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Dust-up over 'American the Beautiful'

Posted at 3:40 PM on August 4, 2008 by Euan Kerr

After taking a creaming in the New York Times review of his movie, "America the Beautiful" director Darryl Roberts went on the offensive yesterday.

He sent out an e-mail to some 14,000 people signed up on his movie's fan list asking them to either attend the film in New York, send a friend, or just buy a ticket and 'sponsor' someone else to go see the film.

In the e-mail Roberts says he's being careful in what he writes because he thinks he may get sued, but he essentially accuses the beauty industry of shutting down coverage. He says 90 percent of the interviews he did in advance of his film's New York premier never made it to print.

Again citing legal concerns Roberts provides no evidence in his message beyond a comment from an unnamed source in a cosmetics company telling him to leave out references to phthalates in cosmetics in the film "and you'll be fine."

It will be intriguing to see how this plays out.

However what I find really interesting is the when Roberts turns to the critics.

He writes: "So in addition to not getting any publicity, most of the critics in New York performed a hatchet job on me. As you know, all over the U.S., credible critics like Roger Ebert, Ain't it Cool News, etc. have praised the film. But the New York Times said that the film was pointless and basically had no reason to exist. Hmmmmm.

This is where I could pontificate on a few things, but once again, legally I can't. What I can do is help you not to get duped in the future by a "so-called" critic. When reading a review, most of us just say that the New York Times said such and such. Well all critics aren't created equal. At every major paper in the country, they have the real critics that are seasoned, professional and actually know what they're talking about. Then they have the B list critics. it's important to know exactly who's writing the review that you're reading.

Roberts then provides this link to a Chicago reader blog post by veteran movie critic Jonathan Rosenbaum criticizing the same NYT reviewer, Jeannette Catsoulis.

What's really interesting about the piece is it engendered a great debate about the function of criticism when it comes to art film, a debate which eventually draws in Catsoulis herself. There's no consensus, but there are some interesting points made on all sides.

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