“I’m Paul Barlow, and this is my daughter Jo.”

“Malone.”

“You got a first name?”

“Yeah.”

Vern vs. the critical establishment

If you’ve been reading my column since the beginning of the millennium you know about my new year’s resolution to become more established and respected here on the world wide web. I feel that this is a medium with a whole assload of potentialities and I really think it is starting to catch on, that is why I think that the future of film Writing is on the computers.

You see I am a film Writer but it’s like Mark Twain said, what is the sound of nobody reading your shit. Nothing, it makes no sound. That is why I thought it would be a good idea to reach out, network, become part of an organization of other motherfuckers in my same field. And what better society is there for an online critic to join up with than the Online Film Critic’s Society, where Writers ranging from James Berardinelli to Susan Granger come together to promote the cause of film Writing on the web?

In order to apply for this particular group of individuals, you are supposed to have at least 50 reviews Which, at the time, I didn’t have. And hell, that’s alot of reviews, but there comes a time in a man’s life as a critic when he has to stand up like a man and write that many reviews. This was important to me so as you may remember I went through a very productive period in January reviewing a couple movies every day or two, building up my archive. This is not always easy to do. A motherfuckers gotta eat and this is something I don’t get paid a cent for. In fact I have to pay to see the movies, I am not one of these dudes that they feel like letting in to see the movie for free before it comes out. But even with these obstacles in my path, in my opinion I did a PRETTY fucking good job, I didn’t put on any pussy assed filler reviews or anything. In fact I gotta be honest, there are individuals allowed into that organization who are not exactly what I would call “halfway decent.” We’re talking individuals who write two paragraphs about the plot of the movie, and two sentences at the end saying if they like it or not, and they don’t really offer anything worthwhile at all. I know I am not the best at spelling or typographical stuff and what not but I feel I do have a human heart which helps in my work. Because I use it. I go for the real thing.

At the same time I was pouring my heart into those reviews, I started writing to OFCS members for advice about how to become a better film Writer. I was kind of surprised that almost every one who wrote back said they liked what I was doing. I guess maybe the rest were too scared to respond but still. Most of them told me not to change my writing style, except for one guy who said to cut down on the motherfucker this and motherfucker that if I wanted to reach a wider audience. He said if it was just therapeutic than I can do whatever I want but a wide audience doesn’t want to hear fucker all the time. But you gotta understand, this guy reviews from a christian perspective and, I gotta be honest, as much as I like God and all that I think some of those motherfuckers have a big stick up their ass in my opinion. I mean if any of them get to heaven and try to pull that “clean up your language” garbage on God, I think he’ll kick their ghostly asses right out of the joint. And He’ll say, “May the gates hit ya where the good lord (i.e. me) split ya”. And I mean think about it, chances are hell won’t want ’em and I don’t know, maybe they’ll end up zombies or something. Hell who knows if God is as vengeful as they depict him in that first part of the bible he’d probaly make sure those zombies keep stumbling into foul mouthed burning bushes. You know how scared a zombie is of fire, well wait tell you see a christian zombie running away from fire that says “motherfucker” alot.

Anyway either way zombies are not a good thing in my opinion, let’s lighten up here people, jesus.

Anyway, all of these critics were very nice to me. One OFCS member who will remain nameless told me not to bother with OFCS, “they are a bunch of pussies.” This may have been the best advice anyone offered, but I chose not to listen.

A few weeks later I had written fifty some reviews and I finally submitted my sight to OFCS admissions dude Harvey S. Karten. Considering what I had heard and what I read on the OFCS sight, I should’ve known what was coming. I mean this is a group that has a “governing committee” and “bylaws.” They have an appeals process, annual elections and an elaborate scoring system for prospective members. They have two different kinds of membership, regular membership and associate membership. I mean how many warning signs did I need. I should’ve fuckin known. But I jumped right in.

The sight promises a response to your application within 24 hours. That turned out to be a form letter asking for information like my full name, address etc. I did as requested but added that I am a private person and always just go by Vern so please do not use my name on the sight. He wrote back with just “Sorry Vern, we are a public organization.”

So what is that supposed to mean? Is he no longer considering my application? I wrote back and said I don’t get it man, if Madonna was a film Writer would she have to be listed as Madonna Ciccone? He explained that giving a list of names to studio publicists helps them to be real critics because if the publicists aren’t involved, how the fuck are you supposed to know if the movie is good or something like that, that wasn’t exactly what he said but it’s over in the appendix column there if you want to figure out what the guy is talking about.

Well I figured okay, it’s not his fault that’s their policy, so I said go ahead and use my last name then, please let me know what you think of my sight. But I’m just sayin if certain individuals track me down because of this my blood will be on your hands, no just kidding bud. At which point the dude acted like he had no idea who I was, and sent me the form letter AGAIN, asking for my name, address, etc.

Well I felt this was kind of rude. I mean hello buddy, even I know how to check the old mail folder. If two fucking mouse clicks is too much work for you I would LOVE to see how you deal with some old fashioned ditch digging at gunpoint.

So I ribbed the guy, you know, I sent him the information and told him that I would send it to him every day for the next few days in case he lost it again. But he wasn’t amused. He said:

“No need, Vern. I saw your cover page, that’s enough. Bye Vern.”

Which, I don’t know maybe it’s up to interpretation, but I felt he was rejecting me.

