A Tribute to Rex Reed, the Hydrox Armond White

I know FilmDrunk is considered Armond White territory, but I thought it was high time we took a look at another film critic who loves to ride the crazy train. I’m talking about the always confusing Rex Reed, a man who was making a living off of snark decades before there was an Internet.
In some ways, Reed is a poor man’s Armond White. Both men are New York-based film critics who are often out of sync with their colleagues. But unlike A-Dubz’ reviews, you don’t need a dictionary and an undergraduate degree in sociology to enjoy Reed’s crazy, just a basic understanding of the world around you.
I’ve been periodically reading his column in the New York Observer for years, and while I enjoy it, I’m constantly impressed by Reed’s ability to get things wrong. From plot points to historical facts, Rex always seems to slip at least one sentence into his reviews that will leave you scratching your head. So in honor of his ability to confuse and bewilder, I’ve compiled some of my favorite Rex Reed moments. Come along as I take a career spanning six decades and reduce it down to seven poorly written, loosely-connected points.

Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln takes place during the American Civil War (or as people with testicles on their pickup trucks like to call it, the War of Northern Aggression). This period is rarely considered a high point in our country’s history, mainly because it was pretty much the lowest point in our country’s history. But as the final sentence from his review of Lincoln will show, Rex Reed doesn’t let little things like slavery and open rebellion get in the way of grossly misplaced nostalgia.

In a divisive election year when the Sunday morning pundits knock themselves out debating whether the political system still works, it’s a good time to revisit a year when it did.

I guess Reed’s idea of a political system that “works” is one where half the participants are staging an armed rebellion and the other half elect men who require bribes. It’s worth noting that this review was published on November 6th, 2012, a day which saw roughly 126 million people go to the polls without any major instances of violence or fraud. You may or may not have liked the result, but unless you’re Rex Reed, you can probably admit our recent election was a hell of a lot less “divisive” than the Battle of Antietam.

Hey, that’s not Cesar Romero?

I didn’t expect a 74-year-old gay man to like The Dark Knight, at least not in a world where Joel Schumacher’s Batman and Robin already exists. So the fact that Rex ended his review of the film (headline: “Bat to the Future”) by saying it was “insurmountable fun” was a pleasant surprise (good on you, Rex). But it was much more surprising (and much less pleasant) to discover that Rex seems to be unfamiliar with the concept of a reboot. How else can you explain the following statement?

The Dark Knight takes up where (Batman Begins) left off, but if it’s a follow-up that introduces a comprehensive sociopath called the Joker, then how do you explain the fact that the Joker made his debut years ago as Jack Nicholson?

Christopher Nolan, you’ve got some ‘splainin to do! Did you think we wouldn’t notice that the character of The Joker was played by a different actor 19 years ago in a completely different series of films? Nice try, assh*le!
Of course, part of me feels like a dick for expecting a man who was born before Hitler invaded Poland to understand movie jargon like “reboot,” “prequel,” or “tribbing.” But this isn’t some random retiree hanging out with his friends at the Legion hall. This is a man who’s been reviewing films since the original Batman series was still on the air. Given his line of reasoning, I’m not sure why Rex wasn’t expecting to see Cesar Romero playing the Joker. Yeah, he’s dead, but that didn’t stop Heath Ledger. Zing!
Martin Scorsese’s Gangs of New York takes place during the New York draft riots of 1863. Since the riots are a footnote of Civil War history, you can forgive the average moviegoer for being unfamiliar with the topic. Unfortunately, Rex Reed is not a forgiving man. In his review of Gangs, he attributes the public’s lack of interest in mid-19th Century New York history to our current “age of ignorance” (as opposed to the fact that the topic is obscure and boring). I guess YouTube cat videos have killed our nation’s once thriving interest in all things Tammany Hall. Damn you, Internet!
At any rate, if you’re going to throw around the term “age of ignorance” in a review, it’s best not to display your ignorance in the same review.

…Mr. Scorsese fails to deliver the necessary cinematic images that explain the times and embody so many clashing points of view with coherence. (No mention of the Italians, who survived it all to start the Mafia.)

