stud’s blood,” he writes, describing a dream he had while nodding off during the movie, which features no vampires circling the moon. “What they fail to notice is the hidden cameras,” he writes about the characters who notice the hidden cameras. “It’s all part of an elaborate video game that allows paying customers to watch real people slaughtered according to the horror of choice. The five kids in the cabin are innocent pawns to test the mechanics of the game,” he writes of a movie without an elaborate video game, paying customers, or pawns testing anything’s mechanics.

Reed goes on to accuse anyone who engaged with the film he couldn’t follow of being idiot kids: “electronics nerds and skateboarders addicted to Xbox 360 video games whose knowledge of the arts begins and ends with MTV2.” (This is an ad hominem attack, in which Reed rejects his opponent’s argument by insulting his character—except in this case, he attacks the imagined tastes of an imagined villain. That’s a straw man argument; that’s two logical fallacies in a single sentence!) Then he moves on to his colleagues, the tittering young critics watching the movie with him: “I doubt if these people even know who Sigourney Weaver is.” (“These people”? Whom does he mean, Koreans?)

That’s me, I guess, one of the “fanboys.” If he didn’t mean me specifically, he might as well have: Cabin in the Woods made me laugh at its good-natured ribbing of horror convention, and at the unabashed and relentless bloodletting of its climax. It’s ok if he didn’t think it was funny, but it doesn’t make everyone else an idiot. I think the movie’s a smart dissection of the genre, exploring horror’s assumptions and cliches and emerging as both love letter and critique. Reed and I could disagree about the movie’s merits, but he doesn’t really want to talk about the movie. I respect critics who criticize art, not those who criticize audiences. Enough with the bitchy shtick; there are a hell of a lot of smart and talented other people writing about film in New York. The Observer ought to consider employing one.

Follow Henry Stewart on Twitter @henrycstewart

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18 Comment

  • Like you, right?

  • hidden cam footage of Rex and Henry at the screening: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T1_zadUaiIo

  • Wow! Thus reads as being quite bitter.
    Rex has a reputation to uphold.

    Don’t infuse any racial scandal. He obviously didn’t mean Koreans.

  • I agree with Mr. Stewart here. Rex Reed’s ‘review’ was mostly baseless, and extremely condescending. I am a college nerd who plays Xbox 360, but I do not watch MTV or any such variant, and I greatly appreciated the Sigourney Weaver cameo. And Rex really shouldn’t have posted detailed commentary that clearly spoils the movie. I feel bad for the person who reads his review first and misses out on a pretty fantastic experience. He should have waited until chatter generated to post so many spoilers. The movie was fantastic.

  • Thank you. When I read Reed’s review I thought I was going to start bleeding from my ears. He has a long and distinguished career, and he is by no means the kind of reviewer you’d normally want to slap repeatedly while screaming “SUBTEXT!” but his failure to explain the premise (even with a lot of spoilers) sure makes it seem like it went over his head. It’s a geeky premise to be sure; one that is meant to be understood by geeks and to please them, and he’s welcome to disdain the audience (me) if that’s how he feels about geeks. But whether he likes it or not, you’d think he could at least identify and acknowledge the critical aspects of the “spoofing.” Not to mention getting the plot correct. Oy.

  • I lost total respect for Rex Reed decades ago. DECADES ago, but it was three reviews that cemented it down.

    I note that it was nothing as petty as him hating a movie I liked. Ebert does that all the time and I consider him a national treasure. These reviews showed an innate misunderstanding of his job so total that no redemption was possible. This was BEYOND his habitual condescension toward anything with any fantasy element, a sin that he shares with many.

    One: his review of BARFLY. He snotted, “People go to the movies for glamour…they don’t go to see alcoholic degenerates like the people in this film. NOBODY could care about the people in this film.” There goes any film that isn’t about pretty people. And, by the way: yes, people do go to dramas, they do go to films with sleazy subject matter, and a lot of people do care about the people in that movie, asshole.

    Two: he reviewed David Lynch’s DUNE, a movie that did separate viewers into two camps, those who loved it and those who hated it. A mere bad review would not have counted against him, but he snotted, “I’ve never read the sixties sci-fi movie this is based on, but after seeing the movie, I wouldn’t read it on a bet! Ha, ha, ha!” The man had been a reviewer for decades and had somehow never encountered the premise, even the premise, of a movie that didn’t live up to the book it was based on. He further called it “A whacked out drug manual from the 1960s.” Way to dismiss a cultural phenomenon you just bragged you knew nothing about.

