I love Christopher Nolan movies.
Memento. Batman Begins. The Prestige. The Dark Knight. And now, Inception.
And, it seems, I’m not alone.
Visit rottentomatoes.com and you’ll find reviews from the nation’s top reviewers for just about every movie in the past 10 years. If a film gets 60 percent positive reviews, it’s “certifiably fresh.” Anything less than that, the film is deemed “rotten.”
Nolan’s films have been undeniably “fresh”.
Memento: 92% fresh
Batman Begins: 84% fresh
The Prestige: 75% fresh
The Dark Knight: 93% fresh
Inception: 85% fresh
In studying the “fresh” and “rotten” reviews of Nolan’s films, I noticed that an inexplicably high number of negative reviews came from New York reviewers. Rex Reed of the New York Observer and Armond White of the New York Press have hated everything Nolan does, and their reviews not only tear down his films, but they come off as personal attacks as well.
Take Nolan’s last two efforts — The Dark Knight and Inception. Two films that have accounted for a total of 436 fresh reviews and 52 rotten reviews. Of the Dark Knight’s “rotten” reviews (18), four of them came from New York’s top publications — Wall Street Journal, New York Press, The New Yorker and New York Magazine. Another negative review came from Time Out New York, and I’m sure a few of the websites that gave it a thumbs down originate from the Big Apple.
It’s worse for Inception. A total of 34 rotten reviews — eight came from the following: Village Voice, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Slant Magazine, The New Yorker, New York Magazine, New York Press, New York Observer.
Why do New Yorkers hate Christopher Nolan films?
I’m not the first to have noticed this. When Dark Knight reviews started flooding in in 2008, many of the forum dwellers at the website noticed the trend as well. Some joked that it was because of Nolan’s decision to make Chicago the Gotham City of choice rather than New York.
A nice theory, but I doubt New York critics would be so shallow.
My theory is this — for the most part, if you’re a movie critic in New York City, it means you’ve reached (most of the time) the pinnacle of your profession.
I’M THE FREAKIN’ NEW YORK TIMES MOVIE CRITIC. BOW DOWN BEFORE ME AND ACKNOWLEDGE ME AS THE MASTER OF YOUR FAILED AND USELESS LIVES.
As the master of movies, these New York critics feel compelled to “perform” … in other words, their reviews are meant to be just as entertaining as the movies they’re watching. Instead of enjoying well-made films and reporting on them, they’re finding the flaws and making it a point to outsmart their fellow reviewers.
Rex Reed likes the same movie as everyone else??? Blasphemy!!!
Here’s a few excerpts from Reed’s reviews of Nolan movies.
REED ON DARK KNIGHT: The Dark Knight is preposterous, unnecessary and a far, far cry from the old DC Comics of my youth created by Bob Kane.
REED ON BATMAN BEGINS: Dragging Batman addicts back to the beginning of the Bob Kane action heroics published by DC Comics, the producers of this sadistic mess spent enough money to find a cure for AIDS, but they couldn’t find a way to keep me awake. … Batman Begins is for morons.
REED ON INCEPTION: Writer-director Nolan is an elegant Hollywood hack from London whose movies are a colossal waste of time, money and I.Q. points.
You OK, Rex?
Then there’s Armond White, who also doesn’t mask his hatred for Nolan’s movies. Or Nolan himself. I can’t tell which.
WHITE ON INCEPTION: Christopher Nolan doesn’t have a born filmmaker’s natural gift for detail, composition and movement, but on the evidence of his fussily constructed mind-game movies Following, Memento, Insomnia and the new Inception, he’s definitely a born con artist. Who else could rook Warner Bros. out of $200 million to make Hollywood’s most elaborate video-game movie and slap on a puzzling, unappealing title?
WHITE ON DARK KNIGHT: Nolan’s single trick is to torment viewers with relentless action montages; distracting ellipses that create narrative frustration and paranoia. Delayed resolution. Fake tension. Such effects used to be called cheap. Cheap like The Joker’s psychobabble: “Madness, as you know, is like gravity—all it takes is a little push.” The Dark Knight is the sentinel of our cultural abyss. All it takes is a push.
Just to throw this in there, White had this to say about NORBIT: As Eddie Murphy gets carried along on the tidal wave of hype for the ghastly Dreamgirls, it’s a sanity-saving relief to have Norbit open and demonstrate what Murphy is good at.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not chastising anybody who doesn’t like Nolan films. I’m just wondering why New York seems to have such a perceived bias against him.
My theory — New Yawkers are smarty-pants — is just a theory.
The great thing about movie reviews is that they’re always debatable. The Herald’s own Neil Morris tends to dislike more than he likes and he doesn’t always go with the flow … but I’ve never seen a bias in his writing.
I suppose the lesson from all of this? The next time Nolan makes a movie, and you’re basing whether or not you’re going to shell out $10 to see it on movie reviews, take the New York reviews with a grain of salt.
Chances are, they hate it already (even if it hasn’t been made).