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TraversWatch - It's Time To End This!

by Erik Childress

52 Quotes. That is where Peter Travers stands at in 2012, partially in thanks to Disney who have decided to use him and other quote whores on the ads for their very funny Wreck-It Ralph. They couldn't find ANYONE else to call it "hilarious" but Peter Travers? That is only going to make this year's goal harder. But not impossible. If you recall we started Traverswatch as an addendum to Criticwatch in the hopes of getting studios to simply let go of this mustachioed hyperbole machine. Time to phase him out. Saturday Night Live recently made fun of him again, adding him to a fake movie trailer where the only people supplying quotes are the director who knows his movie sucks and a parody reviewer named A.O.L. Scott. Travers hit 61 quotes in 2011. It was 20 quotes less than the previous year and it tied for his lowest total since the inception of Criticwatch. It is imperative that the number stay down. We're trying to help you studios. You are using many jokers in your ads, but this is the granddaddy of them all and you are even tainting your great films with his catch phrases. This week we are going to keep the commentary to a minimum and just show you what you've been getting recently from Peter Travers.

**** The best movie I've seen all year! A new American classic! (The Master)

Shockingly enough, Travers does keep his top four-star rating to a minimum. Not that you could ever tell with quotes like "epic spectacle, yearning romance and suspense that won't quit!" (The Hunger Games), "A blockbuster that will blow away all your senses!" (The Avengers) and " Pixar has outdone itself!" (Brave). But, hey, he clearly feels Paul Thomas Anderson's The Master is "a new American classic!" And it's a great movie. Peter Travers occasionally likes great movies. Forget the movies though. Look at how he describes them.

"A classic for a new generation!" (Jane Eyre)
"A mind-blowing comedy classic" (Borat)
"A new Clint classic." (Mystic River)
"A new Coen Brothers classic." (True Grit)
"A total triumph! An American classic! Gus Van Sant's best film." (Milk)
"A triumph of the highest order! A new crime classic." (A Prophet)
"Triumphant! A new American crime classic from the legendary Martin Scorsese, whose talent shines here on its highest beams." (The Departed)
"This classic-in-the-making is the Coen Brothers at the peak of their powers!" (No Country for Old Men)
"Hits you like a shot in the heart. This classic in the making ranks high on the list of the year's best movies. It's a landmark film and a triumph for Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal." (Brokeback Mountain)
"Hits you right in the heart. It's the classic American tale of the family man triumphant." (Cinderella Man)

Not a lot to argue there in terms of precisely what he's recommending. It's HOW he's doing it. Notice how he describes Martin McDonagh's terrific Seven Psychopaths.

"Crazy, killer fun!" (Seven Psychopaths)

Get it? Psychopaths. "Killer fun" Crazy, right?

"Crazily inventive and totally irresistible." (Like Crazy)
"A crazy-quilt comic thriller! It would be no country for movie lover without the Coens." (Burn After Reading)

OK, THAT is crazy. Who talks like that? Back to the whole killer thing. Travers doesn't exclusively use it on films that feature, you know, killers. But it doesn't hurt.

"A killer comedy!" (You Kill Me)
"Role Models is killer funny." (Role Models)
"A comedy cure-all. The beginning, middle and end are all killer funny. See this gut-buster before your friends do because they'll be talking about it for weeks." (The Hangover)
"Think of all the ways you can hurt yourself laughing, as in fall down, split your sides, bust a gut, blow your mind. It's also killer smart, lacing combustible action with explosive gags." (Tropic Thunder)
"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. You'll be talking about this spellbinder for weeks. It pushes every button. Don't let anyone spoil this story." (Catfish)
"A Tarantino power punch! 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)
"Bennett's dialogue sparkles and skewers with killer wit." (The History Boys)
"The final chase is killer and getting there actually is half the fun. For over two hours, I couldn't wipe the big stupid grin off my face!" (Fast Five)
"Scarlett Johansson and Hugh Jackman, oozing killer charm, handle the sexual hijinks in style! (Scoop)
"Bob Hoskins is killer-good." (Hollywoodland)
"What's not to like? Hobo lives up to its lurid title. Rutger Hauer is killer-good." (Hobo with a Shotgun)

You, Travers. You are what's not to like. It's easy to pick a word or two out of Travers three-page rolodex of hyperbolic catch phrases, but it's so much more fun (or sad) when he mixes them altogether.

"Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Aaron Paul are dynamite! Smashed joins the ranks of the winners. Winstead is a revelation. "(Smashed)

Jonah Hill scores a no-joke knockout. Moneyball is a baseball movie like The Social Network is a Facebook movie, meaning it isn't. Both are about how we play the game of our lives, and the excuses we make in the name of winning. Here's a major-studio movie fired up with rebel spirit. Moneyball left me ready to cheer. Dynamite stuff. (Moneyball)
A dynamite film that ranks with the year's best. No way you won't be knocked for a loop. (Before the Devil Knows You're Dead)
A dynamite movie. It will knock you sideways. (Carlos)
A dynamite thriller! (Shattered Glass)
This dynamite thriller shivers with suspense. In a word, wow! (The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo)
Explosive! Public Enemies comes at you like Dillinger did: all of a sudden. It's movie dynamite. (Public Enemies)
Grips you in a vice of suspense…A slice of celluloid dynamite! (4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days)
Writer-director David Jacobson, who did a dynamite job with Dahmer, isn't afraid of plunging into dark, twisted places. You shouldn't be, either. (Down in the Valley)
Mark Ruffalo is dynamite. (The Kids Are All Right)
Brad Pitt is dynamite. (Burn After Reading)
Diane Lane is dynamite! (Hollywoodland)
Catherine O'Hara is dynamite! (For Your Consideration)
Gael Garcia Bernal is dynamite! (Bad Education)
Depp is comic dynamite! (Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl)
Sean Penn is dynamite as Willie Stark. (All the King's Men)
Dynamite performances from Annette Bening and Naomi Watts ignite this strong drama. (Mother and Child)
It's a winner! The two leads are dynamite and director Alfredson knows how to pin you to your seat. See it now before a Hollywood remake ruins it. (Let the Right One In)

Not sure which quote to be hung up on. Smashed joining the ranks of winners or "the excuses we make in the name of winning."

"A winner! You'll be glad you came." (We Bought a Zoo)
"Charlie Bartlett is…a winner!" (Charlie Bartlett)
"A winner…Its characters manage to be romantic, hilarious and recognizably human at the same time." (Dan In Real Life)
"Hugely entertaining! There's magic in it. Be on the lookout for Bottle Shock, it's a winner. (Bottle Shock)
"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)
"It's the Pixar touch that makes Cars 2 a winner. Cars 2 is even better than before. 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)

Not quite as impressive a list as his "classics" is it? But we're not paying attention to what joins his list of "winners." Just that there's such a list to begin with cobbled together from what Peter Travers provides to studios and then sticks into his reviews. Which brings us to a true classic from Mr. Mustache Ride this week.

"John Hawkes and Helen Hunt give award-caliber performances that turn The Sessions into a unique film that brims over with humor and heartbreak. An exhilarating gift of a movie. Funny, touching and vital. Hawkes does the kind of acting that awards were invented for." (Rolling Stone) (The Sessions)

That is a collection of various quotes that have turned up in the ads for the Fox Searchlight film. They can hide Travers name behind that Rolling Stone moniker all they want, but even if they failed to put the outlet, we would know exactly who those quotes belonged to. The studio chose 44 of the 342 words in his written review (or the pre-written 44 words that he then added to 298 other words) to advertise The Sessions with. A few of them truly stand out though.

"A playful comedy laced with heartbreak…" (Pieces of April)
"An irresistible blend of humor and heartbreak." (Cemetery Junction)
"A movie rich in hilarity, heartbreak and a sense of life in all its vibrant, messy sprawl." (Friends with Money)
"Director Alexander Payne is a master of the human comedy. He walks the high wire between humor and heartbreak with unerring skill." (The Descendants)
"Writer-Director Tod Williams catches the heartbreak and humor of the story that do John Irving proud." (The Door In The Floor)
"The magically compelling Darjeeling Limited is the fullest blossoming yet of the gifted Wes Anderson's talents as a total filmmaker. Owen Wilson skillfully blends humor and heartbreak..." (The Darjeeling Limited)
Blending humor and heartbreak in a performance that makes Is Anybody There? A richly satisfying film, "Caine truly is magic." (Is Anybody There?)
"Downey gives a blazing performance that runs the gamut from humor to heartbreak." (Zodiac)
"The summer's best, most original and crazily inventive comedy. In a multiplex crowded with formula rom-coms divorced from genuine feeling, Cyrus brims over with hilarity and heartbreak." (Cyrus)
"A lyrical masterwork. A near perfect blend of humor and heartbreak. That rare summer movie - one that matters." (Summer Hours)

Geez, what words could we have possibly been talking about? Don't worry, we'll just keep posting reminders until we get through all of it.