    Third: he reviewed THE NAME OF THE ROSE, the film based on the Umberto Eco novel about murders at a medieval abbey. He complained that everything was so dirty, again that people don’t go to movies to see dirt, further that the plot was too complicated for anybody to ever possibly understand, and finally — this being the nail in the coffin — that “audiences” would never accept the motive for the murders, a point of philosophy involving the subject matter of a book. NOBODY, he said, could possibly buy that. It was too subtle for any movie audience to possibly get.

    Three and you’re out. — Adam-Troy Castro

  • I mainly remember Rex Reed as being one of the judges on “The Gong Show” in 1976.
    I suppose it must be difficult to have been a washed-up has-been 36 years ago and to have been forgotten and slipped deeper into a well deserved obscurity for half a lifetime. I guess that is where the rage and the mindless tantrums come from.

  • Oh, come on. You must be too young to know that Rex Reed has been an insipid journalist from the beginning. For years people really responded to his bitchiness and baseless sense of superiority, though I imagine more people are laughing at him than with him. He was sort of a poor man’s Truman Capote, but without the wit, brains or talent.He’s been a bad joke for years. I haven’t read the Observer in a while. I suppose Andrew Sarris has retired. That’s too bad

  • Almost everytime I’m on metacritic Rex Reed is the only critic that dislikes a good move for example he hated Inception, Black Swan, The Tree of Life, and most recently Moonrise kingdom. He’s also the only one who like shit movies like seeking justice, he was only positive review of that movie, and it’s a terrible movie. I agree with the article modern cinema seems to completely go over his head, he needs to retire.

  • This is a guy who wrote possibly the most mental review of Synecdoche, New York based on the part of the movie he didn’t walk out on, owning up to a existing hatred for Charlie Kaufman. Reed is an old, cranky man who has been complaining about the smell of shit so long it’s unlikely he’s going to start checking his pants now.

  • Bravo. All I have to say is that Rex Reed trashed Harold and Maude when it came out… and that was in 1971. He has obviously been out of touch with every generation and his review for Cabin in the Woods betrays his bitterness and hatred for the most recent one. MTV2 and XBox 360 are both admittedly kind of lame, but what in the hell do they have to do with this movie? Ultimately, I think Reed is just phoning it in these days and trying to live up to his “reputation.” He definitely should retire. I wanna see a deathmatch between Rex Reed and Roger Ebert, in which Ebert wins with a series of ruthless elbows and a brutal pen stab that pierces Reed’s aorta… BOO yeah!

  • So wait, you were already familiar with Rex Reed’s Oldboy review where he insulted an entire nation just because he didn’t like the movie, and you just now lost respect for him due to his Cabin in the Woods review?

  • Henry…….you’ve got sand between your legs………

  • I think Rex Reed is great. He sees through most of the pretentious crap that most of you people seem to adore.

  • Rex Reed Sucks! Period.

  • Reed has done a great disservice to journalism. He has destroyed his credibility. When someone who represents himself as a movie critic can’t write a review without resorting to personal attacks, he is not suited for the job. His “hissy fits” fall short of the expectations of movie goers. If he is going to represent himself as a movie critic, he should meet at least the minimum expectations.

  • Similar to the basic point of the article here, criticizing the audience rather than the film, in 1982 Rex Reed wrote of his choice not to either see or write a review of “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan,” while in the same paragraph stating that “Star Trek” fans wouldn’t be able to read it anyway. A ridiculous comment since Trek fans have from the beginning been a demographic of the most enlightened and well-read members of the viewing public. In a later column he somewhat apologized stating “hell hath no fury like a Trekkie scorned.” He eventually did review “Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home” and gave it three stars for its comedic focus when he was on “At the Movies,” and added that he wondered how the Trekkies felt about it not taking the series seriously, again not realizing that humor has always been one of the strongest aspects of “Star Trek,” as evidenced by the original series episodes “The Trouble With Tribbles,” “I, Mudd” and “A Piece of the Action.” Only Reed can say if he eventually did see “Wrath of Khan” or whether he acknowledges what a magnificent adventure it is, and Reed’s listed reviews for the New York Observer have not included the two J.J. Abrams reboot entries so far released.