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Criticwatch - A Peter Travers 2011 Retrospective

by Erik Childress

Whore week continues as Criticwatch leads to giving out its annual Quote Whore of the Year Award. But what is an award in name if you are unfamiliar with whom it is named after. Peter Travers has been getting by on name recognition for years and making sure his prose is hyperbolized just enough to ensure that he can work his name and the name of his publication, Rolling Stone, into the conversation - sometimes weeks before a movie is released. He is frequently defended and ignorantly praised in circles for steering moviegoers towards the right movies. Congratulations! So he usually knows the difference between a good movie and a bad one and dishes out more frequent negativity than Pete Hammond. Average and mediocre movies usually get the benefit of the doubt from him. Regardless, fresh or rotten tomatoes are not the issue with Travers and we made a plea with studios in 2011 to tone down his use. We're here to look back on that year and make our most aggressive push yet.

The plea turned out to not be a total bust. Despite a quote-leading total of 61 this year, it was still 20 less quotes than he had in his personal best year of 2010 - AND - it was his lowest total since the equal 61 in 2004. Surprisingly enough, it is once again smaller studios like Sony Classics, Summit and Focus that seem beholden to use Travers.

Ladies and Gentlemen in charge of marketing over there - his name means nothing. It does not help you. You can find so many more reputable film critics to praise independent cinema. They are practically falling over one another to do it. You do not need to use Peter Travers.

Actually, the only major studio to use Travers more than three times was Paramount. 7 films they used him on, just one behind Sony Classics with 8. Paramount led all studios in Travers speak in 2010 (9 times), so hopefully someone over there is paying attention. Thor, Super 8, Like Crazy, Hugo, Young Adult, Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol and The Adventures of Tintin all had over 70% approval. Hugo and MI-4 are two of the six best reviewed wide releases of the year. Why do you need to use Peter Travers again? Can we try to convince you? Come with us now as we begin to traverse, if you will, his quotes in 2011.

"It's just about perfect." (Win Win)
"Owen Wilson is pitch perfect. Marion Cotillard is superb." (Midnight In Paris)
"Robin Wright is superb..." (The Conspirator)
"Branagh is superb." (My Week With Marilyn)
"Michael Fassbender is superb." (Jane Eyre)

"A knockout!" (Hanna)
"Jonah Hill scores a no-joke knockout." (Moneyball)
"It's a comic knockout. Sharply funny and touching...A dream cast!" (Crazy Stupid Love)
"Comic gold powered by a dream cast." (Cedar Rapids)
"A dream cast. Devilishly clever, mind-bending thriller!" (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy)
"A mesmerizing mind-bender." (Unknown)
"An erotic mindbender!" (A Dangerous Method)
"A slam-bang twister of a legal thriller." (The Lincoln Lawyer)
"A pulse-racing thriller. A big, bruising thriller. (The Ides of March)
"But fair warning: The laughs in Young Adult leave bruises." (Young Adult)

"A ride that starts at wild and accelerates from there." (Source Code)
"You can get buzzed just from the fumes coming off this wild thing." (Drive)
"A tire-burning blast of action and fun with a beating heart under its hood." (Cars 2)
"I'm buying into Morgan Spurlock!" (The Greatest Movie Ever Sold)
"...a touch of class from actors who can really act." (X-Men: First Class)
"Crazily inventive and totally irresistible." (Like Crazy)
"This movie wins you over, head and heart." (Win Win)
"The movie rises and, at times, even soars. Just sit back and behold." (Rise of the Planet of the Apes)
"Sit back and behold Michelle is luminous." (My Week With Marilyn)
"Wonderful! Adepero Oduye is luminous" (Pariah)

"Brooks' performance deserves to have Oscar calling." (Drive)
"Harrelson gives a white-hot performance that demands Oscar attention." (Rampart)
"Close's range, energy, originality, humor and intelligence merit serious Oscar attention." (Albert Nobbs)
" (Christopher Plummer) has yet to win an Oscar. Here's a great excuse for the Academy to get cracking." (Beginners)
"Vera Farmiga proves as fearless a director as she is an actress. She lights up Higher Ground." (Higher Ground)
"Martin Scorsese is breaking new ground. 3-D becomes an art in his hands." (Hugo)
"Jason Reitman directs this tricky material with blade-sharp dexterity." (Young Adult)
"Leave it to David Cronenberg to make the cerebral sizzle!" (A Dangerous Method)
"In Super 8, J.J. Abrams makes us care." (Super 8)
"Ralph Fiennes, as star and commander, pulls off a triumph!" (Coriolanus)
"A triumphant conclusion to a decade of Pottermania." (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2)
"It's the Pixar touch that makes Cars 2 a winner." (Cars 2)
"A winner!" (We Bought a Zoo)

