Judging a movie by its cover

They say not to judge a book by its cover. Luckily they didn’t say the same thing about movies, because I judge movies by their cover all the time. Just one look at the cover and I can tell if it falls into three broad categories: movies where people are running with guns, movies without people running with guns, and comedies.

Mostly, I read the quotes from movie reviews found on the covers. The really great movies of our times, the ones that may be remembered for generations, sometimes feature a whole sentence from a movie reviewer on the front cover. A whole sentence. Sometimes with four stars beside the sentence. I don’t know why they use stars, or four. But four stars is what it is, and it will be forever. Do not argue with the stars, they always win.

These quotes will be from people who write for some very hoity-toity publications, like the New York Times or Variety or The Merriam-Webster Dictionary.

The movies that aren’t quite as good don’t have full sentences. What they have instead are partial sentences, with ellipses at the front and the back, which always makes me wonder what the rest of the sentence said. For example, the movie cover will have something like “…riveting special effects…” and I always wonder if the whole sentence is “Some riveting special effects, at the expense of a cardboard plot.”

Sometimes they’ll offer just one word, with an exclamation point behind it, like the movie reviewer just sat in the theater and yelled exclamations the whole movie. “Impressive!” The cover will say. I don’t know who these reviewers are, but if I just wrote articles featuring only superlative adjectives, I would find myself out on the street.

Then there are movies that have reviews, but only on the back cover. These are invariably written by “normal joe” type reviewers, who do it part time while running the website “Joe’s Movie Reviews.” If you look up these reviews, they say things like: “This movie was awesome. Pure awesomeness. I enjoyed every awesome minute. And they really, really didn’t pay me to write this awesome review.” These reviews are too poorly written for whole sentences, so they just put “Awesome!” on the back of the box and hope nobody reads the actual review.

Then there are movies with no quotes. Those poor movies. They couldn’t find one person who liked them. Now, just because some uppity critic likes a movie, it doesn’t mean that I will like it. But if a movie can’t find one good quote from anybody about the movie, not even the director’s mom, that scares me. I steer clear of them.

Books like to use quotes too, but the trend lately is, instead of using critic’s quotes, they use quotes from the author’s more famous friends. The quotes will go like this: “The Dark Curmudgeon has so many elements of great science fiction,” says Bob Bobbison, author of “Black Bonanza.” The immediate reaction to this sort of praise is that we should all be reading The Black Bonanza, because its author at least knows what he’s talking about.

And just in case any movie makers are reading, they can cite this column and use this on their movie cover: FANTASTIC!

Thanks for reading!

Read more in this week's print edition.Subscribe Today!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *