Monday, January 19, 2009

An Open Letter to The Charlotte Observer

Alexander Pope says, in "An Essay on Criticism":

Whoever thinks a faultless piece to see,
Thinks what ne'er was, nor is, nor e'er shall be.
In every work regard the writer's end,
Since none can compass more than they intend;
And if the means be just, the conduct true,
Applause, in spite of trivial faults is due.
Wise words, and words that Lawrence Toppman in particular needs to learn.

Toppman's review of Gran Torino is a study in how to get most of the details all right, and yet, get it all wrong in the end. Someone should remind the man just what the purpose of any review he writes might be. The Academy isn't going to refer to his opinion in deciding its awards. The best he can hope for is to be relied upon by locals, by readers of the Charlotte Observer, when those readers are trying to decide whether or not to see a film.

So far, I've read two reviews by Toppman. One on Quantum of Solace, and one on Gran Torino. At least he's consistent. Twice now, for me, he's gotten it dead wrong.

Do the editors of the paper bother to read the comments posted about Toppman's reviews? Do you bother to compare Toppman's comments to your own opinions. Do you share his opinions? Judging from the commentary on your web, not many of your readers do.

Start paying attention. Have a conversation with the man. Someone explain to him that the bottom line readers are looking for is going to be, "Is this worth my ten bucks?" A film can be filled with all the flaws Toppman points out and still be worth our time and money.

Get a decent critic Charlotte. Find someone who's more interested in informing the public about the quality of a movie than the sophistication of his own personal taste. Toppman's reviews are largely useless. Spare us and save yourself some money.