|by Scott Weinberg
You know why even the most popular movie websites get no real respect from the studios and the publicists? Because, for the most part, we're a gaggle of low-minded, moronic and stunningly untrustworthy little bastards. Oh sure, there are dozens of fantastic movie critics to be found on the internet, and perhaps a handful of legitimately honorable news sites too, but let's face facts: when "AINT IT COOL NEWS" is seen throughout the industry as our flagship station, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out why the online movie freaks are seen as a fairly pathetic lot. And here's just the most recent reason....
There's way too much fuzzy backstory and backbiting to adequately describe what The Scorched Planet is all about. Suffice to say that this website is comprised of some seriously pissed-off movie fans who have about a hundred legitimate complaints regarding the "movie news" website AICN. (Like I'd actually offer a link to that website. Puh-leeze.)
To those who follow what goes down within the internet movie community (as I do, albeit from a distance) it seems fairly obvious that this well-known and deservedly-derided website dabbles in questionable tactics and displays virtually nothing in the department of Journalistic Integrity. And I don't care how loudly you dismiss my complaint, but yes, even those who post just "movie news" should be held accountable for their actions. And that's not even including situations in which website contributors work on the movies they later hype to the trillionth degree, or in cases where a website will gleefully publish "reviews" from 14-year-olds who recently got to see Harry Potter 6 at a three-months-early, movie's-not-finished-yet, please-understand-that-you're-watching-a-project-still-under-construction test screening.
See, I have a personal problem with this sort of 'journalism'. It's these tacky and pathetic ploys that smear the name of anyone hoping to be seen as a legitimate online movie critic or news reporter. Take a look at something like Movie City News for an example of how brilliantly a group of people can distribute actual movie news. This place offers all the casting news and "buzz reports" you want, but if something smells like garbage, MCN won't bother with it. Or if you like a little irreverence with your movie news, spend some time with JoBlo. Or, if I may be so bold, scan through the thousands of reviews here at HBS-EFC to see how an online publication can produce something of respectable integrity - without resorting to wholesale bullshit in a filmsy attempt to up the hit counts.
So what is it that's incited my most recent animosity towards AICN? Here's an enlightening little story:
Knowing full well that AICN will publish just about any old thing, a few of the rascals over at Scorched Planet floated a few of their own early reviews for the upcoming Alien vs. Predator. These articles came from guys who did NOT see the movie in question, but were fairly positive that AICN would publish the reviews anyway. Fact-checking and accountability is just for those old farts at the Wall Street Journal! And since the Planeteers also knew of Mr. AICN's outspoken disdain for the director of Alien vs. Predator, they were smart enough to pen mostly negative (fake) reviews. (That Mr. AICN uses his keyboard to ejaculate all over just about every filmmaker under the sun except for the apparently easy target of Paul W.S. Anderson speaks volumes in and of itself.)
And guess what happened? These fake reviews were all tossed right up on to AICN's front page, effectively damning a movie - with reviews that were totally and completely fabricated. Some would say that the Planeteers are to be scolded for penning fictitious nastiness about a movie they've never seen, but I choose to see it as a necessary evil. If I were told that a local restaurant was refusing to serve people of the Irish persuasion, you can bet your sweet ass I'd show up at that restuarant in a green hat, carrying a box of Lucky Charms, calling myself Shamus O'Reilly McCloverman.
So while it's not nice to write reviews for a movie you've never seen, it's infinitely more despicable to collect and publish a bunch of bullshit from people you've never heard of. Any quality movie site out there will check and double-check, question, confirm and contemplate before they publish something. It's called "being a professional" and you don't have to be a Roger Ebert to learn the rules.
So it's for this reason that I applaud those rabble-rousers at Scorched Planet, because they uncovered a festering sickness with their kamikaze tactics. Let's just take this a few steps further:
A bunch of way-too-early, we're-desperate-for-page-visits reviews for AvP appear on AICN, most of which are fictional and nearly all of which are negative. The folks over at Fox head on over to AICN (because, after all, it is the definitive movie website of all time, don't forget), they see a whole bunch of negative reviews for a movie that's not supposed to be screened and/or reviewed for at least another four weeks, and then every other well-meaning and sincerely trustworthy movie site gets kneecapped...and hard.
