Thursday, April 12, 2012

How I Lost My Respect for Rex Reed

Posted By on Thu, Apr 12, 2012 at 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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