"John Hawkes and Helen Hunt give award-caliber performances that turn The Sessions into a unique film that brims over with humor and heartbreak. An exhilarating gift of a movie. Funny, touching and vital. Hawkes does the kind of acting that awards were invented for." (Rolling Stone) (The Sessions)

"An exhilarating gift." (Fish Tank)
"An exhilarating gift filled with humor and heartbreak." (The Help)
"Heartfelt and hilarious! It's more than a movie, it's a gift." (Happy-Go-Lucky)
"A gift!" (King of California)
"A gift of a movie!" (The Squid and the Whale)
"A gift of a movie absolutely worth seeing more than once." (Once)
"A gift from comedy heaven" (A Mighty Wind)
"The indispensable Jason Bateman is a gift to comedies..." (The Switch)
"Fun this smart is a gift!" (Kung Fu Hustle)

For years we thought that last quote was just a misprint in the New York Times (dated April 10, 2005), when it fact it is precisely what Travers wrote. The actual quote is "dumb fun this smart is a gift!" The dumb part I'm sure we can agree with. The studio made the quote sound dumber by removing the "dumb". Guess they didn't think it was vital. One more time for the cheap seats?

"John Hawkes and Helen Hunt give award-caliber performances that turn The Sessions into a unique film that brims over with humor and heartbreak.
An exhilarating gift of a movie. Funny, touching and vital. Hawkes does the kind of acting that awards were invented for
." (Rolling Stone) (The Sessions)

"A funny, touching and vital film. (The Boys Are Back)
"A funny, touching, vital script by Jenny Lumet." (Rachel Getting Married)
"One of the most touching and vital works I have seen in a good long time." (Canvas)
"Laura Linney, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Philip Bosco give award-caliber performances in Tamara Jenkins' funny, touching and vital film." (The Savages)
"Some kind of miracle! The perfect antidote to a synthetic, overblown movie summer. From Sondheim to the Stones, Graff creates something funny, touching and vital." (Camp)
"Sally Hawkins is irresistible in this funny, touching and vital salute to women." (Made In Dagenham)
"Snap out of it, guys, you just might learn something. Sarah Jessica Parker is funny, touching and vital." (Sex and the City)

Is it a coincidence that The Savages is a Fox Searchlight film just like The Sessions? They are practically the same quotes. Or that you could probably round up any random 1000 reviews from critics not named Peter Travers and never see the phrasing "funny, touching and vital" even once? How many times above have we seen Travers talk about some rare, unique, seasonal event of a film that is pretty disingenuous when not only does he keep saying it over and over, but also in seasons where he's praised the movies audiences are supposedly tired of? This needs to end.

We called Travers "a worthless piece of s***" earlier in the year and we're sticking with that. It's time for everyone else to stop sticking with Travers altogether as a viable source of cinematic praise. Moviegoers who know anything about criticism and the way films are marketed should be looking at reviews and ads going "wow, so-and-so really liked it" because they either respect them or they are so guarded in their extreme praise that it becomes an honest-to-God rarity. This does not mean we are advocating looking to Armond White. Please God no. What we are asking for is very simple. Clearly studios, your marketing reps and publicists occasionally look at Rotten Tomatoes to find reviews. "John Hawkes does the kind of acting that awards were invented for in this exhilarating gift of a movie that's funny, touching and vital" is the very quote associated at Peter Travers' page. Why can't you do that to find others? 8 more quotes is all Travers can have this year in order to see his total diminish for a second straight year. This is a true goal. It can be reached. It must be reached. You start by NOT quoting him for the rest of 2012. Then we'll talk again in 2013. Snap out of it, studios. You just might get a respected critic to promote your movie. Because with Peter Travers, it's never just "one review."

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originally posted: 10/27/12 02:56:26
last updated: 10/27/12 03:36:35
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