"Sorry, no more internet critics, interviewers or journalists allowed. "Your" AICN stunt proved that the onliners cannot be trusted. You all publish test-screening reviews, you'll print completely fabricated reviews if you happen to be having a slow news week, you'll base your ALL-CAPS and raving opinions upon which studio buys your banner or flies you out for a set visit or showers you with tacky promotional garbage, and you'll disembowel the next Batman movie because someone rummaged through WB's garbage and found Page 107 from script treatment number 15 and saw that the Joker's hat is green instead of purple. You're the online movie equivalent of the Weekly World News. You're losers."
And don't think I'm pissed just because I'm worried that these stunts could bite me and my fellow online writers in the ass. I know I'm trusted by my local publicists, am welcome at many fantastic film festivals, and get invited to appear on a few radio shows because I behave like a professional writer backed by a well-respected (if somewhat "underground") website. I'm proud to help beat down the sickening stigma that comes when one's profession is linked, albeit only tangentially, to an albatross like AICN. But what really pisses me off is this:
I know lots of people in this chatty little corner of the internet, from critics and filmmakers to journalists and editors. Every single one of these people is either A) a seasoned pro or B) an aspirant with integrity. I will not ally myself with junketeers or banner-bitches, sites that eat their own tails, swallow their own spin, and toe their company's line. Trust is a hard thing to earn, and Mr. AICN has long since proven that he's not only entirely untrustworthy and frequently just plain old wrong in what he publishes; he actually seems to hold the rest of us in contempt. Those of us who simply love to review movies or share the latest trailers or gush over the next Jennifer Connelly project or chat about why Seven has the coolest ending in modern movie history. If AICN is seen as the 'symbol' of the online movie world, well, it's about time we start changing that perception. Cuz I'm sure as shit not going anywhere. My colleagues and I have worked long and hard to carve our own little niche, and there's no way in hell we deserve to be painted with the AICN brush.
I'll dare to speak for all of the upright and legitimate movie sites out there when I ask the studios, the publicists, the filmmakers and (most of all) the readers...please don't consider AICN as our spokesman, our colleague or even our equal. There is a huge amount of journalistic integrity and professional courtesy to be found in our work as a whole. And the day that AICN finally goes belly-up, that integrity quotient will skyrocket by about 89%.
Harry, we all know you got some kind of production deal. Why not focus on that, buy yourself a treadmill, and let your website just die already? You really are doing more harm than good.
But I'm sure you have a really slick shelf full of X-Men toys.
For more on the sprawling backstory regarding AICN and their questionable tactics, please refer to the following articles:
The Hot Button, David Poland, June 4th 1999
The Hot Button, David Poland, Feb. 15th 2000
The Trouble with Harry Knowles, Steve Ryfle, Hollywood.com, Feb. 16th, 2000
Deconstructing Harry: Ain't It Unethical?, Ron Wells, Film Threat, June 5th, 2000
Trouble with Harry, Mark Morris, Guardian Observer, July 23rd 2000
Harry Knowles and the Menace of Generic Movie Love, Stephen Metcalf, Slate, April 15th 2002
Bonehead of the Month Vol. 1 - Harry Knowles Must Go, Chris Parry, Hollywood Bitchslap, April 15th 2003
The Pot That Calls the Kettle Black, Supernova, Scorched Planet, June 10th 2003
Ain't It Cool News - Hypocrites of the New Millenium, Chris Parry, Hollywood Bitchslap, June 11th 2003
Critical "Expertise": The state and future of film criticism -- Part 3: Hacks and Vigilantes, Alexandre Paquin, Hollywood Bitchslap, March 2nd 2004
...and just for fun, click here and then here.
link directly to this feature at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/feature.php?feature=1159
originally posted: 07/02/04 18:21:13
last updated: 09/27/04 04:31:20