How Cynicism is Killing Entertainment

JAWS THE REVENGE: This Time It's Cynema

Do you see the picture above? That's a series of stills from the ending of "Jaws The Revenge." People rip on Ed Wood's hubcaps and pie tin flying saucer's in his "Plan 9 From Outer Space." However Wood literally had about 200 bucks for his effects budget, "Jaws The Revenge" had about six million and you get this pictured above? They didn't even try.

Cynema: The cynical contempt for an audience in the making of product that is devoid of creativity, passion, production value or respect while having the financial and creative means to do better.


This Time It’s Ridiculous…Imagine you are sitting in an office at Universal Studios. You approve film projects pitched to you.  Here’s the challenge. Without any knowledge of the previous Jaws films, someone pitches you the plot for a fourth installment to the famous shark series. The question: Would you or wouldn’t you give 20 million dollars to make this movie? Here's the pitch:


“OK…we get Lorraine Gary to return to the Jaws series as a widowed Mrs. Brody. She loses her son on Christmas Eve to another Great White Shark. The shark is psychic and is hunting down the Brody for revenge. A grief stricken Mrs. Brody flies to the Bahamas to be with her surviving older son and the shark follows her there to continue its plan of vengeance. She meets and falls in love with Michael Caine. The shark attacks her other son (a diver) who, along with a “Jamaican” buddy, is a marine biologist. It then attacks Mrs. Brody's grand daughter who narrowly escapes. Mrs. Brody steals her son’s boat to confront the shark. Mrs. Brody and the shark square off at sea as the film climaxes with Mrs. Brody steering the boat on a collision course for the rampaging shark and impales it with the bowsprit through the head (which explodes).”




That is the plot for Jaws the Revenge. No kidding.

The late comedian Richard Jeni summed this movie up best in one of his stand up acts:


…Have you ever seen a movie with a plot that's so bad, even if you were stupid... even if you were the stupidest person... if you had no brain... just a spinal cord, a sweat sock and a bag of [lousy] popcorn, and your spinal cord's sitting there going: "Hey hey hey!!! I'm only a spinal cord, but even I'm getting a little pissed off!"


The premise is bad, the script is bad, the acting is bad, the directing, the effects…the shark ROARS at the end. There are such errors in continuity and visual mistakes it is obvious no one involved CARED enough to give the slightest attention or concern to them.


"Jaws the Revenge is not simply a bad movie, but also a stupid and incompetent one - a ripoff."  - Roger Ebert in his review for Jaws the Revenge


Mario Van Peebles with his annoying and equally bad Jamaican accent found fans with Europeans. His Jake character died in the original 1987 US release. After audiences reacted negatively to Jake’s death, Universal reshot the ending allowing not only Jake to live (after massive blood loss and clearly being bitten to death by the shark) How? Who cares? The filmmakers sure didn’t but star Michael Caine was a bit more upbeat.


[Jaws the Revenge] will go down in my memory as the time when I won an Oscar, paid for a house and had a great holiday. Not bad for a flop movie.  -- Michael Caine 



The final insult is in the end credits: The filmmakers consulted a scientist for the making of this movie. This consultation resulted in the following scenes:


The shark stands on its tail and hovers for seconds in mid-air. Sharks don’t have vocal chords but the Great White in this film roars like Spot, the dragon that lived under the stairs of Herman Munster’s house. They can’t move backwards or slow down to almost a crawl without risking drowning but this one navigates a sunken ship's hull and manages reverse quite well.




It’s also probably safe to say that sharks are probably lacking in extrasensory powers to track down individual human beings like homicidal bio-GPS asassins. The original 1987 US theatrical release showed the roaring shark impaled through the head by the boat’s bowsprit. It breaks off and the dying shark sinks to the bottom of the sea.


What I can't believe is that the director, Joseph Sargent, would film this final climactic scene so incompetently that there is not even an establishing shot, so we have to figure out what happened on the basis of empirical evidence. - Roger Ebert, 1987


Since Van Peeble's character Jake was resurrected for the European release, the filmmakers decided to change the ending too while they were at it. In the recut the shark is once again impaled but for some inexplicable reason, explodes. One review from Jabootu’s Bad Movie Dimension  simply posted a still of the shark’s death (click here) followed by the following text:


Upon viewing this assembly of stills from the climax (one of them, anyway) of Jaws: The Revenge, my esteemed colleague…noted, "C'mon, Ken - you don't really need any text to support that, do you?  I mean, that's the whole review, right?" He's correct, of course.  How could my humble efforts mock the film more effectively than the evidence provided?


Add the following items to a list of issues from the film that translates into contempt for ticket buyers:


After the shark sinks Michael Caine's plane, he swims a good 200 yards and climbs up onto the rescue boat bone dry, his clothes not even damp from the ordeal.



Mrs. Brody flashbacks to events she was never witness to: the death of her son and her husband blowing up the shark from the original Jaws.


1987, Universal Studios


The robotic arm that holds the mechanical shark to its platform and a variety of cables and hoses are clearly seen in several shots, not even bothered to be covered up or at the least cropped out of the picture. (click here )




The scene between Roy Scheider and his son Sean at the dinner table copying each other is blatantly copied in this film, reminding us of just how much better the original film was.


