THE BLOG
06/08/2007 03:33 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Slam First, Ask Questions Later (If Ever)

I'm getting a bit disturbed by what I've seen on the Huffington Post this week that's passing as film criticism. I have read two reviews this week that have blasted movies which the writers had not even seen. I'm not guessing either: they both actually admit to not seeing the films. Patt Morrison told us about her opinions on Knocked Up based on what she had read, and now Gabriel Delahaye is talking about how sick Hostel II is, even though he hasn't seen it and says he never will. At least they're being honest, right?

Am I the only person who thinks this is inappropriate? Are we really at a point now where first impressions -- and fairly under-informed ones at that -- are taken as legitimate criticism? Are we supposed to trust a commentator who comes to issues with his/her opinion already so predetermined that the need to study the issue becomes irrelevant? To me, this is less like criticism and more like partisanship. It actually tells the reader much more about the writer than it does about the subject.

Something in me wants to say that this is emblematic of the media and political culture's Speculate First, Ask Questions Later policy (that "later" part is often optional). Having things like the internet and 24-hour information streams can be wonderful for public discourse, but it can also promote a forum filled with kneejerk reactions that can end up setting the tone for the whole debate. After all, Martin Scorsese's masterpiece The Last Temptation of Christ was completely destroyed based on criticism by people who never saw the film.

One could argue that both Ms. Morrison and Mr. Delahaye are correct in their assumptions, but that's beside the point. I also don't think it should matter that both writers are trying to be funny. Is it too much to ask for someone to do his/her homework before commenting on a subject in a publication? I know we're not talking about Jayson Blair (or Judith Miller) here, but even film critics should be held to some kind of standard.

The standard I'm suggesting is simple and non-invasive: watch the movie. Sit on your butt (and your opinion) for two hours. You can go with your predetermined opinion after that if you want. Or, you might just change your mind. Stranger things have happened.