My friend Jeffrey Wells recently ran a link to my review of Martin Scorsese's Shutter Island, which I really liked, on his always interesting website, Hollywood Elsewhere. Then he undercut it by referring to me as part of a Scorsese-worshiping cabal, willing to give the director a pass on what Wells obviously thinks of as a lesser film:
"I can see right now where the Shutter Island discussion will go. Hip, older urban critics like Marshall Fine will do the usual solidarity thing (i.e., their standard response whenever a reasonably decent film by a venerated director comes out) and pass out 'Friends of Marty' buttons at screenings and so on."
Wells later wrote, "Scorsese occupies a hallowed place in the hearts of the older, brainier, more thoughtful critics, and that it's usually in keeping with the character of this crowd to cut Marty some slack whenever a new Scorsese film comes out."
I hate being called older (mostly because it's increasingly true), I'm flattered to be called brainy, thoughtful and hip (my kids would certainly disagree) - but what I take issue with is the idea that there is something disingenuous about my review.
A.O. Scott picks up the same thread in his resoundingly negative review of Shutter Island in the New York Times, saying, "There are, of course, those who will resist this conclusion, in part out of loyalty to Scorsese, a director to whom otherwise hard-headed critics are inclined to extend the benefit of the doubt."
I'm not going to get into an online firefight with Jeff Wells or Tony Scott or anyone else who doesn't like Shutter Island about the film itself. They're entitled to their opinions. The dirty little secret about those of us in the critic game is this: Each of us thinks we're right and everyone else is wrong. Not only wrong, but misguidedly wrong. Except when they agree with us - but that only means that they're showing the good sense required to do so.
Still, I take umbrage with the idea that to admire and celebrate Shutter Island is to have somehow drunk the Scorsese Kool-Aid. Why imply that there must be an ulterior motive to like Scorsese's movie?