1975, Universal Studios


The shark managed to swim over 3000 miles in less than 2 days from New England to the Bahamas without explanation. It also knew Mrs. Brody would be going to the Bahamas.


A sign of a weak film is the "it was all a dream" scene. Jaws the Revenge gives us two of these.


Storywise examine these elements:


If we accept the idea that the shark is psychic and wants revenge against the Brody family then the following script issues have to be examined: Is this a new shark? Is it the same shark from the first film or related to it? And if it was blown up how could it be back unless it's a ghost? We are told that Chief Brody died of a heart attack from the fear of this shark. This is never addressed and we are to accept it.


If the shark is psychic we must accept that somehow it knew Brody's son Sean became a deputy Amity cop. It would have to know Sean's schedule because we have to believe the shark pushed a chunk of wood into the channel and Sean would be summoned to free it up, setting him up for murder. The shark would also have to know that Chief Lenny Hendricks (we assume) was sent on a call to check out "cow tipping" and therefore deputy Brody would respond to the wood pile in the harbor.


Ms. Polly, secretary to the chief of police was already in her late 60's or early 70's in 1975. She is mentioned but not seen in Jaws 2 almost four years later. So being conservative and saying Polly was 65 in 1975, she would be almost 80 by the time of the events in Jaws the Revenge. The woman portraying Polly in the opening might be 70, so if the shark is psychic, Polly doesn't age.


These are basic script issues that should be addressed in early story discussions and should not make it past a first draft, especially in a major motion picture and one that was part of a venerated series. The filmmakers, including the screenwriter simply did not care. No one cared in postproduction either. The continuity and outright tehcnical errors were blatantly ignored. This is what defines Cynema. Why make the this at all? There is no way anything made by Ed Wood is worse than this. Wood was maligned by Michael Medved and deserves an apology.   


[The character of Ellen Brody] had much more depth and texture than either of the other films was able to explore. The promise of further developing this multi-dimensional woman under the extraordinary circumstances. Press release for Jaws the Revenge


Studios don’t have the money to take chances on smaller, independent scripts and films, but they’ll blow almost 30 million on something like this. They actually released this thing with a straight face and marketing campaign. Did anyone sitting in the screening room after this was completed think they had a winner? Did they look at each other, nodding with satisfaction and say "This is good"?


It's sad that the great Michael Small was delegated utter crap like Jaws the Revenge in the late '80s -- and even worse that he never found his way back to the material that he deserves. - AK Benjamin on the late composer Michael Small and his score for Jaws the Revenge


1987, 1978, MCA Publishing


There’s nothing about movies like Jaws the Revenge that remotely aim to entertain. They are made to fleece the wallet. Jaws the Revenge was a dishonest movie. The studio knew they had the brand name of Jaws to get people into the theaters.


The law of percentages said they would get a certain percentage of Jaws fans no matter what. They duped audiences into thinking this had some kind of return to the quality of the first Jaws film by using Lorraine Gary as Mrs. Brody. In reality, the president of Universal's  wife (Gary) got a nice winter job, and vacation. Michael Caine got a new house and a ticket out of California for the winter. They didn’t even bother to release the soundtrack.


I’m not sure who green lighted this thing, but I’d bet they’re not working in the film industry anymore. Simply put, the script is awful—my seven-year-old daughter makes up better stories than this when she’s trying to avoid getting in trouble. - Mike Bracken,


With a "hit and run" August release and no previews for the critics, Jaws 3D, made back its budget and turned a profit. From the top brass at Universal to director Joe Sargent, Lorraine Gary and Michael Caine, everyone involved knew they were making a turkey. Down to the media press kit, they insisted it was going to be good. It was shot, slapped together and tossed out to the public as damaged goods.


And now a word from Netflix reviewers on Jaws the Revenge: (Spelling/Grammar errors intact)


* Yes the shark is the most fake of the series and some of the editing was pretty ridiculous, but Jaws the Revenge isn't nearly as bad as people make it out to be. The premises is one of the most ridiculous of all time, but if you can allow yourself to actually believe that the shark from Jaws is still alive after all he has been through and is on a personal vendetta against the family of the man who tried to kill him, it becomes somewhat enjoyable albeit hilarious. It isn't the original nor is it even as good as the sequels, but Jaws the Revenge is a decent attempt in an ocean of shark movies in which some make this one look like an Academy award winner.


* Now that this movie is available on watch instantly it is totally worth a watch. My wife and I got a kick out of it. I think the people who made got a kick out of it too.


* I agree with the reviews that I read, yes it was bad and I know the mechanical shark was so bad that is was funny; However my 12 year old LOVED this movie. He LOVED all the Jaws movies and he likes this one too. One thing to remember, if you are a parent, and you are seeing a movie with your child(ren),, they will see it through different eyes then you will. Children have much more active imaginations then us reserved adults, so even though adults may not enjoy it, a kid with an imagination who enjoys "silly" movies will enjoy it. So parents, do not based all movies you see on your personal likes and dislikes. Spend some quality time with your son/daughter and watch a movie THEY will enjoy.....and this is one they will like. Not to mention I recently a few months back took my son to SeaWorld in San Diego and he loved seeing a movie that had SeaWorld in it (Jaws 3). He also enjoyed going to the library and checking out a book on Great White Sharks after seeing all of the Jaws movies, so this movie got him hooked on a reading interes too....Yeah, for that, I give it three stars.


