Secrets of a Film Critic
by Phil Boatwright

Holy Hollywood will feature interviews and spotlight Christians in the industry, as well as examine Hollywood’s influence on our culture. Though we will generally handle these subjects with sincerity, allow us to begin on a decidedly more lighthearted approach as we introduce our editor and senior film critic.

“I love the promise of movies. Each time I enter a cineplex, I’m hoping for a movie that’s both entertaining and spiritually nurturing. They’re out there. I’ve seen some.” So says 20-year reviewing veteran and life-long film buff, Phil Boatwright. Though Phil is usually serious about motion pictures, it quickly became apparent that these questions would be met with tongue-in-cheek responses.

RB: Describe the perfect movie.

PB: It’s funny, uplifting and 98 minutes long.

RE: So what was your favorite movie?

PB: I forget the name, but it was 98 minutes long.

RE: Describe the best time you ever had at the movies.

PB: EAT, DRINK, MAN, WOMAN concerned an Asian chef who prepared a gourmet meal every Sunday for his family. I was told not to go to this film hungry. So, despite the fact that it aggravates me when people bring food into a theater, I stopped by a Chinese restaurant and ordered an appetizer to go. It was a foreign film, it was a matinee and it was the middle of the week; I thought I’d be the only one in the theater. Murphy’s Law deigned otherwise. It was packed. I found myself faced with a dilemma: to eat or not to eat. If I opened that to-go box, I knew I’d send sumptuous aromas into the tiny theater, arousing the taste buds of unsuspecting fellow cinefiles. This could be tortuous for them. It would be selfish of me.

RE: Did you do the right thing?

PB: Please, it was dim sum. Each time that master chef began his culinary artistry on screen, I quietly opened my hidden box of Chinese finger food and ravenously partook. It was the dawning of Smell-O-Rama.

RE: You mentioned being aggravated by those who bring in food. Do you find that audiences today lack public etiquette?

PB: Ever ask someone to stop talking during a movie? That always works out well. Of course, I’ve never talked during a movie.

RE: Never?

PB: Only during JAWS. I kept warning the cast to get out of the water.

RE: Good movie, JAWS.

PB: The sequels are a different matter. By JAWS III, I was rooting for the rubber fish.

RE: Back to the lack of moviegoer manners. Exactly what bugs you?

PB: The good folk unwilling to silence their cell phones. Nothing kills the suspension of disbelief quite like the hip hop alarm of a computer chip-sized speaker.

RE: Pretty annoying, eh?

PB: To paraphrase Mr. Dickens, they should be boiled in butter flavoring and buried with a Clark Bar through the heart.

RE: So what’s the best part of your job?

PB: It beats working.

RE: If you could be like any movie star, who would you choose?

PB: Dean Martin had great hair. I’d like Dean Martin’s hair. But I never met an actor who wasn’t in therapy, or needed to be.

RE: Ouch.

PB: Yeah, sorry. In ALL ABOUT EVE, George Saunders played an acerbic theater critic named Addison DeWitt. He constantly dispensed pithy, erudite bon mots that ridiculed the inaneness of the inane. I suspect there’s a little bit of Addison DeWitt in me struggling to be heard above the din of media mediocrity.

RE: How do you feel abut the state of movies?

PB: You mean the fact that most movies are now geared to the sensibilities of 14-year-old boys?

RE: Yes.

PB: Well, that pretty much says it all, doesn’t it? But being a good interviewee, I’ll pontificate – I mean, elaborate. I often wonder what it must have been like for the entertainment reporter who began his career in 1939. At least two hundred movies produced that year are considered classics – films like GONE WITH THE WIND, THE WIZARD OF OZ, GUNGA DIN, WUTHERING HEIGHTS, STAGECOACH, MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON, INTERMEZZO, and THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME – just to name a few. I bet that rookie reviewer thought he had the best job, ever. I get to see DADDY DAY CAMP.

RE: Maybe the best films have all been made.

PB: Try living with that thought when your livelihood consists of watching movies. Actually, every so often, a film soars above the milieu of the undistinguishable. Oh, that did sound like Addison DeWitt.

