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Jason Wallis On the Oscars, Battle Royale and why I didn’t see ‘Sanctum’

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Jason Wallis

Posted: Friday, February 11, 2011 9:15 am

I decided it would be prudent to steer clear of the multiplex for one more week, and my reasons are twofold: For starters, I’ve gotta level with you and admit that I really, really didn’t want to see the week’s major release, “Sanctum,” the poorly reviewed caving flick from producer James Cameron.

I’m still wrapped up in awards season and basking in the warm glow of the handful of great films we’ve seen in the past several weeks, and frankly the prospect of devoting two hours to a horrible 3D caving movie started to harsh my buzz. Also, the lack of review will give me an opportunity to discuss a couple developments regarding the Battle Royale blog and first annual Oscar prediction contest. So, win-win. (Also also, check out the break-out box for a tentative list of upcoming reviews, starting next week.)

But before we get to all that, this begs the question: As a “film critic,” am I obligated to review films such as “Sanctum” anyway, ignoring any concerns for my own well-being? I would argue that I am not. First of all, I’ve always somewhat resisted the very loaded label of “film critic,” as I see myself as more of a savvy consumer who was granted a soapbox to tell you what’s what in the world of film. The “critic” is supposed to be removed and “objective” (whatever that even means), whereas I’ve never been shy to admit and even embrace my own biases as a moviegoer. In the end, I’m just a movie fan with a critical eye, and I reject any form of obligation whatsoever.

And in any case, as I’ve long maintained, there is nothing wrong with judging a book by its cover — or a film by its trailer, as the case may be — particularly if that cover includes negative pre-release critical blurbs and pictures of idiots caving. My primary purpose in this column has always been to spread word about great movies that you need to see (not in a capacity as “critic,” but rather as a friendly and trustworthy voice of reason with your best interest in mind), so I’ve never really seen much reason to intentionally review assuredly bad movies.

I mean, yeah, if a film is poised to make $300 million domestic, then I will have an impulse to see and review it no matter how awful it is, just to take part in the widespread public dialogue. But as a consumer, I think it’s fair that I often listen to the critics myself, and often take the advice of trusted writers (just as I hope you take my advice, because I’m usually right).

Life is just too short to waste time on terrible (or even “probably terrible”) movies, and this fundamental truth has become even clearer to me this past year or so. At this point I’m taking on four part-time jobs for a total of about 85 hours a week, and when you add in the fact that I’m a shiftless layabout by nature, it becomes difficult to squeeze in many movies — and I’ll be damned if I’m going to devote those precious few movie-watching hours to what are in all likelihood complete wastes of time.

Which brings us to Battle Royale, that long-promised but never-quite-launched film-debate blog that I was to coordinate with my better half, Heather Heslop, and News-Sentinel photographer Dan Evans, with Editor Rich Hanner chiming in as opportunity permits. Dan has done an admirable job of keeping the blog technically alive whilst I flounder with time-management issues, but I think the time has finally come to make a set schedule of updating assignments in order to ensure structure and accountability.

You can expect updates from me on Mondays and Thursdays, Heather on Tuesdays and Fridays, and Dan on Wednesdays and Saturdays. We’ll certainly be posting a lot more, but these will be our “post or there’s hell to pay” days, starting Thursday of this week. (And you can hold me to that.) As I’ve explained before, the blog will be a forum for us to argue incessantly about movies and share our thoughts on the current scene, and readers are encouraged to take part as well. And speaking of reader interaction ...

Copy editor Ryan Campbell and I are organizing an office Oscar pool this year, and interest is high despite the fact that I will most assuredly win. This got me to thinking that it might be fun to throw together a little “outguess Jason” contest for readers — nothing fancy, just a drawing for four Stadium 12 movie tickets. To be eligible, e-mail me your predictions for all competitive categories by Tuesday, Feb. 22 (neatly typed out with proper capitalization and one category per line, if you please, along with name and contact info). If you correctly call more races than I do, your name will be entered into the drawing, and one winner takes all. (Look for my picks on the cover of the Feb. 26 Lodi Living.) Next year I’ll try to plan something a tad swankier, but for now this will have to do. Good luck.

Jason Wallis is a News-Sentinel copy editor. He can be reached at jasonwallis@comcast.net.

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