The Super-Secret Film Critic Cabal

Originally posted in August 2013

This week, actors Johnny Depp and Armie Hammer gave an interview to a British reporter in which they blamed film critics for the colossal failure of their movie The Lone Ranger. Among the accusations were that critics “reviewed the budget,” went “gunning for” the film, and “decided to slit the jugular” of The Lone Ranger. In essence, the understandably bitter actors suggested that their movie was great and that a conspiracy took place to make average ticketbuyers think otherwise. At the risk of being drummed out of the corps, I’m here to tell you the truth: Depp and Hammer are correct.

The Super-Secret Film Critic Cabal (a name coined by our founder and L. Ron Hubbard-esque leader, Rex Reed) meets several times a year to pick one particular movie that we will savage in each moviegoing season. Our meetings are always a lavish affair, complete with an abundance of cocaine and hookers. (No women are allowed because, goodness knows, we do everything we can to keep them out of this business.) There are several key criteria we look for. The first is budget. If a movie costs too much to make, we’re going to bring it down. Film critics are woefully underpaid, so we like to take shots at people who have money to burn. The second thing is whether a movie has had production troubles. Were there on-set conflicts? Did production get shut down? Has the release date been shifted more than once? This is all chum in the water for us sharks. If you’ve ever spat on a homeless person in the street, you understand the rush that comes with kicking someone when they’re down. The third, and final, thing we look for is intense fanboy interest. One of the greatest privileges of being a professional film critic is the ability to piss off fanboys by taking an unnecessary dump on something they love. Those pathetic losers get so worked up! The more of these factors a movie has, the more likely it is to earn our vote. I mean, what’s the point in picking on something like Fruitvale Station that nobody cares about, am I right?

In regard to The Lone Ranger, we decided to “slit the jugular” at our quarterly meeting at the Four Seasons in Los Angeles late last winter. The meeting was somewhat contentious. The Lone Ranger was massively overbudgeted and had production temporarily shut down due to rising costs. But the same was true of another picture, World War Z. Hell, they had to rewrite the entire third act of that thing! After much heated debate – and a lengthy filibuster from Armond White – it was decided that we’d give World War Z a pass and make The Lone Ranger our Summer 2013 whipping boy. In the end, we all hope to someday party with Brad Pitt, so angering him didn’t seem wise. Johnny Depp, on the other hand, needed to be knocked down a peg for all the roles in which he wears too much makeup and acts like a weirdo. Also, The Lone Ranger was produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, who we love to rag on. It’s a little known fact that most film critics don’t actually see Jerry Bruckheimer films. As soon as we know he’s involved, we just go ahead and write our negative reviews, sight unseen.

And that’s exactly what happened after the meeting. Like most critics, I went home and penned my savage review of The Lone Ranger. As a formality, I went and saw the movie on opening weekend. Truth is, I thought it was great – funny, exciting, highly entertaining. Easily one of the best summer movies ever made. But I had a job to do, and the Cabal had spoken, so my pan went online.

The Super-Secret Film Critic Cabal met again at New York’s Tavern on the Green back in mid-June to discuss our plans for the upcoming holiday movie season. At the risk of dropping spoilers, just wait until you see what we’re going to do The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. It’s going to be a bloodbath! How dare Peter Jackson try to stretch that story into three films! Screw that guy! Watching the fanboys hit the roof is going to be a blast. My review in already in the can. I’ll be giving it half a star, calling the film “the pathetic work of an egotistical, highly overrated filmmaker who wouldn’t know a good fantasy story from a huge, gaping hole in Middle Earth.” That oughta nab me a Pulitzer, huh?

So why am I risking my professional standing to tell you all this? Simple: the cat’s out of the bag. That asshat Kevin Smith has been trying to tell the world about the Super-Secret Film Critic Cabal for years, but everyone regarded him as a washed-up, pot-addled self-promotion machine. Now that credible celebrities like Johnny Depp and Armie Hammer have exposed us, there is no point in living a lie anymore. I’ve worked hard to get to a place where I earn a paycheck for bashing people richer, better looking, and more talented than I am. I’m going to enjoy it.

See you at the movies. Maybe.



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