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TraversWatch - It's Crunch Time, Studios. Don't Be, Like, Crazy

by Erik Childress

Criticwatch and its subsidiary, TraversWatch, have taken a brief respite from the watching as of late. September was a surprisingly solid month for films, there were festivals to cover and things didn't get too out of hand that made us have to inform you of the inconsistencies, idiocy and flat-out laughable quotes being used by bargain basement reviewers. Not that there were not a few. The upswing in the use of one Joel Amos who has transferred from a SheKnows correspondent to something called MovieFanatic, is disturbing to a degree that is certainly going to be addressed very soon. But as the title of this week's piece indicates, it is time to nut up AND shut up. Studios for the nutting and Peter Travers for the shutting. A few months back we made a proposal to all the studios to not allow the Rolling Stone hyperbole machine to reach 50 quotes for 2011. It was the beginning of the phasing out of a phrase monster that too many folks still believe is a respected critic. Now it is time to complete stage one.

Through the first ten months of the year, Travers has been spotted on 45 films ads. More than enough to lead all whores, including Pete Hammond who stands at 37 through the same period. (He is quoted this week as saying "These boots are made for rocking" in reference to Puss In Boots.) But that is still a relatively low number for him. Just last year he was already at 63 quotes coming into November. In 2007 & 2009 the number was 59. His 2011 numbers are the lowest since 2004 when Criticwatch had him clocked at 44 pre-November. By our proposal, that gives studios just four more quotes they can use Travers on for the final two months. Though Rolling Stone is credited on the Martha Marcy May Marlene ads saying that "Elizabeth Olsen gives an electrifying, star-is-born performance," Travers name is not mentioned. Nor does that sentence pop up anywhere in his written review. Though the number has already decreased this weekend when we have Travers on record saying about the film, Like Crazy:

"Crazily inventive and totally irresistible."

Now, did he come up with the first part of that line because the movie is, like, "crazy?" Not exactly sure how "inventive" the film is when the last few years at Sundance have produced such relationship dramas as (500) Days of Summer, Peter & Vandy and Blue Valentine. And, yes, Travers attends Sundance. Actually, a look through the Travers archives and one might think he just says the same shit over and over again.

"The summer's best, most original and crazily inventive comedy." (Cyrus)

OK, so Travers only used that phrase only once. But we couldn't resist looking further.

"Irresistible." (The Family Stone)
"Irresistible fun! (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban)
"Hilarious and heartfelt. Irresistible. The Kids Are All Right makes its own special magic. The actors are to die for. Annette Bening and Julianne Moore nail every nuance. Mark Ruffalo is dynamite." (The Kids Are All Right)
"An irresistible blend of humor and heartbreak." (Cemetery Junction)
"Sally Hawkins is irresistible in this funny, touching and vital salute to women." (Made In Dagenham)
"Utterly irresistible...Garcia is comic gold!" (City Island)
"You're in for a treat. Director James L. Brooks doesn't just write comedy. He crafts it. Sandler is wonderfully appealing...Spanglish is irresistible." (Spanglish)
"The fall movie season achieves comic liftoff with Ghost Town!" Ricky Gervais is a master of deadpan hilarity. A comic hero. Tea Leoni is irresistible." (Ghost Town)
"A burst of pure filmmaking exhilaration and an irresistible invitation for fun! What more could you ask of a summer movie?" (Star Trek)
"What do you say about a movie that launches a charm assault that is damn near irresistible? I say see it!" (Me and Orson Welles)
"A mean, lean laugh machine. The big game is irresistibly entertaining." (The Longest Yard)

For the record that's the Adam Sandler Longest Yard he is referring to with a shout-out pun to the "mean machine." See if you can spot the connections with these quotes?

"Hits you like a full-tilt adrenaline rush." (Limitless)
"I'm buying into Morgan Spurlock!" (The Greatest Movie Ever Sold)
"Rutger Hauer is killer-good." (Hobo with a Shotgun)
"This is the real Fast and Furious. A tire-burning blast of action and fun with a beating heart under its hood. You can bet Cars 2 will rev your engines." (Cars 2)
"You can get buzzed just from the fumes coming off this wild thing." (Drive)

That Cars 2 quote was less than two months after Travers was praising the hell out of Fast Five. You know what else is, like, crazy?

