Leonard Maltin, he of video guide fame, is going to be doing a signing tomorrow night. Every year a sales rep for his publisher gives me a free copy of his new guide, so it's become the standard low-tech source for movie information around our house. It's poorly cross-referenced and has an index that can most kindly be described as "minimalist." Still, it's a handy thing to have lying around when you can't drag yourself away from TCM but just have to know who that character actor is -- and was he also in that other movie?
Leonard Maltin probably has some integrity as a film critic. I say "some" because he's clearly not in the same league as, say, Roger Ebert, who writes lengthy, intelligent reviews that demonstrate that a great deal of thought has gone into their creation, even if you don't agree with what he (Ebert) has to say. Maltin's annual guide of mini reviews is now so massive that he has omitted a number of older film titles (like the sequels to The Thin Man) and put them in a separate volume devoted just to the classics. He also doesn't write all of the reviews himself any more, instead relying on a staff to do all that scutwork, possibly producing a reference volume that is, shall we say, inconsistent in its standards of artistic judgment. Which leads me to the following question:
Why the hell does Sophie's Choice merit only two and a half stars?
Two and a half stars means it's just as good as but no better than Laserblast, Nanny McPhee, The Shaggy Dog (1959 version), Enemy Mine, Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey, Troop Beverly Hills, and Mars Attacks! Two and a half stars is a marginal B, perhaps even a B minus, in my estimate. Really, is old Len telling me that Troy, Smokey & the Bandit, Jailhouse Rock, The Day After Tomorrow, Escape from the Planet of the Apes, and Nixon -- all of which rate three stars -- are better entertainment than Sophie's Choice? Different, to be sure, but actually superior?
This question has nagged those of us residing in our house for a good dozen years or more. If I didn't already have plans to go see the critically unloved flick The Brave One tomorrow night, I'd show up and give Mr. Maltin a piece of my mind.
*** 10/2/07 UPDATE ***
Late last evening Sean, who hadn't read the above post, was flipping around on the TV and happened upon Sophie's Choice. He paused for a moment, as it's one of his favorite films, but then he moved on, saying, "That's only a two and a half star movie."