The Reel Deal

Film fan Andrew Ramsammy wants to save the world from ornery movie critics

NT: Why not educate people about the difference between criticism and consumerism? That just because you read a critic's negative review, it doesn't mean, "This is a bad movie and you shouldn't go see it."

Ramsammy: Right. That's what we tell our members. Whenever you see a movie review, it's only an opinion, not absolution.

NT: Huzzah! Is it really news that a critic is merely offering an informed opinion about what he saw? Why do we believe that critics are just telling us which tickets to spend our money on?

See Ramsammy run: Andrew Ramsammy unspools the Reel Truth.
Emily Piraino
See Ramsammy run: Andrew Ramsammy unspools the Reel Truth.

Ramsammy: Our society is built on the power of information, and unfortunately society has given the people who share that information too much power, and they've become puppets to what is being said, without questioning it. We want to give people back their power of opinion, instead of letting it just reside with the media. Because then we become victims of the media.

NT: Well, on behalf of the media, we're awfully sorry. But, listen: You're asking for the opinions of laypeople. Isn't the collective critic the same as the paid critic? It's still people saying what they thought of a movie, and other people deciding what movie to go see based on that.

Ramsammy: We want people to look at [which member] wrote the review and realize that, if you share that person's opinion, you would go to him as a reliable source. It's like having a community of friends who think a movie is good or bad, and I think that's more valuable than hearing the opinion of a movie critic in a newspaper.

NT: I think you couldn't possibly be more wrong, because a newspaper critic is probably offering a more informed opinion, and is maybe trained in critical thinking.

Ramsammy: Those are big assumptions.

NT: But listen to the way people talk about movies, or books, or plays, or whatever. You ask them what they thought of what they saw or read, and they say, "It was good." You talk that way yourself. You should maybe teach people that movies aren't either good or bad, but that they have a certain value to different viewers.

Ramsammy: What I want to do is promote multiple opinions. There's no such thing as the truth, there are only the truths. Film critics all have certain likes and dislikes. They're human. If you're a film critic and you go to review an action movie, but you don't like action movies, can you remove yourself from being human and just be analytical?

NT: Absolutely. It's called employing critical thinking. Have you actually based your whole "film community" around the notion that critics are just coldhearted meanies who have too much power and too many expectations?

Ramsammy: Critics walk in with an expectation about what they're about to see. If you go to review a movie about homosexuality and you're morally opposed to homosexuality, can you really be objective?

NT: If you're a critic, it's your job!

Ramsammy: I've talked to film critics. I know some of them here in town. And they say, "I didn't like the movie because it didn't have this, that, or the other thing." We're hoping our members will critique a film with a more open mind than most critics do. We think there's a professional code among critics, and there isn't.

NT: I can't believe we're sitting here talking about protecting movies from the critics' opinions. Is someone going to come in here and change our diapers in a minute?

Ramsammy: Listen, there's a film critic in town who gives four stars to every blow-'em-up, shoot-'em-up, but he'll only give one star to any melodrama. There is bias among critics, which is unfair because filmmakers want to be as respected by the public for their work as much as a film critic does for his. It's not fair, and that's why the Reel Truth exists. So people will have some opinion to go to other than the critics', and learn to trust their own opinions.

NT: Isn't it a better idea to just go and see the movie, or the play, or the painting, and have the experience, good or bad, of seeing it?

Ramsammy: Yes. And the unfortunate part is that many filmgoers walk in thinking they need to be fulfilled; they have to achieve X for the movie to be good. What we want them to do is to walk in without that expectation, which robs them of the experience of seeing the film the way it was meant to be seen. We want to teach that.

NT: Good luck.

Ramsammy: Thanks. I think I'll need it.


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