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Be skeptical of PR packaged as reviews



I enjoy the film section of New Times, both for the fun commentary on films and the general information on new releases. On a few occasions, I feel New Times has done a disservice by printing promotional material that reflects what the filmmakers would like one to think a film is about, rather than a snapshot of the actual film. The recent Son of God used a publicity statement as the mini-review, without making that clear up-front. Some time back, a blurb on a political (and politicized) documentary did the same.

In the July 3 issue of New Times, the new documentary film America was billed as an exploration of alternate history (“what if America had lost the Revolutionary War?”), but per online reviews (such as at rogerebert.com), the film barely touches on that topic; instead, it’s a screed against purveyors of anti-American history (i.e. history that acknowledges rather than denies the darker elements of the nation’s past). The film also demonizes the long-dead Saul Alinsky and ties Hillary Clinton to him. New Times would do the public a service by approaching political and religious material packaged as mass entertainment with more skepticism.

Ed. note: Since our team doesn’t get a chance to review every movie that plays in the area—and rarely, if ever, gets to review a movie before its release date—but we still want to give readers more information than a title and run time, we will from time to time run a production-company-provided synopsis of a film. We always aim to attribute the text to the parent company. We tagged the Son of God text, for instance, with “20th Century Fox” instead of an author, and we thought was being clear and upfront. If we’re summarizing (not reviewing) a movie we haven’t seen—as with America—we do the best we can with what we’ve read.

-- Michael Seden-Hansen - Paso Robles

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