When someone writes the obit for Variety critic Derek Elley (not for many decades!), it’s likely he/she will feel obliged to mention the biggest wrongo of Elley’s career — his September 2008 pan of The Hurt Locker at the Venice Film Festival. There’s no right or wrong view of any film, of course, but Elley’s view is so drastically divorced from the opinion of 98% of the critics who’ve written about it since that you have to wonder, as I did in my 2008 Toronto review, what Elley saw over there.
You can slam any film you want for any reason, but if it’s doing something well you have to at least acknowledge this. If it seems to be touching a nerve or connecting in some efficient way you have to at least be fair and say, “It knows what it’s doing.”
What are the other notorious missed-the-basic-value reviews? David Poland‘s “hold up there, cowboy!” pan of Brokeback Mountain from the Telluride Film festival, surely. My thumbs-up reaction to Tim Burton‘s Planet of the Apes was a miss-in-reverse. Todd McCarthy‘s Sundance Film Festival pan of The Big Lebowski lives in the annals. Bosley Crowther‘s trashing of Dr. Strangelove in early ’64, and his praise of Cleopatra the year before.