Tuesday, October 16, 2007

From the critic who raved about Knocked Up

Paul Farhi of the Washington Post is shocked – shocked, I tell you! – to find that some critics blurbed in movie advertisements aren’t quite what they appear to be. That is, the “John Doe of ABC” who raves about a new Hollywood blockbuster may really be a John Doe who fills in as weekend weathercaster at an ABC affiliate deep in the heart of Flyover Country. Quelle horreur!

Well, now that Mr. Farhi has gone ahead and spilled the beans – hey, thanks a lot, buddy! – I guess I have to fess up: If you ever see a blurb credited to “Joe Leydon, NBC” on some DVD package in a Wal Mart bargain bin – or, more likely, on the case of a VHS tape gathering dust on a shelf at Blockbuster – that’s only because, between 1995 and '99, I reviewed movies for the NBC affiliate here in Houston. And you know what? Every time I was credited that way in newspaper ads back in the day, I was ridiculously pleased with myself. There, I’ve admitted it. I hope you don’t think any less of me.

Actually, it wasn’t so terribly long ago that the folks in charge of hyping movies wanted to identify me as working for any outlet except the one that, by my reckoning, was (and still is) my most important one: Variety, the showbiz bible. Indeed, it’s been my perception that, up until fairly recently, the hype merchants actively avoided blurbing trade paper reviews. (Things have changed, however.) And, occasionally, this has led to some truly bizarre episodes.

Chief among them: After giving Star Trek: First Contact a rave in Variety back in 1996, I got a phone call from a Paramount rep asking me if I would be reviewing the film for some other outlet as well. When I asked why, she actually blurted out: “We prefer not to run quotes from the trades.” I have to admit: For about three seconds, I considered telling her that I also would be reviewing the film for The Daily Worker. But I restrained myself, because – well, truth to tell, she sounded like she might believe me, and it would be “Joe Leydon, The Daily Worker” in the full-page New York Times ad. Which would have delighted my father, an unrepentant socialist, but might have needlessly pissed off most other aging Lefties.

So I told her that I would be reviewing the film for… yes, you guessed it.

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