December 04, 2016

Blind Film Critic Hears Oscar Picks

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By ROBERT W. WELKOS
Jay Forry, who bills himself as “America’s premier blind movie critic,” claims to know a great on-screen performance when he hears it.

So, while he’s never actually seen Sandra Bullock perform in the sci-fi thriller Gravity, Forry is picking her to win the Academy Award as best actress.

“She does 90 percent of the movie by herself and she does a good job with it,” Forry told HollywoodNews.

jay forry blind film critic smaller photo 300x400Ironically, Forry noted, he has no idea what Bullock looks like, because he’s been blind as a result of diabetes since he was 27. He’s now 55.

“I wish I did (know) because she is my favorite actress,” Forry remarks. “…She sounds pretty good, I can tell you that. I’m picturing her as a blonde.”

Forry, who is heard regularly on radio stations throughout the U.S. and in syndication in the United Kingdom, has other Oscar picks this year that rely on what he hears, not on what he sees.

To Jay’s website www.blindsidereviews.com,

They include:
The Wolf of Wall Street as best picture. “That film has come on so strong in the last four or five or six weeks,” Forry says, “that if somebody had picked it (back then) they might have said they were blind or something.”

Leonardo DiCaprio as best actor for The Wolf of Wall Street. “I think this may be Leo’s best performance. He played the perfect character you love to hate and he has an engaging speech which helps in the Oscar race.”

Jared Leto as best supporting actor for Dallas Buyers Club. “When I hear him, he just portrays that part so well. He’s really into the character. He is really someone with AIDS and dying.”

Jennifer Lawrence as best supporting actress for American Hustle. “She played an unpredictable character who may have emotional outbursts in one scene and turn around and be funny in the next.”
Martin Scorsese as best director for The Wolf of Wall Street. “That had to be a tough film to put together. I’m only picking up on the dialogue and sound effects but, just like Gravity, that film has superb sound effects. Of course, I couldn’t see the visual effects, but I heard the music. I really picked up on that.”

How does he do it? How does Jay Forry review movies that he can’t see?

“My hearing is not that great, to be honest,” he says, “but I’m listening…I’m picking stuff up that’s going on while people are watching some special effects and I’m listening to background (sounds). Master and Commander is one of my favorite films. You can just hear it. It takes place in the open sea and you can hear wood cracking and waves hitting against the ship and the winds in the sails. I can hear it right now.”

As his website,www.blindsidereviews.com, explains: “Jay absorbs movies with heightened sensitivity to auditory cues that forewarn disaster or provide background for levity, drama, suspense or romance. As credits roll, typical moviegoers can’t recall soundtracks and other auditory elements carefully woven through films. Jay easily isolates turning points in plot and ties music and sound effects to key scenes.”

Action films are the toughest to review, he notes, since 15 minutes can go by with only fight scenes and no dialogue.

That’s when his wife, Dorothy, or a few friends who regularly drive him to screenings, fill in the details.

“I (just) saw a terrible movie—Pompeii,” he remarks in a telephone interview from Tampa, Fla., where he resides. When people at the screening broke out laughing, Forry asked his wife, ‘“What’s so funny?’ She said, ‘This lady just ran out the door on fire.’” Adds Forry: “That movie is just really lame.”

Forry’s reviews are spiced with self-deprecating humor that often emphasizes his disability.

On his website, he even lists his own unique rating system.
A: So good, blind people like it.
B: I’m glad I could hear it.
C: I had one eye open.
D: I’m glad I couldn’t see it.
E: Blindness was a blessing.

For example, he gives the new George Clooney World War II film Monuments Men a C grade. “I was more interested in my popcorn,” Forry quips in his online review.

That Awkward Moment earns a D grade. “This is what some people might call a date movie but keep in mind that you may be going home by yourself if you stay till the end.”

Ride Along receives a C grade. “Sadly, the script was not good at all and the cast had to be at the top of their game to keep the audience interested and smiling. (I’m guessing they were smiling because I didn’t hear much laughing out loud.).”