Now it is times like this that all the bureaucratic nonsense should come in handy. After almost a week back and forth with this guy he finally looks at my sight for the first time, refuses to read my reviews, refuses to use his fancypants scoring system that he’s developed, just straight up tells me he’s not gonna even read any of my work. Obviously this is not the way their process was meant to work, considering the years of meetings that obviously went into setting it up. I mean why would they figure out that becoming a member is 40% having professional quality reviews, 30% being comprehensive or filling an under-served niche, 20% offering meaningful contributions to film criticism and OFCS, and 10% have outstanding web sight features, if they’re not even gonna look the damn thing over? I’m sure the mathematics task force that came up with those percentages is gonna be PRETTY fucking peeved that they’re not even being put to use. But I didn’t know who was the superintendent of that committee or whatever so I thought I should take a poke at this appeals process they have set up.

The idea is that there are three members of the governing committee, one of them being Harvey. If the other two wanted to read my reviews and liked them, that would be a majority and I could join.

Didn’t help, though. I wrote a long letter explaining my experiences with the application and why I felt I was qualified. That was weeks ago. I wrote them again when OFCS member James Berardinelli chose me as “site of the week”. I asked whether or not they were considering my appeal. No response.

Well I gotta be honest, I have dealt with bigger problems than this in the past. Like the time Mickey Deadly had a real bad ear infection and there was wax dripping all over the side of his face. I said, “What’s that, Mickey?” but what he heard was, “You fat, chicky.”

Still, this is pretty frustrating for a man to deal with. A deal like this starts to haunt a man and I think it is affecting my work. For example this column is pretty fucking half assed in my opinion, and it’s a day late. That is why I’m asking for your help to get me back in proper working condition. PLEASE write to ol’ Vern and let me know what you think I should do. Check out the OFCS sight and tell me what you think of them. Are they really a bunch of pussies, or am I just not good enough to be one of them? What should I do to earn their approval, or to show them who’s the jocker here? Should I start my OWN online film critics society?

If anybody sends me any real good comments or what not I will include it in my column next week.

Thanks guys for continuing to support an old reject like Vern here.

–Vern

APPENDIX

Message text written by “vern h.”
> But please if I am accepted I would prefer to use the name I am known by,
just Vern.
<

Sorry, Vern. We’re a public organization.

Harvey

Vern

To continue our credibility with the studios and their publicists, we have
to use full, legitimate names, addresses and all the rest. First-name-only signals the usual Internet amateurism to the studios. I’m certainly not saying that you’re an amateur: only that this is the perception of the people we deal with.

Harvey

Message text written by “vern h.”
>Please go ahead and check out my sight and see if I qualify<

Vern,

I’m neither an optometrist nor clairoyant. Please jog my memory. What’s your site? What’s the rest of you?

Message text written by “vern h.”
>I will send it again tomorrow<

No need Vern. I saw your cover page. That’s enough. Bye Vern.

Harvey

Dear governing committee:

Hello, my name is Vern and since October I have been working very hard on a body of film criticism which I am very proud of. I feel and have been told by many that my work is very funny and insightful, and has a unique style and perspective unlike anything else available.

Although I come from an outsider, outlaw type perspective I decided at new year’s that I would try to become more established and respectable and one of my goals was to join your organization. I started working much harder to build up an archive of more than 50 reviews so that I would be eligible, but making each review as good or better than the last.

At this same time I also wrote to many of your members for advice and was surprised to see that every one of them who wrote back had nothing but positive feedback. I received encouraging words from James Berardinelli, Susan Granger, Alex Fung and others. I have also received praise from the ain’t it cool news, an internationally popular sight which posted my obituary of Curtis Mayfield and the results of my 1999 Outlaw Awards and has asked me to write for them in the future. I have also received many fan letters, offers for guest writing gigs and hosting of my sight so I know there are people out there who appreciate what I’m doing.

For those reasons I felt I was ready to apply for your organization. But I was very disappointed when I was first given the run around and then the metaphorical “fuck you jack.”

What happened was your admissions dude Harvey asked for my personal information, and when giving it I mentioned that I am a private person and post everything as simply “Vern.” All he said was:

>Sorry Vern, this is a public organization.

I asked him to explain, and he told me why you gotta use your last name to make the publicist’s happy and even Madonna would be listed as Madonna Ciccone. So I apologized for being a primadonna and told him to please go ahead and take a look at my sight to see if a qualify. So he said:

>I am not an optometrist, nor a clairvoyant.

and made me send the personal info again. I thought this was rude since he must have an old mail folder, but what are you gonna do, I’m not exactly the politest dude on the planet either. I sent him the info again and joked that I’d send it again the next few days to remind him, but he said:

>No need Vern. I saw your cover page. That’s enough. Bye Vern.
>
>Harvey

Which, unless I’m reading him wrong, he’s rejecting me. The rejection itself isn’t really what chaps my fanny, I have dealt with worse in my life to be frankly honest. But what gets me is that he seems to be implying that he hasn’t read any of my work and that he is not going to give me a scoring so that I can see what I have to work on improving before applying again. So I guess I’d have to interpret this is a score of 0?

If so it is my understanding that I can appeal to the governing committee, and that is exactly what I would like to do. It is my hope and dream that you other two will at least skim one or two of my reviews before dismissing my entire body of work.

Thanks bud,

Vern

http://www.geocities.com/SoHo/Veranda/3556

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

This entry was posted on Monday, February 21st, 2000 at 10:22 am and is filed under Vern Tells It Like It Is. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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