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Awards Season Roundup: “Secretariat” triggers critic slap fight

By Sean O’Connell
Hollywoodnews.com: HollywoodNews.com’s Awards Season Roundup collects insights from around the Internet on films that are running in the Oscar race.

“Secretariat,” which opens today, has sparked a debate between prominent movie critics. The other day, Andrew O’Hehir wrote on Salon that the horse biopic, which he loved, is “a work of creepy, half-hilarious master-race propaganda almost worthy of Leni Riefenstahl, and all the more effective because it presents as a family-friendly yarn about a nice lady and her horse.”

Roger Ebert disagrees, and was compelled to call O’Hehir out in print, writing, “He has nevertheless written a review of ‘Secretariat’ so bizarre I cannot allow it to pass unnoticed.” Ebert dissects O’Hehir’s review point by point, concluding with, “I have no theories about why it was written. No cautionary warnings to issue. My faith in Andrew O’Hehir remains — generally speaking. I am sure he will strive to do better. I myself have written insane reviews. It happens.”

And, of course, O’Hehir responds to the response!

Critic fights are the best. They’re even better (read: more petty) when they occur on Twitter. As for “Secretariat,” I don’t believe the film deserves the time it takes to argue about its intentions. I actually take more offense with Ebert for reviewing – and four-starring! – a movie that’s based on a book written by his close friend, Bill Mack. Ebert goes so far as to say in his review that his relationship with Mack is “not a conflict of interest in writing this review, but more of a declaration.” Wrong. It’s a conflict of interest. But that’s a debate for another day.

Elsewhere, Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling’s relationship drama “Blue Valentine” just got an NC-17 rating. Will Harvey Weinstein fight the MPAA over this one, too?

Peter Weir’sThe Way Back” has a new trailer (via In Contention).

And Danny Boyle’s127 Hours” has a longer trailer.

A good Q-and-A with “Let Me In” director Matt Reeves.

Gregg Kilday wonders if Paramount is waiting too long to release potential Oscar contenders “True Grit” and “The Fighter.”

And Vanity Fair writes an open letter to the Academy asking for Eli Wallach – who’s already getting an honorary Oscar this year — to be nominated for “Wall Street 2.”

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About Sean O'Connell

Sean O'Connell is a nationally recognized film critic. His reviews have been published in print ('The Washington Post,' 'USA Today') and online (AMC FilmCritic.com, MSN's Citysearch) since 1996. He's a weekly contributor to several national radio programs. He is a longstanding member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association (BFCA), the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS), and the Southeastern Film Critics View all articles by Sean O'Connell Association (SEFCA).

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  • October 8, 2010 | Permalink |

    Hilarious. “Petty” doesn’t even begin to define how meaningless most critics’ debates are… when shared with the general public. Good points made though fellas, so why don’t you take it to email? Otherwise it’s a little self-centered.

  • October 8, 2010 | Permalink |

    Had Ebert reviewed Nack’s book, your accusation of conflict of interest would have merit. Instead, he reviewed a movie based on that book, created by a different set of artists (director, actors, etc). If you can’t realize that a book and a movie are two different things, perhaps you ought to interview Alan Moore (the writer of the graphic novels Watchmen and From Hell) and learn something.

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