"Man up and see Bridesmaids." (Bridesmaids)
"Who in hell wants to see a Mel Gibson movie? The answer is: you do." (The Beaver)
"What's not to like? Hobo lives up to its lurid title." (Hobo with a Shotgun)
"Go mutants! You just made this summer movie the badass place to be." (X-Men: First Class)

"One of the best movies of the year!" (Coriolanus)
"Easily one of the year's best pictures!" (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy)
"The best, most spectacular Mission yet." (Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol)
"Cars 2 is even better than before. This is the real Fast and Furious." (Cars 2)
"Dynamite stuff." (Moneyball)
"Epic fireworks." (Thor)
"A fireworks display of action, smarts and fun" (X-Men: First Class)
"Charlize Theron is a comic force of nature. Theron sets off fireworks" (Young Adult)
"Then there's Janet McTeer, who is pure pow!" (Albert Nobbs)
"Brad Pitt gives a performance of indelible explosive power." (The Tree of Life)
"James McAvoy's performance is powerfully implosive." (The Conspirator)
"A never-better Christopher Plummer is simply stupendous." (Beginners)
"Get ready for Will Ferrell like you've never seen him!" (Everything Must Go)
"Like nothing you've ever seen!" (Hanna)

That seems like an appropriate quote to break on. At least for a moment. Those quotes were just from 2011. Not doctored or paraphrased. See if you can find them all in his reviews.

(Everything Must Go) -"A performance that rings true in every detail."
"This is by far (Jolie's) best performance, strong and true in every detail." (A Mighty Heart)

(Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) -"Gary Oldman gives a performance that is flawless in every detail. A master class in film artistry."
"Langella delivers a master class in acting." (Starting Out in the Evening)
"Kevin Kline gives a master class in acting." (The Extra Man)
"Jenkins delivers a master class in acting." (The Visitor)

(Coriolanus) -"Vanessa Redgrave gives a tour-de-force performance."
"Norton delivers a tour de force." (Leaves of Grass)
"Anne Hathaway delivers an acting tour de force." (Rachel Getting Married)
"It's a tour-de-force performance in a stylistically bold movie." (Birth)
"A visual and emotional tour de force." (Where the Wild Things Are)
"This tour-de-force gets you high on movies again!" (Grindhouse)
"A double tour-de-force for James Franco and Danny Boyle." (127 Hours)
"Viggo Mortensen's tour de force." (Eastern Promises)
"You'll never forget Javier Bardem's tour de force." (No Country for Old Men)
"Savagely moving. Julianne Moore's tour de force performance is unforgettable." (Savage Grace)
"Streep's performance is a comic and dramatic tour de force." (The Devil Wears Prada)
(Cohen's) performance is a tour de force that sets off comic and cosmic explosions in your head." (Borat)
"Jeff Daniels' portrait is a tour de force and his shining hour onscreen." (The Squid and the Whale)

(Beginners) -"Ewan McGregor goes bone-deep in a performance of shining subtlety."
"George Clooney is transfixing. Clooney inhabits this burnt-out case with haunting brilliance. It’s a bone-deep performance that raises the bar." (Michael Clayton)
"Frank Langella gives the performance of a lifetime as Nixon in a bone-deep tour de force." (Frost/Nixon)
"A juicy, career-crowning role. Bridges - a master of subtle brilliance - plays the hell out of it. Not by showing off, but by going bone-deep into a character who only thinks he's running on empty. Crazy Heart may finally win him the Oscar that's unfairly eluded him and it offers the pleasure of watching a great actor at the peak of his form." (Crazy Heart)
(Bridesmaids) -"Kristen Wiig is an indisputable goddess of comedy."
"Indisputably terrific! Noomi Rapace is hot stuff." (The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest)
"An indisputably great movie." (No Country for Old Men)
"The one indisputably great film at Sundance ’08" (Ballast)
"The summer's one indisputable laugh riot!" (Wedding Crashers)

(The Lincoln Lawyer) -"Matthew McConaughey gives his best performance in years!"
"Nicole Kidman gives her best and riskiest performance in years" (Margot at the Wedding)
" Harrison Ford his best and funniest role in years." (Morning Glory)
"Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson give performances that will be talked about for years." (Lost in Translation)
"A performance that will be talked about for years." (The Woodsman)
"Newcomer Tang Wei gives a performance that will be talked about for years." (Lust, Caution)

When was the last time you brought up Lust, Caution, huh? Maybe in your dreams.

