*Editor’s note: Leonard Maltin’s opinions are his own. He hasn’t written a blog or review since the MySpace era, so please excuse his doldrum existence and blissfully unaware views.
Greetings, movie fans, cinephiles, and deadbeat dads alike. Your inquisitive host has returned from a long period of exile to share his insightful commentary on the current state of cinema. A lot has changed since I last stumbled out of a movie theater after drinking myself through the latest never-ending Pirates of the Caribbean romp. From what I recall, I gave the film a terrible review. And what of my subsequent arrest? Let’s just say that there’s a two-tiered justice system in this country: one for the elite and one for aging movie critics caught in darkened alleys with their pants around their ankles. I was urinating!
Why else would I be behind a dumpster? The pimply-faced prosecutor said that I had “exposed myself.” To who, the rats? I don’t mean to dredge up past indiscretions. I’m a new man today. 2020, here we go! The first thing I noticed, however, in this god-forsaken year, was all the closed movie theaters. What’s a renowned film critic supposed to do with that? I’ve seen more masks around than the movie, Mask. Both of them! But instead of Eric Stolz’s heavy makeup or Jim Carrey’s cartoon wolf boner, I get blue balls from an empty Redbox machine.
Now, I’m expected to “stream” new releases from the discomfort of my shoddy downtown studio apartment. And don’t get me started on everything else. I told a group of Black Lives Matter protesters corning me that I LOVE Spike Lee films, and they still beat me senseless. You can’t win ’em all. It’s hard to know what’s popular today without box office receipts. In my time, you could theater hop between The Deer Hunter, Coming Home, and Midnight Express in one night. Those were the movies everyone was talking about. Nowadays, I’m asked my thoughts on Trolls Word Tour. What the fuck is that?
I searched my Internet for contemporary films and only got a list of shows in return. Does everything have to be so “episodic” nowadays? Just tell me what you got in ninety minutes or less so I can return to painting. Yes, I’m a painter by day. Do you have any better suggestions on what a sixty-seven-year-old thrice-divorcee is supposed to do with his time? I’m like that one guy, Pollock, who threw paint on the floor. Speaking of which, Ed Harris did a standup job in the acclaimed film of the same name–and there I go mentioning old films again. I do have relevant things to share, I promise.
I enjoyed the last Star Wars move, aptly titled: The Final Frontier. The long-running space opera has never been so mesmerizing. In this esteemed reviewer’s opinion, Disney has done a wonderful job with the franchise. When I had read that the film costed $275 million, my ailing heart skipped a beat. Movie-making shouldn’t cost hundreds of millions of dollars. Leave that kind of profligate spending to the government.
Nonetheless, no studio has recaptured the pure magic of the Star Wars saga like Disney. And I say that not as someone on Bob Iger’s payroll but as an easily compromised and desperate hack. Again, I can feel your judgement. Have you seen the state of the economy lately? So what if I take a few kickbacks from the Mouseketeer Mafia. I’m not a bad guy. Degenerate gambler and drunk maybe, but I know where to draw the line. For instance, Netflix has bought nearly every critic out there. Just try to find a negative review of Stranger Things. The only thing stranger than that would be my YouTube channel trending higher than old Siskel & Ebert uploads.
These are curious times. We’ve replaced the traditional theater-going experience with endless indecisiveness on what next to binge-watch. Nothing against binging, I just ate an entire bag of pepperoni-flavored Combos. Damn pretzel bits are stuck between my teeth now. We’ve abandoned television sitcoms and crowded cinemas for more intimate commercial-free programming on our cell phones. What’s wrong with commercials? Joe McCarthy was right. The communists have taken over, and they’re making us watch Tiger King.
I decided to “stream” The Invisible Man. It starred a woman, of course, who, in my humble opinion, failed to reach the heights of funny man Chevy Chase in his own Memoirs of an Invisible Man. I then watched First Man about Neil Armstrong, followed by Superman III. That’s one hell of a lineup. Feeling a bit chauvinist about my male-centric marathon, I proceeded to watch Hustlers with Jennifer Lopez and the new Charlie’s Angels. You’d be surprised to discover that I enjoyed both films, and you’d be right, because I nearly blew my brains out.
But a critic cannot discriminate. I was one of the few left in the eighties who would still review the Friday the 13th series. The slasher craze had disgusted many of my peers, and they chose to bow out completely. By the time Jason “took Manhattan,” I was the only one willing to publish a review. I had, in fact, defied expectations by awarding the latest schlock-fest installment two stars out of four. You must understand that I was on a lot of methamphetamines back then. No one said that being a critic was easy. We had to sit through seven Police Academy movies!
I think of my long, distinguished career while watching this Ben-Hur remake, of all travesties, with the sound off. There should be a law against remaking certain films. If so, Gus Van Sant would be doing ten to twenty years in a Portland penitentiary for his Psycho abomination. Just please, for the love of God, don’t touch Bringing Up Baby. Maybe they already have, who knows? The state of cinema is waning like our culture. What we lack in originality, we make up for in mindless, preachy franchises. However, we mustn’t forget that everything is derivative and has been since the beginning of time. When cavemen first invented the wheel, they only discovered it after some bug or reptile inadvertently slapped it together first.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe offers the escapism of a multi-million-dollar video game. The never-ending installments of modernized superheroes undoubtedly please their target audience. Everyone is happy, expect for me. Where is the joy in ridiculing infamous bombs like Howard the Duck and Leonard Part 6 when nothing stands out anymore? Look no further than Rotten Tomatoes. Every movie on there is a winner. I eagerly await the two-hundred percent score for the next assembly line, focus-poll hogwash. Has the public ever really listened to critics? Sometimes we’re forced to admit that we were wrong, but I stand by my blistering review of Showgirls. It’s not a good movie, people!
We critics desire nothing more than to influence public opinion every bit as much as the blood-sucking jackals in the news media. Do we even have a say anymore? Does anyone care? At my withering age, I have more questions than answers. I was hoping by now that it would be the other way around. I’d like to abandon the film critic profession altogether and pursue my dream of music. I played the clarinet in my youth and would much like to regain my footing. They have a weekly open mic night at a tavern down the street. I’m usually in the front row, heckling anyone with the nerve to share their talent, but this time it’ll be different. I’ll be courteous and complimentary. I won’t think of the string of ex-wives who have left me penniless and emotionally damaged. I’ll seize the moment to spread enjoyment to the masses.
When they call me upon the stage, I’ll approach with my clarinet in hand and the confidence of a thousand twelfth-century Mongolian soldiers. Nothing can take me down, except for the fact that all the bars are closed right now… along with the movie theaters. This pandemic is a real showstopper. It’s hard out there for movie critics, but we’ll prevail. America will too. If we critics can survive Myra Breckinridge, then this country can survive anything.