Thursday, July 5, 2012

There is a difference between a movie reviewer and a film critic.

Reviewers weigh in on whether you should see a particular movie on Friday night. Critics explain how the movie you just saw on Friday night fits into the larger scope of film history. A critic may even offer insight into the movie, just in case you might have missed the deeper meanings. 

I believe the one common thread reviewers and critics share is that all eventually wear out their welcome. I would like to propose a rule that after several years, let’s say a maximum of ten, a reviewer or a critic should be forced to work in another profession. Inevitably a decade of appraising mostly bad movies skews the sensibility of a writer into either being too cynical or over praising a film when it meets his “agenda.”

However, I would suspend my “Ten Year Rule” for film critic/reviewer – Doug Pratt. He is the editor of The DVD-Laser Disc Newsletter, a past contributor to Rolling Stone magazine, and a regular columnist for He has been a film critic since 1976 and has been the editor of “The DVD-Laser Disc Newsletter” since 1984.

For years and years I’ve been reading Pratt’s newsletter, first buying it at a nearby “Tower Records,” then, when all the record stores went out of business, I became a subscriber. To this day, I not only still receive the newsletter, I habitually consume it the day it arrives. Frankly, it’s my only source for movie and TV releases on Blu-ray and DVD.

So why the suspension of the “Ten Year Rule” for Pratt?

Because when you read his reviews/critiques it’s obvious Pratt still fully enjoys watching movies and TV programs (or music… or pretty much any kind of entertainment released in the digital format). Rather than becoming cynical, he has allowed his experience as a critic to make him smarter and more insightful over the years about why something is worth seeing, or popular, or why something needs to be more popular.

I also believe that Pratt is unique in what he does and what he has achieved.  

His newsletter is geared toward those film enthusiasts who not only want to know what he thought about a particular movie or TV series recently released on DVD or Blu-ray, but also his thoughts on the supplemental or special features accompanying the title. And he is likely to write as much about the technical specifications of a particular DVD/Blu-ray as he is about the plot, story, and characters.  It’s not that Pratt skips the critique and resorts to regurgitating the promotional copy put out by the entertainment companies. He’s just become very artful about conveying his opinions in a limited space, something along the lines of adopting Oscar Wilde’s maxim that the soul of wit is in its brevity.

I’ve been wanting to interview him for years about what he does, how he does it, and what he’s thinking when he reviews a title. I was excited about finally getting the opportunity to interview him this week.