* Not bad, better than I expected and considering there were several weaker versions of the original thriller; well whaddau want for nothing, rubba bsscuit??? Know that trio of movies kept a lot a people nervous went they went in salt water after!


The sad part is, this is someone's favorite movie for the wrong reason. Jaws the Revenge is pure Cynema.






ED WOOD: Hollywood's Whipping Boy




Cynema: The cynical contempt for an audience in the making of product that is devoid of creativity, passion, production value or respect while having the financial and creative means to do better.


Apparently Michael Medved, the respected film critic gets the credit with dubbing Edward Wood, Jr. the “worst director of all time” by referring to Wood’s crowning film achievement, Plan Nine From Outer Space as perhaps the worst motion picture ever made. This is not only to come to the late Mr. Wood’s defense, but to also show how off the mark Mr. Medved was in his 1980 book The Golden Turkey Awards.


Wood is the antithesis of Cynema--his passion and love for film makes him one of Hollywood’s greatest directors. Say what you want about Plan Nine, Bride of the Monster or Glen or Glenda…bad films, yes. Bad directing, absolutely. However Ed Wood was not a cynic. This column will show why films like Jaws The Revenge, Godzilla 1998 and other big budget films are far worse than anything Ed Wood ever put out, including Plan 9. By many accounts, including his own, Plan 9 From Outer Space was Wood’s opus and the film that Medved bestowed his dubious award upon. Wood said this about his film:


If you want to know me, see 'Glen or Glenda'. That's me, that's my story, no question. But 'Plan 9' is my pride and joy. We used Cadillac hubcaps for flying saucers in that . (The Ever Project, 2010)


Wood was short on talent but not passion and made his films because he loved the craft. You could say he was not much different than a child that makes terrible father’s/mother’s, holiday gift/paintings in school. To the child this is something special, perhaps even high art but to the adult it’s juvenile craftsmanship at best but it’s the sentiment behind it that matters.


The "worst director ever" found former horror icon and star of Dracula (1931) Bela Lugosi, living in poverty—a drug addled wreck of the Hollywood system. Lugosi was drained by the film industry as surely as his alter ego Count Dracula drained his victims. Lugosi was a has-been by the 1950’s as the classic Universal monsters were replaced by aliens, radioactive monsters and budding psychopaths.


Ed Wood gave Lugosi work and made him feel like a star--infusing this ailing man with sincere enthusiasm and the hope that he could shine again. This was a filmmaker who planed to use funds made from Plan 9’s premiere to pay for Lugosi’s rehab expenses and tried to shield him from the press vultures. Lugosi died before filming commenced and wound up in Wood’s film through mismatched spliced footage. Wood knew Lugosi was a name, and indeed Plan 9 was his last film but was said to have cried when seeing the first cut of the film and Lugosi up on that screen.


Well, I started thinking about what you were saying about how your movies need to make a profit. Now, what is the one thing, if you put it in a movie, it'll be successful?--Ed Wood


He  was not just ill-equipped in the talent department to realize that dream; he was also outgunned by a film industry that was accustomed to tossing aside its tarnished stars onto the studio junkheap. Other stars will have this problem as Mickey Rooney's famous acceptance speech at the 1979 Academy Awards for his honorary Oscar put it so sadly:  


When I was 19 years old, I was the number one star of the world for two years; when I was 40, nobody wanted me -- I couldn't get a job. -- (Nicholas Moreau, 1999)


Ed Wood survived the Battle of Guadalcanal (with bra and panties beneath his uniform) but was totally unprepared for conflict in the Hollywood film industry. This was a business that saw Wood as a carnival sideshow freak, a living example of the Grade “Z” entertainment he was pushing. Befriending Lugosi only confirmed suspicions of lunacy and many of the distributors Wood approached believed Lugosi long dead. Wood treated Lugosi as more than a star--he was a legend. He was driven by his loyalty and respect for this forgotten icon in his pursuit of financing.


Sources attribute Wood with soliciting Baptist church members for the financing of Plan 9; going so far as to have himself and members of his cast baptized to get the film made. He did this not to swindle the gullible from their funds, but under the sincere belief he would make back their money and a profit so they could pursue their dream of making twelve films on each of the Twelve Apostles.



Wood endured rabid attacks on his sexuality when it was revealed that he liked to cross dress at the height of conservative McCarthy paranoia. His first girlfriend left him, regarding him as a degenerate and loser who surrounded himself by a coterie of the same. He was treated with contempt and with no empathy for his devotion to Lugosi. Wood battled depression, falling into the world of soft core porn and lurid pulp novels to unsuccessfully pay the rent. Evicted from his Los Angeles apartment, he died alone from a heart attack in a friend’s home watching a football game in 1978 at the age of 54.


This thumbnail of this fascinating man serves as a starting point for the exploration of Cynema. Wood will never be postively compared to Spielberg, Coppola, Shyamalan, Lucas or even Disney. Yet all of these great names have more in common with Wood than they’d like to admit.


