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A MATTER OF OPINION

Crass but descriptive, there is a saying I heard somewhere about opinions on movies: "like an asshole, everyone's got one."
By Andrew L. Urban.

It's a bit like a website: anyone can have a website these days. I suspect there are thousands of websites operated by jail inmates around America. The subject (of movie opinion, not inmate websites) has aroused my interest after taking a very rare cruise around the internet on a Saturday night when a combination of a bad cold and a hot head kept me from working.

"America flocks to extremes like flies to excrement"

I happened on that infamous Harry Knowles, he of the stuff of America's dreams about 'anybody can do anything if he wants'. Harry has become famous for his website - and his scuttlebutt, and his opinions. America flocks to extremes like flies to excrement. Here is the galling thing, of course. I am put out that Harry's website is more famous than mine.

But is this the answer? Am I not giving the public what it wants? This is a part of Harry's critique of this week's (July 13, 2000) big film in Australia, X-Men. It also just opened in America.

"Personally, and this is only an opinion, but if you are a comic book fan and donít embrace this film and like it... then frankly I consider ya an asshole. Yup. Straight up, thatís my feelings."

The tautology of his opinionated opinion is matched only by the down home bravura of his style. It's so accessible, isn't it? It's so real. What Harry does is connect with his readers. Right? No bullshit; no analysis; gut feeling. And you better agree or you won't be his friend. While he raves on in a second article plugged as "Harry spills another 2,500 words about the X-Men and why it works" he can summon up moments of shriveling economy like this: "The sets looked right. Production design... again.. cool."

What galls me (even more than his greater fame) is that thousands of Americans (including inmates) regularly equate/confuse Harry's writings with professional film reviews. Here I am, showing my elitism, my arrogance: isn't Harry's opinion worth mine? Isn't Harry's opinion as valid as mine - or that of the hundreds of professional film critics on the web? Isn't Harry (or Tom, or Dick) equal?

No.

"equality of opinion is a weird thing"

Everybody is entitled to an opinion, of course, as they are to an asshole. But equality of opinion is a weird thing. It's relative. Dirty ditties on toilet walls are not equal to T.S Eliot's poems as observations of the human condition. They are words, and they are writing, but they are not equal - in value. Equality of opinion doesn't really exist, otherwise we'd rely on the bus driver's opinion about our gall stones, or the brain surgeon's on web design.

As I write this, I have yet to see X-Men. (I have yet to read an X-Men comic, for goodness sake!) But whatever I think of the film, I will think of Harry Knowles - and write my review restlessly concerned that I may be just another asshole in the world of opinionated movie critics.

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