RE: Yes, it did. Next, you’ll be smoking from a cigarette holder.

PB: I used to carry a Dunhill lighter. But since I never smoked a day in my life, it was an inexcusable affectation.

RE: A non-smoking lighter carrier. You’re a true sophisticate. You must hate the bawdiness of today’s cinema.

PB: Bawdiness. I like that word. I usually call flatulence jokes and sexually graphic situations crude and exploitive, but bawdiness works. Movies were never sophisticated. Once there was the pie-flinging Three Stooges. Now we have the anatomical antics of the AMERICAN PIE folks. We’ve come a long way, baby.

RE: Yeah, but there was once Cary Grant and William Powell.

PB: I stand corrected.

RE: Being a self-proclaimed sophisticate, who do you relate more to – Cary Grant or Hugh Grant?

PB: Adrian Monk. There, that should get girls to write in.

RE: Who was your screen hero?

PB: When I was in high school I was an unabashed John Wayne fan. But at 5’10”, and 118 lbs., I wisely chose not to imitate my screen idol. So, one day when I was sixteen, I happened across a TV showing of THE BAND WAGON. Fred Astaire gets off a train and walks into the station, singing and moving as only he could. I noticed how he conducted himself. Though he was a little guy and not all that handsome, he was the personification of class. He was elegant, charming, a well-dressed gentleman. From then on, that’s who I’d emulate. I got the walk down, wore well-fitted coats, and sported a neckerchief under my open shirt. During the early ‘70s you could wear a kerchief around your neck without anyone mistaking you for being...how should I put this...

RE: Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound?

PB: Let me assure everyone, I got into theater to meet girls. Still rather like them.

RE: The neckerchief was accepted as a stylish accessory. You wanted to be classy, not swishy, correct?

PB: Let me make that perfectly clear!

RE: Still wear them?

PB: Are you kidding? It’s the era of ball caps and Larry the Cable Guy.

RE: Ah, do you like Larry the Cable Guy.

(A long, unyielding pause.)

RE: Okay, So, what’s the funniest movie of recent memory?

PB: AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH, starring Al Gore. Abbott and Costello had nothing on this guy.

RE: Pretty harsh.

PB: Just kidding. But I mistrust life-long politicians with a cause. The docucomedy seemed as much about the ex-VP as our ecological situation. I especially loved all the “private” moments interjected throughout as Mr. Gore thoughtfully stared off into space, giving viewers the impression he was contemplating the precarious fate of the world…He was probably envisioning a Big Mac.

RE: Would you feel differently if the film had been hosted by a Republican?

PB: Like that’ll ever happen. When’s the last time you saw a positive portrait of a Republican in the movies? Heck, they won’t even make a movie about Lincoln.

RE: So, you must have had problems with George Clooney’s GOOD NIGHT, AND GOOD LUCK.

PB: Not since Leni Riefenstahl’s TRIUMP OF THE WILL has a film been so proudly employed as a tool for indoctrination. But I’ll say one thing for George Clooney. He’s a real movie star. Handsome, good actor. I just wish he wouldn’t profane God’s name in every film.

RE: That’s a pet peeve of yours, profanity in films.

PB: God warned us not to misuse His name, and he didn’t give storytellers immunity.

RE: Filmmakers would argue that people talk that way in today’s culture.

PB: Yeah, I’m sure that will be Clooney’s argument when he stands before the Creator. I’ll buy a ticket for that match.

Rex Ebert is a descendant of Rexus Ebertus, the first entertainment critic in recorded history. During the rule of Julius Caesar, Ebertus covered the coliseum festivities and if he was critical of that day’s revelry, well, his thumbs-down was way final.

Okay, okay it was a joke meant to let you folks know that I don’t take myself too seriously.  Rest assured I believe that while we can occasionally find truth in movies, I believe that truth can always be found in God’s Word.  While I hope you find my opinions a fun read, it is my prayer that the provided synopsis and content of each new release will aid you in making informed movie going choices.

Please pray that God will direct me.

May God bless you.

Phil Boatwright