These names and many more in Hollywood have made their share of truly awful and dreadful films and product far worse than anything that came from Edward Wood. The only problem is that most of the country and even the world didn’t realize this and were duped by a cynical Hollywood hype machine--believing they were seeing something truly great. Plan 9, Glen or Glenda, Bride of the Monster or Jail Bait are all poorly made films, but they are honest in their poor quality and also their love and passion for film and art. They are not cynical like certain films discussed later in this column.


Ed Wood: Bad director. Bad Screenwriter. Bad producer. Perhaps. But not a cynic.


We are going to finish this picture just the way I want it... because you cannot compromise an artist's vision. --Ed Wood


Continue reading on Not Another Movie Review: Ed Wood-Hollywood's Cynema Whipping Boy - National screenwriting |



Hyperbole is just Epic, Amazing Exaggeration



Something has changed on the American cultural landscape over the past fifteen years and it’s not good.


The Digital Revolution took a society already fueled by instant gratification and turned up the intensity. Our kids seem to grow up faster, our access to news and information is faster, our food has been faster for some time and our desire for solutions to our problems (depression, weight, finances, relationships) is definitely faster and the line between reality and fantasy has blurred all the more faster as a result. How is it connected to Cynema?


Children are often happier with their online lives than they are with reality, a survey has revealed. They say they can be exactly who they want to be – and as soon as something is no longer fun they can simply hit the quit button. -- Liz Thomas, UK Daily Mail Online


An increase in knowledge has not necessarily created an increase in learning. Theoretically speaking, this generation should be the smartest—with knowledge doubling every eight years. The ‘Net’ has given access to knowledge to all people regardless of race, intelligence and in most cases socio-economic status while spawning Little Emperors—people who believe they have become an expert in a small area and have the ability to broadcast this ‘knowledge’ to the rest of the world, and to a population largely as ignorant as many of these Little Emperors.


To keep it simple and cynical, the Digital Revolution has allowed anyone with a camcorder to think they are a filmmaker and anyone with a blog or access to an online post to be an expert or judge and jury.


This created septic shock in our culture and manifested itself in Hollywood as The Cult of Celebrity. It has allowed malicious if not outright sociopathic online behavior to hide behind anonymity and the pretense of Free Speech. Social Networking has been around since roughly 1997 with Since that time a number of platforms have grown up and died off like undergrowth in a forest while Facebook became the Redwood that pushed out MySpace. While social networking has its benefits it has also provided a rich compost for our further detachment from reality.


We don't have the pioneer spirit, we don't have that sense of adventure, we don't have the boldness and the courage we used to have...We used to be a nation of's the wussification of America. -- Former PA Governor Ed Rendell on the cancelling of a football game over snow.


We exaggerate way too much. Failure to receive quick service in a restaurant results in a tale later described as a “nightmare”. A child’s fever has escalated into a crisis emergency that has caused a growing problem of using emergency rooms as doctor’s offices. A peanut allergy translates into a purging of all peanut products throughout a school or facility in the fear of widespread death and panic.


Mild physical discomfort has become intolerable and helped spark a boom in a myriad of drugs and medicines all designed to quickly dispense the “anguish” of mild stomach upset or acid reflux.

Our culture is being sanitized, where words as “appropriate” and “inappropriate” are so overused that they no longer mean anything. What used to be a standard social situation is now “awkward” if someone can’t deal with it. Our entertainment is becoming increasingly Family Friendly” as the Cult of Children expands and punishes those who do not have kids or consciously choose not to have them. So much has become offensive (inappropriate).


When does a previously acceptable word become offensive? What happens there? Why does a word become offensive and need to be replaced? Who determines that? When will the word currently deemed appropriate to describe a set of people suddenly become offensive? How are we supposed to keep track of the changes in acceptable terms?-- The Land of Curly Hair Blog


Mediocrity spreads like a cancer, so when something even slightly above average does appear on the scene we use words as: amazing, awesome, incredible, mesmerizing and hilarious. Rarely do these descriptors truly apply. We use hyperbole to describe mundane things and accept it to the point where the words are given credence.


Hyperbole isn't a deceitful lie, but rather an elegant surpassing of the truth. -- Roman rhetorician Quintili


The film The Hangover is to the word ‘hilarious’ as the word ‘bright’ is to the sun, for many. Let’s clarify--the word hilarious, by definition means: arousing, great merriment. Extremely funny. Boisterously merry or cheerful. Although a movie can be funny, (The Hangover was) never is any movie consistently ‘hilarious.’ Life situations can be hilarious as almost all of us have experienced a moment with friends or family where we have laughed so hard we might have lost control of one bodily function or another.


This is the author's Netflix review for The Hangover: (4 stars out of 5)


"Oh my God, it’s hilarious! The Funniest Movie You’ll Ever See!” No. No it’s not. Like “Juno”, I am going to break from the pack and call out the hype. This is a funny movie without doubt. Just the line: “They gave out rings at the “Holocaust? deserves a thumbs up in this Politically Correct world. However, it’s far from hilarious. That’s the problem with hype. When so much stuff is mediocre and “Family Guy” is seen as high comedy, anything else in comparison will be overrated. It’s a funny movie. I laughed a lot, especially the ending photo slideshow and appreciated it for what it is, not what everyone says it is.


