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RIP Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide 1969-2015


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Leonard Maltin has announced that the 2015 edition of Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide, due in stores on Tuesday, September 2, will be the final edition.

 

His introduction states in part:

 

"With ready access to information on the Internet, our readership has diminished at an alarming rate.

 

The book's loyal followers know that we strive to offer something one can't easily find online: curated information that is accurate and user-friendly, along with our own reviews and ratings.

 

But when a growing number of people believe that everything should be free, it's impossible to support a reference book that requires a staff of contributors and editors."

 

 

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I sympathize with Maltin's lament about the state of the printed book, and about the difficulty that writers face in making a living, but I've found his film recommendations to be of extremely limited use.  Give me David Thomson any day.

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I sympathize with Maltin's lament about the state of the printed book, and about the difficulty that writers face in making a living, but I've found his film recommendations to be of extremely limited use.  Give me David Thomson any day.

 

Yes, in the past his negative reviews on the TCM database had led me to overlook movies that turned out to be very good.

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I honestly can say that I've never consulted Leonard Maltin for any of his opinions on a film.  I prefer to form my own opinion.  I've seen his little blurbs on the individual film pages in the TCM Database and sometimes I've seen that he's ranked a film that I loved much lower than I thought it deserved.  What I do think is a shame though, and I agree with him on this, is the disappearance of the printed word.  While I admit, that I am on the Imdb almost daily and like to look up the "trivia" on a film when I start watching it, I do think it's sad that print media is disappearing.  Aside from Maltin's book (which is a shame that it's disappearing after having been in print for 46 years), many forms of printed media are disappearing or at least being greatly diminished-- newspapers, magazines, books, everything.  For me, there's something to be said about still being able to physically turn the pages of a book, newspaper, etc.  I like being able to look at something other than a glowing screen all the time.  I don't own a kindle/nook, I still prefer real books.  I don't really read much on my iPhone.  I occasionally read these message boards on there; but the print is so small that I find it difficult to read.

 

Somedays I think I would prefer less technology.  There are a lot of great things that have disappeared as a result of technology.

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I grew up with Maltin and Halliwell in the '70s and '80s, and used their capsule descriptions to help decide whether a movie on TV was worth watching (although 90% of the time I would watch the movie anyway even if they knocked it -- I lived in the sticks and had few alternatives). Hell I got to the point where I was actually reading them, not just dipping in occasionally, and eventually had most of them memorized

 

That said, Maltin and Halliwell's guides are essentially information or "stat" books, and that field has been totally superseded by the internet. No less an institution than the Encyclopedia Britannica stopped publishing a print edition a few years ago.

 

I recall a couple of Maltin curiosities. He gave Badlands 2 and a half stars. That's the pan that has always stayed in my mind, though IIRC he also gave Bunny Lake Is Missing 2. Perhaps his low point on the integrity scale came with Smokey & The Bandit, which he originally gave 1 and a half stars. But after it became a blockbuster, the next edition gave it 3.

 

There is still a place for Maltin's most lasting work, such as his classic history of animation Of Mice And Magic (a must read for any movie buff), and The Great American Broadcast, a very readable intro to old time radio.

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Well I'm in the minority in that I used the books quite extensively to decide what to record on TCM.  I liked how in 3 sentences I could discern if I was going to like a movie or find it boring or slow. It was only a suggestion, a GUIDE.

 

I also liked that the reviews would tell me if I might find something violent or offensive (2 stars is right for Taxi Driver, I found it disjointed) or especially if a remake is better than the original.

 

It was a great simple guide. I don't need to read detailed reviews....I can make my own reviews.

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Yes, in the past his negative reviews on the TCM database had led me to overlook movies that turned out to be very good.

Right. I find his negativity most unacceptable. If you work in Hollywood you have to promote its product and offer suggestions about how it can be improved. But to mock or ridicule a filmmaker's efforts to show off is very counter-productive. I don't think his heart was really in the right place in a lot of his reviews and I am glad to see we have outlived it.

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Perhaps his low point on the integrity scale came with Smokey & The Bandit, which he originally gave 1 and a half stars. But after it became a blockbuster, the next edition gave it 3.

 

Yep, he got it right the first time. If he was gonna revise it, it would've made more sense to take the half star away.

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Right. I find his negativity most unacceptable. If you work in Hollywood you have to promote its product and offer suggestions about how it can be improved....

 

What? Really?

So, are you saying that if you are a film critic (whether you live in Hollywood or not seems immaterial to me), you are under some sort of obligation to "promote (Hollywood's) product?" But, this implies that anyone writing about movies is not a disinterested party. Shirley I've misunderstood.

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I have read in these forums many negative remarks about Maltin's reliability as both a critic AND knowledgeable film historian.  I'm quite surprised to read how MISSED his book will be...

 

Sepiatone

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What's the etiquette when attending the visitation for something that deserved to die long, long ago?

Do I bring hot dish or no?

Bring a bottle of wine and we'll drink a toast to something that's toast. 

