Joe Does the Movies: Accessible movie reviews in Toronto

You are here: joeclark.orgCaptioning and media access
Accessible cinemaReviews

See also: List of available reviews

Previous   ¶   Next

Red Dragon

Seen: 2002.10.15   ¶   Reviewed: 2002.10.26

Hannibal Lecter has become a kind of Kurt Vonnegut run by the Swiss: Just as Vonnegut quipped that any reasonably competent “college” student could write a Kurt Vonnegut novel in a couple of weeks (he gets Kurt Vonnegut novels in the mail all the time!), so could that same student write a Hannibal Lecter screenplay.

How many more of these things are we gonna have to put up with?

I have two anecdotes to recount.

You know, dear readers, I have looked over the one or two film reviews I was ever authorized to write in my journalistic career. Frankly, I was pretty good. (I received fan mail in 1996: “Your reviews are intriguing, and often quite thoughtful. You seem especially adept at drawing social significance from apparently mindless action films – no small feat, to be sure. I’d like to read more of your film reviews; I see great promise in them.”)

Well, so did I, and so do I.

I could cry when I think about it. But now I’m up against a million pikers with Web sites. The Movie Review Query Engine (without which life is not worth living) lists 15 movies with over 200 online reviews. I read a story once of a Web critic who got a print-publication gig. I’m sure it happens. Or has happened. Once.

In reality, film criticism online is like pop music online: It ain’t gonna get anywhere without imprimatur backing it up, in the form of a print publication or a record label. The Web is where film critics not good enough for print end up. (It’s not even a place you go to; it’s a place you end up.)

Did I actually see a movie?

Let’s get back on topic.

We scheduled our usual Movie Night for the Monday after Red Dragon’s “release,” a locution insinuating that movies are held back like broncos in a corral. Picture my surprise when the Famous “playa” handed me two tickets for Cinema 13. Cinemas 2 and 11 are the only ones with MoPix.

Lo and behold, Cinema 2 was taken that night for some other “screening,” and nobody had bothered to move the caption display into 11. A manager was called down, who triumphantly showed me a newspaper listing that left out that day from the “RWC/DVS” listings. Obviously we were supposed to draw the inference that no captions or descriptions were running that day. Equally obviously, a listing saying “No RWC/DVS Monday” would be just too blatant.

We all expect day-to-day discrepancies in MoPix showings, right? Everyone has been trained to keep an eagle eye in case Famous Players decides to alter its schedule for a single night per week.

“It’s not your fault,” I told the peeved manager, “but you can’t expect me not to be upset.”

I had to ABORT THE MISSION. This was a tad difficult given that Marc, my book designer, was also coming down for the show. It took only a year for the planets to align for that event.

Marc shows; we abort the mission. Mssrs. X and Y show; I make introductions, Marc buggers off for some reason, and the remaining three walk to the subway.

So we tried again the following Tuesday. (It would have been Monday, but that was Thanksgiving. I kept scheduling event after event for that day, including a luncheon with a Famous Players executive, only to have them go south. Lesson: Import Canadian holidays into your calendar program.)

Now, should I even bother to talk about the movie? Why, exactly? Those who fail to learn the lessons of Lauri Klobas’s Disability Drama in Television and Film are doomed to repeat them.


Caption quality

I had wondered if the crappy character set could handle accents. Apparently not: bon appétit came through in proud, red-white-and-blue US-ASCII twice, as did another word with é.

And now we see the perils involved with no-italic typesetting. Could the Caption Center please decide whether publication and film names, among other italicized entities, do or do not take quotation marks?

Oh, and by the way, Chicago style requires opening articles in publication names to be written in roman lower case: the Tattler. I have made an exception to this rule for The Face, and I think “a” is an exception (A Current Affair).

Description quality

Pat Lentz is our narratrix. She’s very humanistic, I’d say, just a hair’s breadth on the side of compassionate and interested.

Descriptions for three consecutive studio bumpers begin with the word “Now,” which is certainly overused by DVS.

There was too much reliance on using synonyms instead of character names: “Crawford eyes Will as the former agent gets up.” The former agent is Will. Hannibal Lecter is referred to as “the psychiatrist” twice. To paraphrase Steve Krug, don’t make us think.

“The burly man” in one scene is black. Of course, we can never mention that; in the world of DVS description, all characters are colorless, or its equal, white.

Will examines some villain’s house and sees a painting of a (or the) duchess in an armchair. He looks down and realizes he’s sitting on the same chair, which we are not told.

“Four feet of open air separate them”: Nice.

“The redheaded agent” (a girl; funny, we never get to hear about male redheads, or male appearance at all, save for Lecter’s) had previously been described as a “criminalist.”


Will Graham was IDed as GRAHAM in captions but as Will in descriptions. A journeyman error.

A “record player” is described thus, but non-speech information in a caption calls it a phonograph.

Exit interview

None. Our sign-in method tonight, by the way, involved a manager’s jotting our names down on lines in loose leaf in a binder, just like last time. The same manager as that occasion, in fact, and he was extravagantly polite. Apparently I am known.

I misplaced my gloves in the auditorium, requiring three full search attempts. One playa dug them up. My kinda guy. Of course, so was the harried, put-upon golden-blond manager to whom I accused his staff of doing an inside job. I’d like to make it up to him.

An amusing footnote. On the way back home, a queen on the Queen streetcar reads a graphic novel until his shoephone rings, playing “L’amour est un oiseau rebelle” from Carmen. I thought of the poor kid in Magnolia who sang it on a quiz show. Then I thought of the vulgarity of setting up your mobile phone to use an operatic ringtone, and having it go off on the streetcar.

Dr. Lecter would have his head for that.

Previous   ¶   Next