Here are a few examples of overused words associated with Cynema. is used to keep the flavor of the topic and support the comments.


“I want the last _____ hours of my life back..!”

A grossly overused phrase on Netflix (fill in the blank with appropriate running time). Does this count as hyperbole? It is definitely exaggeration and it moves us a step closer toward Hyperbolic Cynema. In the end, YOU are in control of what you watch. You may walk out of the theater or turn off the DVD player or change the channel. What does this phrase mean exactly? For most people, they have frittered away and wasted far more time on lesser things. Think about all of the time we waste on smoking, pumping gas, sitting in traffic, pointless meetings, endless children’s birthday parties, being drunk and the subsequent hangover, sitting on hold, texting…where is the clamor for refunding those hours?


The phrase has become a bad cliché but in fact it was never a good one to begin with. If you don’t like the movie, say why in a direct intelligent way using critical thinking skills. Using this kind of exaggeration masks ignorance.


Best. Anything. Ever.

Dumbest. Review. Period. Extreme hyperbole that again masks the inability to put real critical thinking into any type of review. This is the stuff of middle schoolers and only makes you wince when adults use it. If there was ever a red flag on the quality of a movie, let “Best. Movie. Ever.” be one of the reviews. The definition:


The over-used phrase that ditzy teenage girls use to talk about a "super fun night" or "hilarioussssss pictureeee", not realizing that it makes them sound like they have 8 brain cells. Oftentimes, it's combined with other words to make phrases such as, 'BEST.PICTURE.EVER.' Also, 'BEST.NIGHT.EVER" can be seen and/or heard quite frequently.



Few movies qualify as ‘amazing.’ It’s the white lie of exaggerations because it’s meant with the best of intentions. We can debate forever if certain classic or groundbreaking films were "amazing." But Marmaduke? Seriously? Dr. Doolittle, Beverly Hills Chihuahuathis is the word used to describe this kind of mediocre filmmaking? How were audiences amazed? What scene in Paul Blart: Mall Cop inspired wonder or awe or even great surprise? How did a film with the most basic of TV plots and below par casting (save for Kevin James) inspire true wonder? What moment made jaws drop, eyes widen and a light go on in the mind that inspired the true definition of the word ‘amazing?’ One of’s definitions for ‘amazing’:


Over used word. Usually by teenage airhead girls. Amazing was once a word to describe something outstanding and wonderful. Now, teenage girls have overused the word. And have ruined it all.

Girl 1- OMG *squeal* "That lime green skirt a AMAZING".
Girl 2- OMG thanks, no YOU'RE AMAZING.


Epic. Fail.

The Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup of hyperbole--two great words that sound great together, brought in by gaming fanboys as shortcut language for critiquing. Used separately, they are to provide us with the final word on good or bad. Together they are to signify a truly bad motion picture or project. However this exaggeration leaves no room for examination as to why the film is either good or bad, never taking into consideration the variety of factors that go into a film’s success or failure. More “Cliff’s Notes” for the ignorant and extreme hyperbole that means nothing. writes:


 Epic: A word that used to be used to describe a book, a movie or other work as timeless, great, and meaningful. Now used by douchebags who combine it with "win" or "fail" to describe everyday things.



It has become the standard word for when something isn’t good. Usually it means it REALLY isn’t good--hyperbole that really doesn’t make much sense unless viewed in the pornographic sense by conjuring up a lewd image. The word is now used from TV to the mainstream press and even graces esteemed film critic Roger Ebert’s recent collection of film reviews and essays: Your Movie Sucks. Movies themselves overuse certain phrases to a point where they have become outright cliches:


There are a lot of overused phrases in movies, and “We’ve Got Company!” is at the top of the list. Guy Bauer created a one-minute montage showing some of the movies and television show in which the phrase has been used. Watch it, embedded after the jump. Peter Sciretta, Slashfilm


There are other overused exaggerations. Unfortunately the well written, critical thinking review is in the minority on not just Netflix but also most online public forums. For your own curiosity, visit these places and count how many times these phrases come up, you’ll see this was not an exaggeration. It seems that the majority of reviews are written by twelve year olds but you know in your heart that is just not the case.

So now we move to the next link in the chain to connect this to Cynema.




"You'll Know My Name" - Wannabe Filmmakers , You've Been Served



You'll Know My Name   Drama 2010  Not Rated 

Directed, Written & Produced by Joe Raffa

Starring: Joe Raffa, David J. Bonner, Alexander Mandell, Mianna Saxton, Chuck Connors, Tommy Sztubinksi, Brian Gallagher, Davy Raphaley, Nicole Cinaglia   Website: YKMN


Thanks to the digital revolution, anyone with a camcorder and computer thinks they're a filmmaker. Shooting your video and putting it up in ten minute bites online does not make you a professional. With that  said, sitting in film school studying Hitchcock, Scorsese, and a bevy of films does not make you a professional, a filmmaker...or a critic. Whereas twenty years ago there were maybe hundreds of critics in this country, there are now thousands as scores of people now believe their opinion trumps their experience.