"This movie wins you over, head and heart." (Win Win)
"A fireworks display of action, smarts and fun, plus a touch of class from actors who can really act. Irresistible." (X-Men: First Class)
"Just sit back and behold. The movie rises and, at times, even soars." (Rise of the Planet of the Apes)

Yeah, crazy. Not crazily inventive. Guy can't even get past the film's title to come up with a line for the marketing. Studios, we know that hyperbole can be good for the poster. Especially for bad movies. But what purpose does some hack reviewer spitting out puns on your titles do to sell your product? Is it a subliminal thing. Is there research that shows that by saying "These boots are made for rocking" that someone will go "oh yeah, I need to take my kid to see that Nancy Sinatra film about the cat with the Spanish accent?" These quotes are dumb. They are dumb when someone thought them, dumb when someone wrote them down, and triply dumb when someone decided to use them as a positive influence on a movie. Those are all Peter Travers quotes from 2011. Here are some more recent ones to go along with Like Crazy.

"Brad Pitt nails every nuance." (Moneyball)
"Sarandon nails every nuance." (The Greatest)
"Annette Bening and Julianne Moore nail every nuance." (The Kids Are All Right)

"Achingly hilarious and heartfelt." (50/50)
"Hilarious and heartfelt!" (The Wackness)
"Hilarious and heartfelt. Irresistible." (The Kids Are All Right)
"Hilarious! Heartfelt and achingly true." (Then She Found Me)
"A hilarious and heartfelt wonder!" (Ratatouille)
"It's a sublimely acted movie, hilarious and heartfelt, and it stays with you." (Jack Goes Boating)
"Heartfelt and hilarious! It’s more than a movie, it’s a gift." (Happy-Go-Lucky)
"A gem, hilarious and heartfelt…" (The Dukes)
"A sweetheart of a comedy with a hilarious and heartfelt performance by Keri Russell." (Waitress)
"Hilarious and heartfelt...a winner." (Garden State)
"Hilarious and heartfelt. What makes Prime a winner is the way writer-director Ben Younger blends raucous laughs with touching gravity." (Prime)
"Hilarious and heartfelt. Man up and see Bridesmaids." (Bridesmaids)

Now it is your turn to man up, studios. We're not sure what power Travers holds over you in making sure he is one of the first people to see your films. Other than the fact that the cart is leading the horse and he is guaranteed to slip in something just perfect for your ads in his reviews. Granted, of course, he likes your films. We suppose that general moviegoers still look positively at Travers because he tends to agree (mostly) with whatever the consensus is on a film. In his last 50 reviews posted at Rotten Tomatoes (dating back to the final Harry Potter film), only 11 times has Travers strayed from that consensus. (Five of those times he liked the film getting the "rotten" rating and three other times he was negative on a film just barely in the "fresh" at 60-61%.) Travers "taste" has rarely been Criticwatch's issue with him the way it has been with Shawn Edwards, Mark S. Allen, Joel Amos and countless others. It's the manner with which he guarantees placement of himself on your ads. Shameless. He is a TRUE quote whore; the very definition of the term.

And now it is awards season. Travers flocks to this crop like a zombie to fresh meat or Republicans towards a senseless metaphor. He is going to be hungry to get his name out there and it is going to be tempting to use his stale bullshit. But as so many horror film titles have told us - DON'T! Paramount, use the positivity coming from the roadshow screenings of Young Adult and find good reviews elsewhere. Fox Searchlight and Sony Classics, do you know how many critics really like or love your movies? Start with those 100 and if they don't like The Descendants or A Dangerous Method, there are still another 100 to go through before considering Peter Travers. Mr. Harvey Weinstein - The Artist and My Week With Marilyn are wonderful, award-worthy films. Don't spoil it by letting Peter Travers be the one to spread the word. That goes for every studio out there. Remember, real critics want their words to tell people how great your movie is - not use them as a prologue to their own name.

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originally posted: 10/29/11 03:25:43
last updated: 10/29/11 03:28:26
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