(Hugo) -"It truly is the stuff that dreams are made of."
"It pins you to your seat. A spellbinder! The stuff that dreams are made of!" (Brick)
"Inception dreams big. How cool is that?" (Inception)
"It grabs you like a thriller with an ending that will haunt your dreams." (An Inconvenient Truth)
"A wicked invitation for the audience to scream its head off. Go for it! (It) will haunt your dreams." (The Village)

Remember that word. Spellbinder. And knock that grin off your face.

(Fast Five) -"For over two hours, I couldn't wipe the big stupid grin off my face!"
"The Guru puts a smile on your face!" (The Guru)
"Puts a smile on your face that will last all the way home." (Despicable Me)
"It slaps a big, fat, goofy smile on your face that lasts for days." (Pineapple Express)
"You will not be able to wipe the grin off your face." (Shoot 'Em Up)

Yeah, I'll believe it when I see it.

(Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol) -"You won't believe your eyes."
"Prepare your eyes for popping - they just might fly out of their sockets!" (300)
"Prepare your eyes for popping!" (House of Flying Daggers)[br]
"Your eyes will be dazzled…" (Marie Antoinette)
"A feast for the eyes and ears." (I'm Not There)
"You can't tear your eyes away from this explosion of sounds and images." (American Hardcore)
"I couldn't take my eyes off it, my guess is that it will knock you sideways." (I'm Still Here)
"A dynamite movie. It will knock you sideways." (Carlos)

I think we are about halfway through this retrospective on Peter Travers. We do have a helluva finale for you though, I promise.

(Fast Five) -"The final chase is killer and getting there actually is half the fun."
"Role Models is killer funny." (Role Models)
"Bennett's dialogue sparkles and skewers with killer wit." (The History Boys)
"Think of all the ways you can hurt yourself laughing, as in fall down, split your sides, bust a gut, blow your mind. You get it all in Tropic Thunder, a knockout of a comedy that keeps you laughing constantly. It's also killer smart, lacing combustible action with explosive gags." (Tropic Thunder)
"The breakout comedy of the summer. A comedy cure-all. The beginning, middle and end are all killer funny." (The Hangover )
"Killer-funny. You'll laugh 'till it hurts! Produces more laughs than any hundred jokes you ever heard." (The Aristocrats)
"There's more killer suspense in this one-of-a-kind film than you'll find in a dozen thrillers." (Catfish)

Notice now how Travers cleverly also uses the word"killer" to describe films with killers and killing in them?

(Hobo with a Shotgun) -"Rutger Hauer is killer-good."
"Bob Hoskins is killer-good." (Hollywoodland)
"Scarlett Johansson and Hugh Jackman, oozing killer charm, handle the sexual hijinks in style!" (Scoop)
"A killer comedy!" (You Kill Me)

Travers can also mix his trends up.

(The Artist) -"Action, laughs, tears. It's everything we go to the movies for!"
"What’s better than action, hair-trigger suspense, and a machine-gun spray of killer dialogue? If you love movies, you can’t resist!" (Inglourious Basterds) -
"A burst of pure filmmaking exhilaration and an irresistible invitation for fun! What more could you ask of a summer movie?" (Star Trek)
"No true movie fan will want to miss the comic mind-meld of Woody and Larry." (Whatever Works)

We know. It's enough to make one want to bang their head against a lawnmower blade and cry. Try to control your emotions though.

