Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Extremely Loose Interpretation of the Term 'Review'

Reviews of The Dark Knight are cropping up all over, but I'm going to go out on a limb and say that Rick Norwood's at SF Site is, by far, the weirdest. It starts out normally enough, commenting on the film and praising, in particular, Heath Ledger's performance as the Joker. Then, at about the halfway point, we get this:
Is The Joker on drugs? Heath Ledger died from an accidental overdose of prescription drugs. Was he taking drugs when he played The Joker? I don't know, but I hope not. Good as The Dark Knight is, it is not a film worth dying for.
Believe it or not, it gets even more mind-boggling. The review proceeds in what can only be called a stream of free associations, as Norwood muses on drug-addled artists of the past, America's hypocritical attitude towards drug use, George W. Bush's drug history, and racism. Each thought is only tangentially related to the one before (or indeed to the sentences preceding and following it), and has absolutely nothing to do with The Dark Knight. "Sorry if this review has been a downer," Norwood says in his concluding sentence, but what he should be apologizing for is using the word 'review' to describe what we've just finished reading.

I'm not a regular reader of SF Site (this review was pointed out to me by Niall Harrison), but I do read their book reviews on occasion, and usually like what I find. I especially like their end of year readers' and editors' polls, which can be relied upon to provide a pair of interesting lists and an even more interesting comparison between them. But their media coverage sucks. Their television column is a joke (and, unsurprisingly, also by Norwood), not much more than a glorified TV Guide inset, and this review simply screams editorial negligence. I don't know which would be worse--that Norwood's editor waved his Dark Knight review through without reading it, or that he or she did read it and thought it publishable. Either way, if this is the kind of care and attention SF Site gives its media reviewing, it might as well not bother.


Fred said...

Imagine the mother of a kid who's been sent to jail, watching a sitcom about a 600 pound felon who calls his new cellmate "Honey." The kid is Black, of course. White kids go to rehab, but Black kids need to be taught respect for the law.

Wow. Just...wow.

Jonathan M said...

SF Site is a slightly odd beast. Personally I can never get past the fact that their editorial end-of-year poll, though usually excellent as you say, frequently features quite a few books that the site hasn't covered.

When they cover books, the reviews tend to be decent as some decent established critics write for them but I think their coverage could do with a tweak either at the editorial level in terms of what books get sent out or at the personnel level by taking on some new faces (that "WE DON'T WANT ANY CONTRIBUTORS!" message has always kept me away aside from an interview which, unfortunately, fell through).

In the past people have spoken about this coverage issue as a Fantasy-bias among the reviewers but it is weird.

I also agree about their media column.

I think the site could do with a bit of a relaunch as I think a rut has been settled into, which is unfortunate as it's a site that is widely read particularly among non-blogging, forum-based SF fans.

That is a deeply weird review too. Lots of very short paragraphs and very little actual review. What review there is is also on the level of Entertainment Tonight as it focuses on Ledger while completely ignoring the rest of the film.

Good call Abigail.

Andrew Stevens said...

Rick Norwood is a 66 year-old mathematics professor? And he wrote that? Good god.

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