21 year old director, writer, producer and actor Joe Raffa is sending a message to anyone who fits the above description. He has effectively updated the American Western in a film best pitched as: "High Noon in the Jersey Suburbs." Raffa's anti-hero, Nick takes hard swipes at his own generation as well as the film's villainous heavy, Mike Santo. This is a statement on this Internet generation of kids-- a generation once stripped of their awesome technology and social media, doesn't have a lot to say.  Raffa's is a lost generation knocking about the wastelands of a decaying American Dream feeling entitled, lost and pissed off.



Leaving Temple University film school after one semester at the age of 19; Raffa took the balance of his college savings and embarked on an aggressive fundraising campaign to raise the budget. Capitalizing on his connections in the Philadelphia acting and filmmaking community; he collected a talented cast and crew of unknowns. Together, they made a film that serves a message as an important as "Rebel Without A Cause" or "Over the Edge" to a generation of film goers.


The Internet is glutted with the shaky cam, "found footage" style films that have spread like a virus. This virus infects prospective filmmakers--creating delusions that their thousand dollar film will rake in millions like the completely hyped and calculated  "Paranormal Activity". Raffa saves us from one more of these films. He could have taken the easy route and churned out yet another zombie or slasher movie. Zombie movies are plentiful for one reason: they're easy to make. And that's Raffa's generation: looking for the easy route. Why move out of the house when you can stay at home? Why buy a cell phone when your doting, overprotective folks will pay for your plan to make sure they know where you are every moment when you don't pick up, why buy a car when you can bum rides with others?



Raffa's Nick is that guy. Nick is a kid living in an upscale suburban McMansion, driving a nice Honda Civic, whipping out his cell phone like Gary Cooper's six shooter and hanging with the usual assortment of babes and bros...they never seem to work and perpetually hang in the homes other people's money paid for. In fact, the only one who seems to be gainfully employed is Nick's buddy who is a small time drug dealer.


What's Nick's problem? Why is he so angry? He wants us to believe it's because his beautiful girlfriend, the deliciously fey Mianna Saxton, (perhaps even the love of his life and the one who absconded with his virginity) cheated on him. The time Nick invests plotting retaliation against local tyrant and psychopath Mike Santo (who also has lots of money and doesn't seem to have a job) he could have found a decent job and actually started down a new path doing something with his life. What a silly idea, why do such things when you're on mommy and daddy's medical plan and they'll clean up the mess after the showdown? This is a collection of poor little white kids who think the minor discomforts of this upper middle class life are major ordeals.



Raffa has created an unlikable anti-hero in Nick. We know what's coming and so does he, but can we really get behind him? Is this impending showdown over a girl? He tells her no. Is it over honor? Pride? Just what is this kid proud of? The car his parents bought him? The house his parents allow him to live in? Just what does this kid have that he could be so proud of? The only two people that seem to understand the stupidity of it all are Nick's younger brother (who serves as a quasi Greek chorus) and Nick's drug dealing pal, who just might be the only one who has something to lose if killed in the coming fight with Mike and his gang.


Few of these characters are likable. All are basically losers, which is exactly what Raffa wanted in penning his script. This is a message to all those kids years out of high school still doing the same thing--going nowhere and buying the freshmen beer. Few, if any of YKMN's characters generate real sympathy, save for local burnout Tommy Tongues; and even he's just a dumb bastard who doesn't know any better. There's the bickering high school couple bonded by sex who can be counted on to fight at every party and then use one of the spare bedrooms to make up. A drug dealer and a aimless pretty boy wannabe fighter exchange quips, giving a hint that these two guys just might be better than the crowd they're hanging with but don't have the ambition to break free. We have Nick's brother who casts his fate with his sibling and yet just might be the only one who truly gets out one day. The only one who seems to know what's going on, but who also succumbed to a local fate is Nick's cop uncle. We see he's just as trapped in suburbia as the kids he busts. He is essentially the only adult Raffa allows us to see and get to know because in this generation's world, adults are not seen or heard, just depended on.


Unlike the overrated and pretentious "Juno", Raffa's characters talk and sound like real kids. The dialogue is realistic, rough and sharp without the overindulgent snarkyness of "Juno's" "oh aren't we just so cool and hip with everything we say" dialogue. This is how kids talk and if you think they don't you're not around kids.



The film's plot rises and falls on pure teen angst. For anyone who has suspected their significant other of infidelity, Raffa synthesizes those feelings in a palpable scene involving a car conversation and cell phone that is sheer genius in the purity of its editing.


The unsung heroes are the crew that Raffa assembled. Crisp, primary colors resonate through cinematographer Charlie Anderson's lens, bringing a picture quality that rightly shames the best of wannabe filmmakers on YouTube. Sound design, lighting and production values betray low budget filmmaking. The film clearly shows low budget doesn't mean it has to look like it. Music is effectively used through an electric guitar rift that evokes Clint Eastwood and Leone's Spaghetti Westerns. Raffa avoids the mistake of many first time filmmakers by trusting in his story and letting his characters give us our emotional cues rather than a bombastic soundtrack.




A lesser director would have strewn his film with excessive nudity and violence in a "look what I can do" style of manner. Instead, Raffa relies on implied sexual tension using the Hitchcockian device of "less is more" and allows his film to end not with a bang, but a whimper...which is a perfect summary of a generation more than happy to fade away than burn out. Burning out requires ambition.


