Jewish World Review June 11, 2003 / 11 Sivan, 5763

Media Person

Media Person
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Queasy Rider | At what point exactly, Media Person would like to ask, as long as we're all sitting around here with nothing better to do, did it become mandatory for critics to describe every movie that comes along as a "ride?" Was a Constitutional amendment passed that MP missed? Was there a secret meeting of the U.S. Buzzword Association? A directive from the director of Homeland Security? A papal bull nailed to the door of all American multiplexes?

Media Person first noticed the Ride Syndrome a year or two ago in articles about people leaving jobs. All at once, like some vast herd of lemmings simultaneously heading for the nearest cliff, they were all saying things like, "I look forward to the exciting new challenges I'll face wandering the raw, empty streets depressed and penniless, but this has been a wonderful ride."

You'd think it was a laid-off astronaut or an over-the-hill brahma-bull rider bidding adieu to his beloved rodeo, but no, it was usually just another sacked magazine editor who'd been riding nothing wilder than an Aeron chair.

Then riding rode roughshod into the movie sections of the newspapers and the "arts" segments of the TV news. And so far has refused to ride out. Just look at this ...

Joel Siegel, on Good Morning America, proclaims: "Find yourself a theater with a big screen, surround sound and seat belts. The Matrix Reloaded is a hell of a ride."

On Today, Gene Shalit announces: "The Italian Job is a captivating joy ride."

Amy Longsdorf (whoever she is) of the Camden Courier Post (whatever that is) chimes in on The Italian Job: "Fasten your seat belts for the summer's wildest ride!"

Thelma Adams of Us Weekly proclaims The In-Laws to be: "A rollicking ride. Hilarious."

And that's just this week. If you went back and looked over all the movie ads of the last few years, you'd find more rides than Salma Hayek would be offered if she hitchhiked naked through an Alaskan mining camp (a concept someone will undoubtedly steal for a movie).

There are also critics who yearn to say "ride" but can't bring themselves to do it. They took the ride, they liked the ride, but they have some last shred of dignity remaining and a barely intact will to resist cliches. So they struggle valiantly against the R-word.

The Italian Job, writes Stephen Holden in The New York Times, "feels like a smooth, exciting whoosh down a ski slope." Winged Migration, he writes, "transports you to an exalted realm." Stephen, for heaven's sake, get it out of your system. Say the word out loud, scream it primally and then, maybe, just maybe, you will at last be free from its mysterious, narcotic power.

Of course, a lot of Hollywood productions nowadays really feel more like amusement-park rides than movies. Some even cast hot cars in featured roles. This might explain why producers are so eager to clip and paste "ride" quotes from reviews. But the critics' willingness to become easy riders is harder to understand. Media Person sees fewer action flicks and lowbrow knockabout comedies than a movie reviewer does and finds the majority increasingly tedious. Yet many of these alleged professionals are apparently thrilled unto ecstasy by just about every fourth-rate comic-book special-effects mishmash they see.

If they're not telling you a movie rides, they're telling you it rocks. Or that it will knock your socks off. Or tear out your viscera and eat them. It's reached the point where going to the movies sounds like a terrifying, life-threatening experience. Dramas, according to our reviewers, blow you away, hit you like a shot of pure oxygen, pound your heart, nail or pin you to your seat, grab you and won't let you go, take your breath away, blow your mind. Comedies, even tepid ones like the latest Steve Martin and Jim Carrey flicks or The In-Laws, it is claimed, will split your sides, make your belly ache, have you in stitches and make you slap your knee. (Has anyone ever actually done this?)

What is the matter with these people? In this time of journalistic scandal, why is it not considered a hanging offense that awful movies are not only hyped but in such absurdly over-inflated style?

If we must have dumb fad words, let's at least substitute sucks for ride. It's crude and trite, sure, but it's honest.

"If there is one sequel deserving the word 'sucks' this summer, it's that suckowski of a suckadelic sucker, The Matrix Reloaded. Suckorama!!!" -- Joel Shalit, ABC Yesterday Morning.

"Boy, does The In-Laws ever suck. It sucked so bad, I couldn't ride it. I had to walk out!" -- Gene Siegel, USA Next Week.

"Every single sucking movie I've seen this year sucks! It's a megasuckathon." -- Leonard Malted, Sucker magazine.

Now that would be something to ride home about.

JWR contributor Media Person -- a.k.a Lewis Grossberger -- is a columnist for Media Week. Comment by clicking here.


05/28/03: How Hip Is Hop?
05/14/03: Will endorse for food
05/06/03: Kick this sick shtick
04/16/03: Important developments you may have missed because of all the war stuff clogging up the media
03/25/03: To go or not to go
03/12/03: How to talk war talk
03/04/03: Two master debaters
02/26/03: The Miracle Continues: Ask me no questions, I'll tell you no lies
02/19/03: Yanking the Franks
02/05/03: LET MY LETTERS GO!
01/28/03: Into the Pity Pit
01/15/03: Not My Cup of Joe
01/09/03: It was back in '03
12/17/02: Did you get taken?
12/05/02: Mathers of importance

© 2002, Lewis Grossberger