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The Movie Critic’s Boyfriend

Hi. I’m Steve.

I can think of no better way to start an introductory column than to get that out of the way. Then, there’s all of this:

I have always loved movies. I knew who Siskel and Ebert were before I had fully figured out which of the people coming over for Thanksgiving dinner were relatives and which were friends of my parents. I grew up reading – devouring, really- comic books and movie makeup magazines and Fangoria and Famous Monsters of Filmland and behind the scenes reports from the set of almost any movie I could find – and pre-Internet in a small town in North Dakota, that wasn’t always easy.

I knew I wanted to grow up and make movies, and I have. If you’re curious, you can check out my credits on Imdb.com. I’ve won a number of awards for short films I’ve directed, acted in or produced, and I’ve got a few of them that I’m really proud of. I’m currently making money as an editor for reality television.

I’m telling you all of this so you’ll understand a little about who I am, and where my opinions on movies come from. I’m a tough critic, if that’s what I’m going to do here – I’ve written and made films, so I’m less forgiving of lazy mistakes or plot devices that don’t make sense (if your film intends the illusion of happening in reality). I’ve seen a lot of films, so the same premises being repeated, ad infinitum, annoy me. I understand that there are only so many stories to tell, but telling it in a different manner (Memento and several Terry Gilliam movies come to mind) can transform the experience of seeing those familiar stories into something magical.

I also have a lot of difficulty “letting go” when I’m in a movie. It was much easier when I was younger and didn’t know anything about grips and gaffers and lens flares (curse you, J.J. Abrams!); it’s now far less easy for me to drop when a movie is trying to draw me in.

I’ll give you a prime example of something that bugged me in a movie that most other people didn’t seem to notice. (SPOILER ALERT: I’m about to talk about a plot point in the movie Stargate. If you haven’t seen this movie yet, build a time machine, travel 20 years into the past and see it in a theater in 1994, but take care not to alter anything or you’ll totally screw up the timeline. That may mean you should bring your own popcorn.)

In this film, James Spader is brought into a secret facility to help crack the code of the Stargate, which will lead them to a planet that looks like ancient Egypt, if you took hieroglyphics literally. The scientists there show him the power of the Stargate by turning the device through six symbols on its outer rim. “We know we need seven symbols to unlock this, and we’ve gotten this far but now we’re stumped, so save us, somewhat moody James Spader!” shouts the lead science guy over a lot of wind blowing and room freaking out effects (I may be paraphrasing).

My problem with that moment, which hit me in the theater as the line was uttered: if you’re trying to crack a combination lock, the last number is the easiest one to get. If you know the first six numbers are right, you just turn those six numbers and then go to one. If that doesn’t work, first six numbers and two, then first six numbers and three…and so on, until the safe, or inter-dimensional stargate, or whatever, opens.

There’s no reason to bring James Spader in, aside from him being a very talented actor who generally brings his A-game to any role he plays. The idea that the scriptwriter envisioned a facility full of brilliant scientists, but that none of them would realize that one very obvious thing, hurt my enjoyment of the film.

I still see a number of movies, but not as many as the semi-titular girlfriend from my column name does. (I mention this only so I can use the phrase “semi-titular girlfriend” and make myself giggle like a 12-year old boy.) My girlfriend loves films more than I do, sees several movies a week, and has for years, even before it was her job. I have been fortunate enough to tag along as her “Plus One” for a number of screenings, which usually take place before the general release so she can conduct interviews with the stars and help promote the movie. (The movie-making machine is a huge industry, and I’m going to assume you already know some of the ins and outs. Why else would you be reading this strange new column on a movie website…?)

She no longer has to rate movies, but we talk about them, like most couples do. Many of our friends are her co-workers, who are all pretty well-known and respected movie reviewers. This is cool, yet, sometimes, intimidating. Imagine seeing a rock concert and talking excitedly about it with your friends, who are members of Foo Fighters, the Rolling Stones and Rush. You might feel a little hesitant to argue the positives and negatives of the show with this particular group, sometimes.

Which leads me to this column – which I am fortunate enough to be able to share here on my friend, Leonard Maltin’s site (the phrase “my friend, Leonard Maltin” should be reserved for highly revered movie dignitaries and Disney cartoon characters), and which will mainly deal with my take on movies I see and am allowed to talk about.

Yes, there are movies I will see far in advance that I am sworn not to discuss, when a film is under “embargo.” And there are times that I do not get out to see the film opening weekend. (Case in point for both: haven’t seen the new monkeys on horses movie, which sounds like an adorable kid film, out of context, and I think I’m seeing a blockbuster about a group who will guard the galaxy this weekend.)

So, when I offer up an opinion or a review on something I see, it’ll be from the perspective of this guy you just read a little about, who loves movies, especially good ones.

***

Got a moment that totally pulled you out of a movie so you could no longer enjoy it? Feel free to comment below!

Steve had a syndicated newspaper column for a few years called "Free Association". The column received Honorable Mention by the National Newspaper Association and won an award for Best Personal Column in his home state of North Dakota.

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