YKMN is a classic, an instant home run from a young filmmaker who could have easily been sending a warning to all those wannabe filmmakers sporting their Best Buy HD camcorders when choosing the name of his film. Anyone reading this who thinks their "tribute" to "Paranormal Activity" or George A. Romero is the next blockbuster, take time to get your hands on YKMN.


One viewing will clearly show you that you need to step up your game.


BHS, 2011



















It's All About Me!



Ok I watched this movie a billion times and everytime it gets better and better. One time I saw it 3 times in one day. I watched it in English then dubbed in French then in English. I am actually going to watch it now. THAT'S HOW MUCH I LOVE THIS MOVIE!!! -- Netflix  Review for Fargo


The reviewer watched Fargo a "billion times." The film runs 98 minutes. So 98 minutes times 1 billion…you get the point. Not only did this "reviewer" watch it three times in one day, they watched it in all the available dubbed languages and then continued to let us know that they are going to spend more time watching it right at the moment we are reading their review. Then to add emphasis, as if all of this were not enough, writes ALL IN CAPS HOW MUCH THEY LOVE FARGO! (as if we didn't get it, the caps sure cleared things up.)


Part of Cynema is the inability of an audience to use critical thinking and separate emotion and the odd belief the movie and its subsequent review is all about them.


Where is the REVIEW for Fargo? It’s very clear this statement is all about the author. There is no criticism, no analysis and not a shred of critical thinking. It’s about me! I love this movie. I enjoyed this movie. It’s my favorite movie! Fortunately Fargo is not an example of Cynema and such enthusiasm for this quality, tight dark film can be understood. Let’s use Fargo for one other example that moves us closer to the point:


I don’t think people would be writing about how funny this movie is if they saw a real murder like I did in real life.  -- Another Netflix  Review for Fargo


This is a movie review, not a therapy session. What does this have to do with this film? This is not an objective review on a piece of culture. This is a person working out mental trauma in a public forum to draw attention to themselves. If this person insists on sharing their private pain they should  see a therapist rather than putting it onto The Net. What this has to do with them and the horrible thing they experienced and their view that others would change their mind and position on Fargo leads to one answer...the reviewer needs to exorcise their demons in a more "appropriate" place.


I liked this movie except for the unnecessary comment about peanut butter and food allergies when Marmaduke goes on a date with Gesabelle. Give me a break! Don't use movies as a tool to target people with food allergies. Almond butter is a tree nut and many have allergies to both peanuts and tree nuts. So NOT funny! -- Netflix review for the movie, Marmaduke


How does this constitute a review? This reviewer, like many, seem to think the movie making process was all about them; using language like "target" and for some reason has to educate the world on nut allergies. There's nut talk all right and it reflects a growing narcissism in the culture and the inability to use rational, intelligent thought to make a point. Self-centered emotionalism has taken over and has created a dangerous smokescreen.


The real danger in Marmaduke  is not nut allergies but rather it is a film that isn't a film. It is a prefabricated showcase of product placement and over produced auto-tuned songs stitched together with bad CGI and mediocre human talent and passed off as "good family entertainment" to the masses that embrace it. It is mediocrity realized and seen as acceptable by an audience that doesn't know better and doesn't want to.


The 1980 film Popeye is perhaps the most debated in Robin Williams’s career. Wrongly perceived as a boxoffice bomb, Williams will criticize the film and generally regards his first feature film choice as a grave mistake. However the film was financially successful but still drove acclaimed director Robert Altman into exile, shunned by the Hollywood studio system as Popeye was considered Altman’s Heaven’s Gate.


"Don't you know Popeye was bad for everybody?!" - Robin Williams in a stand up routine on his own film

I can understand the negative reviews--the film was not what many were expecting. Popeye will be discussed in detail later as another example of when filmmakers (especially screenwriters) resist Cynema and pay a steep price for breaking the Hollywood mold.


Here is a review from a Netflix on Popeye: (All emphasis, spelling errors, etc. intact)


I LOVE Robin Williams (he and I share a birthday, 30 years apart) and I love Shelly Duvall for her acting in The Shining and other such greats as Faerie Tale Forest... But, this movie just bombed. I remember I hated it years ago, and thought Id give it another chance- and here we are--- and YES it sucked again!


Once again the review is not about the film, but about the reviewer. They insist on telling us that they “share” a birthday with star, Robin Williams. No they don’t. They have nothing in common with Robin Williams except watching his movies. That’s it. How does the delusion of "birthday sharing" constitute a movie review? How does that give this reviewer any kind of credibility? The reviewer never met Robin Williams nor shares any personal relationship, so the word “love” is another example of overused hyperbole.


I love Shelly Duvall for her acting in The Shining and other such greats as Faerie Tale Forest...

The reviewer also loves Duvall so much she gets the name of Duvall's program wrong, as it is Faerie Tale Theatre.  The reviewer then teases with the possibility of making a real critique involving Shelley Duvall’s acting. Instead it becomes another “Me” list with the reviewer’s personal favorite films. Nothing is said about the overwhelming positive reviews on Duvall’s turn as Olive Oyl, with some critics who derided the film confessing an Oscar nomination should not have been out of the question for herIf the reviewer “LOVES” Robin Williams, what about a look at his performance as the iconic cartoon sailor. The reviewer loves him, but won’t even spare a few sentences on his performance, even if they didn’t like it?