In his younger days, before he caught the film criticism bug, Forry had been the foreman of a few steel workers. But facing sightlessness and knowing that a kidney was failing and a transplant was imminent, a doctor told Forry and his wife to prepare for the worst. Forry credits the unwavering love of Dorothy and his son, Tim, for getting him through that period.

“I’m totally blind,” he says. “I can’t see a thing.”

It was a rehabilitation counselor who suggested that Forry look at some other career options by enrolling at Pasco-Hernando Community College near Tampa, now Pasco-Hernando State College.

Forry wrote for the student paper and, as a joke, he suggested one day that he could be the paper’s movie critic. To his surprise, the editor and newspaper staff agreed to let him try.

One of Forry’s big thrills occurred two years ago when he was invited to be a guest on Jimmy Kimmel’s late night talk show. When Forry told Kimmel he probably hadn’t seen a movie that Forry had recently reviewed on his radio program, Kimmel cracked, “Well, neither have you!”

Forry concedes that not everyone is comfortable with his “blind” jokes. “Every once in awhile you—and it’s years in between—I’ll hear something (negative),” Forry says. “But most of the time the blind community absolutely loves it. It’s like that with everybody.”
Years back, Forry recalls, he was on a radio program with Spike Lee discussing the director’s 1999 film, Summer of Sam.

“His film really had a lot of bad language,” Forry says, so he told the director, “The language is so bad I wish I was deaf instead of blind.” Afterward, Forry says people in the studio were laughing out loud and someone cautioned him to be careful if “you get something in the mail and Spike Lee’s name’s on it and it’s ticking.”

Film reviews are only a part-time gig for Forry. He also works for a local chiropractor, calling insurance companies and attorneys when needed.
Forry believes there have been “three or four” other blind movie critics since he’s been reviewing films. “They all review the films after they come out at the theater and don’t review them before they open,” he explains. “…I know one blind guy reviewed films for other blind people. Another guy takes clips of the movie and makes funny comments on them. All of them are interesting in their own way. I have been reviewing films since 1993 and, as far as I know, (I’m) the first, which gives me the title of the premier blind movie critic.”

He is also a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Assn.
He usually reviews one or two movies a week, but during the summer blockbuster and the fall/winter awards seasons, he may review three or four movie a week. In all, he estimates that he reviews 100 to 150 movies a year.

While Sandra Bullock is his favorite actress, Forry notes that Tom Hanks is his favorite actor. In fact, he remembers seeing Hanks on the ‘80s sitcom Bosom Buddies.

“I’m sure he doesn’t look anything like that today,” Forry says.
Another favorite of his is actress Amy Adams. “She just sounds so sweet. I just love her. There’s something about her voice.”

Forry says his favorite movie is The Sixth Sense.

“The reason I liked it is because it was kind of a whodunit,” he says. “I don’t like to see movies a second time but that’s one of the movies that caught me off guard to the very end. I didn’t figure that out and I’m so good at that. Usually, half-way through a movie I know what’s happening.”

His worst film?
“Battlefield Earth. The John Travolta movie. The dialogue was just comical and it wasn’t supposed to be. The story was just laughable. There’s not one good thing in that movie….”

Are you listening, Hollywood?

About Robert W. Welkos

Executive Editor: Robert W. Welkos is an award-winning journalist who covered the entertainment industry for 15 years as a staff writer for the Los Angeles Times. During this span, he wrote extensively about the movie industry from turmoil in the executive suites, the Academy Awards and Golden Globes, and box office hits and bombs to visits to movie sets as well as profiles of top stars and A-list directors, cutting edge features on the newest indie films and visits to famous film festivals like Sundance and Cannes. Prior to entertainment, Welkos worked as a reporter and assistant city editor in The Times’ Metro section where he undertook major investigations for the paper as well as covering breaking news and writing in-depth features. Before joining The Times, he worked for the Associated Press in Reno, Nevada, and City News Service in Los Angeles.

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