Having reviewed film for over 25 years with the Herald Sun, The Australian, TV Week, Truth, on air at 3UZ and online with Urban Cinefile, I never liked being referred to as a "critic" because of its negative connotations.
What right did I have to criticize film-makers when I had never made one?
I simply loved cinema, viewing up to 500 films per year, which helped hone informed opinions about direction, writing and acting.
Then six years in film publicity easily sorted the clever from the clichéd.
On the eve of the 2017 Oscars, Richard Wilkins was all agush over La La Land, and even trumpeted that the 14-times nominated film was the first he had ever honoured with a five star rating.
What? After 30 years at Channel 9, this was the very first film to inspire the TV veteran's ultimate accolade; a musical he thought superior to such five-star contemporaries as Chicago and Moulin Rouge?
"Dear Richard," I tweeted, "you really can't like films all that much if you find fault in every other you've reviewed.
"Star ratings are not diamonds you have to horde; in print they are just blobs of ink."
La La Land so divided opinions at the New York Times ("Some of us love it; some of us really hate it") that they published 14 reviews from staff.
"It doesn't understand musicals", said one.
"It gets so much wrong," said another ... which just about gets it right.
Seated behind me at the Ararat Astor as the credits rolled, an elderly woman's critique was more succinct: "Well, what a bloody waste of time that was!"
My critical advantage when reviewing film was mature age and life experience, good, bad and ugly.
After a press screening of Meryl's Streep's cancer movie, One True Thing (1998), a too-young reviewer (for the Salvation Army) was clearly not impressed and groaned: "Have you ever seen anythingso schmaltzy?"
And I replied quietly, quite sure of his answer, "Have you ever seen anyone die of cancer?"
A year later, another "apprentice" challenged the five star status I bestowed upon the factual family drama October Sky.
When he asked "why so generous" I simply replied that I couldn't fault it, and to me that deserves five blobs of ink.
Meet the Parents begins a series of Five Star Movie reviews aimed at helping to chase the COVID-19 miseries away.
All have reached the age of maturity, but have withstood the test of time and are free of faded or passing fads; no zombies, no blood-suckers, or superheroes will be seen
They may be forgotten in this Netflix age, but to my mind they are all unforgettable.
MEET THE PARENTS (2000 Comedy, Rated M)
FOR every potential groom, the worst imaginable moment is not the proposal, the ring or the wedding, but faking a frozen smile and phony charm when facing the future in-laws for the first time.
Dog-loving male nurse Greg (Ben Stiller) wants to impress Pam's obsessively protective cat-loving dad Jack (Robert De Niro), but can't help but violate his rigid disciplines.
It doesn't help when Greg pops a cork that topples an urn containing the ashes of Jack's mum; doesn't help when Greg spikes a volleyball into the eye of Pam's sister on the eve of her wedding and gets worse when Greg chases Jack's precious pussycat onto the roof and sets fire to the house!
Everything that can go wrong goes horribly wrong when Greg Focker meets the folks in this courtship comedy that doesn't stoop to bodily fluids or functions for laughs.
De Niro's icy presence gives the film its prickly edge.
Any nervous young man catching the sight of a De Niro at the door might think he's a psycho or a crazy eccentric and Stiller, with his wide-eyed innocence and goofy charm is a perfect foil.
We all could do with a laugh right now, and here from Austin Powers director Jay Roach comes the first classic comedy of the new millennium, a mix of slapstick and love sick, screwball and volleyball.
Parents is a minefield of subtle sarcasm and wit that finds fun in a man with no sense of humour and joy in the fate of a counterfeit cat.
* * * * *
Tomatometer 84 per cent.
Rent on Youtube, Microsoft, Apple, Prime; available on Stan.
Steven Spielberg's classic road thriller is free on YouTube.
Keith Lofthouse lives in the Grampians area and is a regular ACM contributor
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