(In a Better World) -"An emotional powerhouse!"
"Hang on for an emotional powerhouse." (Rachel Getting Married)
"…An emotional powerhouse" (Into the Wild)
"An emotional powerhouse!" (A Very Long Engagement)
"An emotional powerhouse." (We Own the Night)

(Warrior) -"Fiercely moving!"
"Fierce, funny, and moving." (The Class)
"A radically fierce & funny fireball." (Sicko)
"Fiercely funny!" (Delirious)
"A fiercely funny human comedy" (The Upside of Anger)
"Fierce and fiendishly funny." (No Country for Old Men)
"Fierce & darkly funny." (Mail Order Wife)
"...shockingly fierce and funny..." (Crazy Love)
"This mischievous blend of The Office and Friday the 13th keeps things fierce and funny enough to give Steve Carell ideas." (Severance)
"O’Hara deserves Oscar consideration in her funniest, fiercest role." (For Your Consideration)
"Pierce Brosnan is roaringly fierce and funny!" (The Matador)
"Geoffrey Rush is his match, fiercely funny in a feast of a role." (The King's Speech)
"Nicole Kidman is just astonishing - subtle, fierce, brutally funny, tender when you least expect it." (Rabbit Hole)
"Meryl Streep has never been this fierce, this diabolically funny - you can't take your eyes off her." (The Manchurian Candidate)
"Jamie Foxx's fierce, funny, deeply felt performance deserves to be legendary." (Ray)
"Exhilaration courses through 'M&C:TFSOTW.' Crowe continues to astonish as an actor - fierce, funny and every inch the hero." (Master & Commander: The Far Side of the World)
"It’s been years since a movie superhero was this fierce and this funny. You can feel the exhilaration." (Iron Man)

Potent stuff, huh?

(Page One: Inside the New York Times) -"A vital, indispensable hell-raiser. Potent and provocative."
"A potent and provocative thriller." (Splice)
"Provocative and potently erotic." (Black Book)
"A potently erotic spellbinder." (Atonement)
"Ang Lee’s potently erotic and suspenseful Lust, Caution casts a spell you won’t want to break!" (Lust, Caution)
"A spellbinding true crime story. Potent and provocative." (All Good Things)

There's that word again. You didn't forget, did you?

(Super 8) -"This movie, a true beauty, will put a spell on you."
"A thing of beauty, hugely entertaining and way cool!" (Finding Nemo)
"A beauty of a movie." (Then She Found Me)
"...a spellbinder of breathtaking beauty and terror." (Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street)
"…This film portrait casts a spell…" (Tupac Resurrection)
"It's a spellbinder. Prepare to be wowed." (Let Me In)
"A knockout! Spellbinding! It spins a web that will pull you in. A thriller that really thrills." (The Lookout)
"It pins you to your seat. A spellbinder! The stuff that dreams are made of!" (Brick)
"What gives this spellbinder a similar raw power is the way Boyer reveals the parallels between DeLuca and Sutherland." (I Trust You to Kill Me)
"This is the bravest, riskiest role of Dench’s film career. It’s spellbinding to watch her blow the lid off." (Notes on a Scandal)
"Lou Pucci rides this spellbinder!" (Thumbsucker)
"A one-of-a-kind spellbinder that’s not afraid to shock!" (The Libertine)
"A shockingly fierce and funny spell-binder that leaves your head spinning." (Crazy Love)
"A spellbinder that builds unbearable suspense without losing sight of the story’s grieving heart." (No Country for Old Men)
"...holds you spellbound!" (Rachel Getting Married)
"A master director shining his light on the best rock band on the planet. It’s a you-are-there spellbinder." (Shine a Light)
"…the effect of this mesmerizing mind teaser is spellbinding." (Match Point)
Spellbinding…As timely as it is thrilling to watch. In the expert hands of director Pascale Ferran, Lady Chatterley is a sizzler in every sense of the word." (Lady Chatterley)
"Spellbinding! A chillingly intense psychological thriller! Involves God, sex and murder!" (Enduring Love)
"You'll be talking about this spellbinder for weeks." (Catfish)
"Allen and Elliott perform acting miracles in this quietly devastating spellbinder. Scott has built a movie that sneaks up and knocks you flat." (Off the Map)
"This spellbinder will sneak up and floor you. It's that good." (The Secret In Their Eyes)
"...will sneak up and floor you. (Grace Is Gone)
"...sneaks up and floors you. (Away We Go)
"This immersive marvel of a movie sneaks up and floors you." (The Fighter)
"A heartfelt human drama that sneaks up and floors you." (The Visitor)
"It’s power sneaks up and floors you." (The Boy in the Striped Pajamas)

And Travers continues with that sentiment in 2011...