...thought Id give it another chance- and here we are--- and YES it sucked again!


With nothing to support this review but personal feeling, the author drops the generic “sucked” to sum it all up. They could have saved a lot of time and just wrote a single line: This movie sucked.


Maybe a “review” of this review should ask for the last two minutes of my life back for the time wasted in reading and writing about this idiotic assessment of Popeye.


All reviews are biased, but this trend of self-centered amateur public reviewers making reviews all about them stunts the ability of a society to objectively assess the culture it creates and improve upon it. How can filmmaking advance when the audience that consumes the product becomes less demanding and is lulled into a indifferent state of mind where anything is accepted and worse is seen as high quality or: amazing, incredible, awesome, epic…


Your Movie Sucks: Roger Ebert Chimes In With Some Critical Thinking


Roger Ebert, the esteemed and almost godlike film reviewer for the Chicago Sun Times had a brief feud with actor Rob Schneider. In 2005 Los Angeles Times film critic Patrick Goldstein wrote a review of Rob Schneider’s Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo. With tongue in cheek, he wryly wrote that Schneider’s film had been snubbed for an Oscar nomination because "nobody had the foresight to invent a category for Best Running Penis Joke Delivered by a Third-Rate Comic."


Whether Schneider was truly offended or saw an opportunity to generate press for himself (using the old Hollywood axiom that bad press is better than no press at all), he took out full page ads in major Hollywood trades. He claimed he researched Goldstein and found that he never won a single journalistic award. His ads also said this in his counter attack on Goldstein:


Maybe you didn't win a Pulitzer Prize because they haven't invented a category for “Best Third-Rate, Unfunny Pompous Reporter Who's Never Been Acknowledged by His Peers." …Patrick, I can honestly say that if I sat with you and your colleagues at a luncheon, afterwards, they'd say 'You know, that Rob Schneider is a pretty intelligent guy, I hope we can do that again.' Whereas, if you sat with my colleagues, after lunch, you would just be beaten beyond recognition. Rob Schneider's response to Goldstein

Obviously wounded, Schneider went on to call Goldstein a “scumbag” on Tom Green’s TV show (17:13 into the video) and basically accused Goldstein of being a substandard critic. Patrick Goldstein did respond and publicly asked: “Who are Schneider's colleagues and why would I want to have lunch with them?”


This public back and forth attracted the attention of film critic deity Roger Ebert and he entered the fray with some information he dug up on Patrick Goldstein. Ebert found through research that Goldstein not only had peer recognition, he had indeed won a number of awards: National Headline Award, the Los Angeles Press Club Award, a award and the lifetime achievement award from the Publicist’s Guild.


Ebert took to his internationally syndicated column and printed this information and as if enough egg wasn’t thrown in Schneider’s face, Ebert punctuated it with this now famous personal statement to Rob Schneider:


…Schneider is correct; Patrick Goldstein has not yet won a Pulitzer Prize. Therefore, Goldstein is not qualified to complain that Columbia financed "Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo" while passing on the opportunity to participate in "Million Dollar Baby," "Ray," "The Aviator," "Sideways" and "Finding Neverland." As chance would have it, I have won the Pulitzer Prize, and so I am qualified. Speaking in my official capacity as a Pulitzer Prize winner, Mr. Schneider, your movie sucks. Roger Ebert


Schneider countered by calling Roger Ebert an ass. Ebert simply replied: “If he's going to persist in making bad movies, he's going to have to grow accustomed to reading bad reviews.”


To Schneider’s credit, when Roger Ebert fell gravely ill with cancer and lost most of his jaw to the disease, Schneider sent him flowers with a card reading: “Your least favorite actor, Rob Schneider.” Both men have made their peace with Ebert declaring publicly that Schneider may make bad movies but he’s not a bad guy.


With a single stroke of logic and fact, Ebert put out the fire between Schneider and Goldstein and perhaps gave Schneider something to think about, and that maybe it wasn’t all about him. Ebert’s deft handling of the situation, while hardly a national crisis, showed reserve and even respect for Schneider as he stayed away from a personal attack against the actor. He assessed the actor’s body of work and found himself qualified in his usual perceptive review to criticize Deuce Bigalow while adding a humorous punchline with “your movie sucks.”


Ebert didn’t use “sucks” as the foundation of his review. He used the term in the proper context--as a useless exaggeration for fun, not to intelligently assess a piece of popular culture.


Ebert also used restrained dialogue to foster civil discourse that in the end showed he didn’t take himself or the media feud all that seriously. “True power is never having to use it.” Roger Ebert had the power to destroy Rob Schneider with the vast power of his column as well as much of Hollywood behind him. If he wanted to he could have knocked down Schneider’s career like a house of cards.


The power of critical thinking. Soon Roger Ebert will review this author's films, The Fields, and Six Degrees of Hell. Whether he praises them or savages them, the review will be respected because it comes from a venerated and intelligent reviewer who founds his criticism in logic and doesn't make it all about him...or me.





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