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What? Really?

So, are you saying that if you are a film critic (whether you live in Hollywood or not seems immaterial to me), you are under some sort of obligation to "promote (Hollywood's) product?" But, this implies that anyone writing about movies is not a disinterested party.

 

Topper approves of only his own negativity. For everyone else it's "not helpful".

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Topper approves of only his own negativity.

My negativity is carefully crafted. LOL It is usually tied to constructive feedback and it also has the double edged sword of being subversive against other negativity.

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Things to remember about Movie Guide Books in the modern era and otherwise 

 

1.  The internet offers a wider range of reviews and opinions

2.  Do I really need someone else's opinion before I choose to watch a movie:

     a. Shouldn't I already know my own likes and dislikes

     b. Someone else's 5 star might be my 2 star

3.  The plethora of movies to review in a printed movie guide drive the print to a size beyond most people's ability to visually read     without a magnifying glass.

4.  Somene earlier mentioned David Thomson's publication.  He gives you an opinion, acknowledges it as such but still allows the fact that it might for some reason be worth watching and recognizes both the outcome and the work by the individuals who contributed to the outcome.

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   I introduced myself to Mr. Maltin at Cinefest in Syracuse a couple years ago. I told him that I bought his Guide every year. I read each entry and circled in pen every title that I had seen from beginning to end title. My goal was to have a title circled on every page but never made it. He looked at me as if I had two heads but thanked me for supporting his work.

   In a stammering effort to appear normal, I also told him that his introductions to "High Noon" and Disney's "Davy Crockett" DVDS were favorites. Didn't help. He made a polite but hasty getaway.

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If people here are talking about the Maltin reviews one sees on the TCM website,  I find those way too brief to be of much help as it relates to 'should I see this movie' or not.

 

e.g.  The Fairbanks \ Dvorak movie Love Is a Racket.     The review just said something like 'basic fairly uninteresting crime type drama'.     It would have been nice to know that Fairbanks was full of whit and energy playing the lead role and that Dvorak was great in her minor role.    (that is my impression of the movie after I saw it).    

 

 

 

 

 

 

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If people here are talking about the Maltin reviews one sees on the TCM website,  I find those way too brief to be of much help as it relates to 'should I see this movie' or not.

 

e.g.  The Fairbanks \ Dvorak movie Love Is a Racket.     The review just said something like 'basic fairly uninteresting crime type drama'.     It would have been nice to know that Fairbanks was full of whit and energy playing the lead role and that Dvorak was great in her minor role.    (that is my impression of the movie after I saw it).

 

Here's my take:  Life is short, there are only so many hours in the day to spend watching movies, and you best shot at satisfaction is to go for movies you haven't seen before, first in your favorite genres and secondarily with your favorite actors.  It's hard for me to pay too much attention to a critic whose bottom line tastes are completely the opposite of my own.  Maltin's offhanded dismissal of Love Is A Racket, a very good B-movie with excellent performances by both Fairbanks and Dvorak,  is a good example of that.  Maltin gushes over nearly every big budget musical and Bible epic, seemingly almost in direct proportion to the money that was spent on it, while giving short shrift to all but a handful of below the radar pre-codes and noirs.  All this is fine if you go to movies for the cinematography and the dance numbers and a lot of pearly white smiles, but not so fine if you're primarily interested in  characters and movies that are more connected to everyday life.  It took me about a week after Maltin showed up on TCM to learn to ignore his ratings completely.

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It took me about a week after Maltin showed up on TCM to learn to ignore his ratings completely.

YES. I wish TCM would remove his mostly irrelevant ratings from their website. I can think of better ways to spend money on information that would actually help consumers.

 

When his little reviews appear alongside scheduled titles it gives the impression his comments carry weight and some sort of industry-wide significance. Ultimately his opinions are equal to anyone else's and a lot of people can think of more gracious ways to recommend or not recommend a classic film.

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To be honest, I'm not exactly going to be shedding buckets of tears. I've always found Maltin's reviews to be trite and inconsiderate. Furthermore, he's always seemed to have a clear baseline, in his head at least,of what does and doesn't constitute a watchable, memorable film; everything else that doesn't fit his criteria (which relies too heavily on "big" names and technological specifications, in my opinion, and completely ignores context) is then pushed aside. I've enjoyed many of the films that he's written off as barely worth watching, (I've usually seen his reviews after I've watched a film to note the contrast) because I was able to find something endearing about them, either through the overall message, the actors' performance and portrayal of emotional truth, or because they were just...good movies, and often understated ones.

I believe that one shouldn't rely SOLELY on the opinions of reviewers, as people should be able to make their own decisions about what they do and don't want to watch. Nevertheless, a reviewer's opinions still carry a great deal of weight. Those who have followed him religiously over the years may have missed out on some great films. There is a way to note certain aspects of a film that he doesn't like while still acknowledging that it's important and a pleasant watch. Constructive criticism is one thing, but his smarminess is unnecessary.

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