"This heartfelt, often painfully funny movie has the power to sneak up and floor you. Gibson gives a high-wire performance of the highest caliber." (The Beaver)
"Reitman and Cody and working without a net on a tightrope with a built-in wobble." (Young Adult)
"Director Alexander Payne is a master of the human comedy. He walks the high wire between humor and heartbreak with unerring skill." (The Descendants)
"An exhilarating gift filled with humor and heartbreak." (The Help)
"Hilarious and heartfelt." (Bridesmaids)
"Achingly hilarious and heartfelt." (50/50)
"Brims over with bracing humor and ravishing romance" (Midnight In Paris)

OK, so that last quote from 2011 did not exactly continue the trend. But these pre-2011 quotes do.

"...brims over with hilarity and heartbreak. (Cyrus)
"An irresistible blend of humor and heartbreak. (Cemetery Junction)
"Blending humor and heartbreak in a performance that makes (the film) (Is Anybody There?)
"A near perfect blend of humor and heartbreak. (Summer Hours)
"Owen Wilson skillfully blends humor and heartbreak (The Darjeeling Limited)
"Downey gives a blazing performance that runs the gamut from humor to heartbreak. (Zodiac)
"A movie rich in hilarity, heartbreak and a sense of life in all its vibrant, messy sprawl. (Friends with Money)
"A playful comedy laced with heartbreak (Pieces of April)
"Tod Williams catches the heartbreak and humor of the story that do John Irving proud. (The Door In The Floor)
Guess Tod Williams really nailed it? Or did Criticwatch in regards to Travers' Terminator-like, cut-and-paste phrases?

(Moneyball) -"Brad Pitt nails every nuance."
"Sarandon nails every nuance." (The Greatest)
"Annette Bening and Julianne Moore nail every nuance." (The Kids Are All Right)
"Scott Thomas uses every nuance in her acting arsenal to register their impact." (I’ve Loved You So Long)
"(Kevin Kline) finds every nuance of mirth and melancholy in this wonder of a role and rides it to glory." (The Extra Man)
"A chance to salute these masters of mirth and music." (Soul Men)
"The dream team of Simon Pegg and Nick Frost – not to mention choice bits from Steve Coogan, Bill Nighy and Timothy Dalton – lace the mayhem with mirth." (Hot Fuzz)

Now we are going to stop right there for a moment in order to revisit something we wrote back in June. Please excuse the reprint. I'm sure Travers won't mind.

In June, a film opened in limited release called Submarine, which played at the 2010 Toronto Festival and the 2011 Sundance Festival. In January of 2010, a film called Youth In Revolt opened in theaters having played the 2009 Toronto fest. We invite you now to take a look at the IMDB page synopses for both of these films. They have not been altered or paraphrased in any way.

Youth In Revolt (2010) -"While his trailer trash parents teeter on the edge of divorce, Nick Twisp sets his sights on dream girl Sheeni Saunders, hoping that she'll be the one to take away his virginity."

Submarine (2011) -"15-year-old Oliver Tate has two objectives: To lose his virginity before his next birthday, and to extinguish the flame between his mother and an ex-lover who has resurfaced in her life."

The films have undeniable comparisons to one another, including the shyness of its teenage heroes taking up variances of different personas in order to score the girl of their dreams. Which film does it better is up to the viewer. (I prefer Youth.) But now we want you to look at Peter Travers quotes on the same two films and you can decide again which one is better.

"A tasty comic treat! Michael Cera delivers his best performance yet! Destruction ensues. Also, sex and laughs lace the mirth with malice." (Youth In Revolt) - Peter Travers

"Hilarious! Blends mirth & malice with deadpan brilliance." (Submarine) - Peter Travers

Mirth, malice, nuance. This are not the things a Travers craves. And they are certainly not the thing that moviegoers crave. They need a film critic bullshitting them as much as they need a politician blowing smoke up their ass. And even if it's not bullshit and Travers truly does like all these movies and these performances in the exact same way, it is STILL bullshit. Empty words from a name with a head that has long since used up all the words familiar to him. It is time to move on, studios. Nobody can take Travers seriously anymore, if they ever could. Form some new relationships away from Rolling Stone and away from the junket crowd which will be focusing on next. You will be surprised how many worthwhile film critics with names who carry far more weight than a magazine that, admit, you haven't even noticed on the rack in years.

link directly to this feature at
originally posted: 12/28/11 08:52:24
last updated: 12/28/11 09:24:38
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