Modine is no joker on the subject of movie critics

wcrenshaw@macon.comMarch 1, 2014 

Veteran film actor Matthew Modine speaks Saturday in Macon at a symposium on the value of film criticism. Sharing the stage was film critic Karina Longworth and Steve Murray, critic-in-residence at Macon Arts Alliance.


Putting a movie actor on stage with a critic to discuss the value of film criticism figures to make for a lively discussion, and Saturday’s Macon Arts Alliance Symposium did not disappoint.

Matthew Modine, best known as Private Joker in “Full Metal Jacket,” shared the stage with Karina Longworth, an award-winning film critic based in Los Angeles. They voiced some sharp differences of opinion about movie criticism at the Macon Film Festival event.

Modine wasted no time in letting it be known that he didn’t have a high opinion of the profession.

“I’ve seen colleagues career’s destroyed by film criticism,” he said. “It’s an emotional conversation for me to have.”

Although today “Full Metal Jacket” is considered a classic, Modine noted that when it came out in 1987, Roger Ebert gave it the dreaded thumbs down. Ebert at the time co-hosted “Sneak Previews” with Gene Siskel.

“Those two men had the power and potential to destroy a film’s opening weekend,” Modine said.

Longworth said her aim is to not so much to give her opinion about a movie, but a report on the experience of watching it.

“It has less to do with my opinion for me than it does to explain this object that you spend two hours in a room with,” she said.

One point they agreed on was that film criticism has changed dramatically in the past few years with the explosion of Internet-based movie critics.

Modine said a beef he has with critics is that they seem to lean toward negativity because that gets more attention.

“I think the strongest thing I can say is that if you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything,” he said.

Longworth disagreed with the point that critics would be negative just because it might make for better reading.

“Film criticism has been important to me as a reader and a person who loves movies because it helps me understand movies,” she said. “I would rather read a positive review because I love movies, but sometimes reviews need to be negative.”

To contact writer Wayne Crenshaw, call 256-9725.

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