Heya Martin? The fanook aska you a good question. Why you no putta any Italians in you mooovie, huh? You thinka yooza too good? Molto bene! That’s a spicy meatball!
Asking why there aren’t more Italians in a movie about 1860’s Irish-American gangs is like asking why there’s no cock in the AVN Award nominated film, Please Make Me Lesbian! 7 from Girlfriends Films (press screeners welcome).
I’m going to go out on a limb and say the reason “Mr. Scorsese” didn’t include any Italians is because the film takes place in 1863, a year when most would-be Italian Americans were still in Italy. But hey, I could be wrong. Maybe Scorsese just hates wops.
Speaking of I-talians, remember that rumor about how Marisa Tomei won her Oscar by mistake? If so, you have Rex Reed to thank. If not, I guess you have me to thank. You’re welcome.
Before My Cousin Vinny, Tomei was best known for her role as “Health Club Girl” in The Toxic Avenger and “White Girl” in the Cosby Show spin-off A Different World. As such, people were shocked when in 1993, she won an Oscar for best supporting actress, beating out Hollywood heavyweights like Joan Plowright and Vanessa Redgrave. (To be honest, I don’t remember either of those actresses, but since older women tend to be chubby, I feel confident calling them “heavyweights.” Amiright, fellas? Oh my god, I’m so alone.)
For most people, the “shock” of Tomei’s Oscar win wore off during the next sh*tty Billy Crystal bit, and everyone quickly went back to collecting Beanie Babies and listening to The Proclaimers. Everyone, except Rex Reed. As late as 1997, Rex was still on the case, spreading rumors that presenter Jack Palance mistakenly read Tomei’s name, and that the Academy was involved in a massive cover up in order to save face. (The fact that he made these claims on Geraldo Rivera’s TV show did wonders for his credibility.) But as former Academy head Bruce Davis pointed out in an interview with Roger Ebert, Reed is talking out his ass.

“The legend of Marisa Tomei’s ‘mistaken Oscar’ has appeared in various forms over the years and in that short time has achieved the status of urban myth. There is no more truth to this version than to any of the others we’ve heard. If such a scenario were ever to occur, the Price Waterhouse people backstage would simply step out onstage and point out the error. They are not shy.”

I’m not really sure why Rex Reed felt the need to spread such a rumor. I’m equally confused as to why anyone would want to buy a photo of Rex Reed and Geraldo Rivera from 1986. But if one were so inclined, it’s available on Ebay.

History will remember us.

Unfortunately, the seller didn’t do his homework, and the man labeled as “Geraldo Rivera” is actually film critic Bill Harris, but I won’t tell if you won’t. It will be our little secret.

Back in 2005, Rex Reed’s review of the South Korean film Oldboy touched off an international incident of historic proportions. And by “international incident,” I mean a bunch of butthurt American bloggers and message-board enthusiasts got upset when Rex made fun of fermented cabbage.

For sewage in a cocktail shaker, there is Oldboy, a noxious helping of Korean Grand Guignol as pointless as it is shocking. What else can you expect from a nation weaned on kimchi, a mixture of raw garlic and cabbage buried underground until it rots, dug up from the grave and then served in earthenware pots sold at the Seoul airport as souvenirs?

It didn’t take long for the Internet to turn this stupid joke about kimchi into the largest denigration of Korean culture since the Japanese occupation. The Village Voice took it one step further, channeling the blogosphere’s collective rage into a hard-hitting parody in which “Reed” mocked other foreign films via their national cuisines (chimichangas for Y Tu Mamá También, croque monsieurs for Amélie, etc.).
Now that’s what I call satire! Although something tells me that if Reed had actually used Lutefisk to mock the Norwegian film Trollhunter, The Village Voice would have remained silent on the matter.
Maybe it’s just my white privilege flaring up again (that always happens when it rains), but of all the feigned outrage we have to endure in the name of political correctness, allegations of food-based racism are the most pathetic. Besides, if people weren’t so busy getting upset over a perceived slight to rotting vegetables, maybe they would have noticed Reed’s comments later in the same review that actually were offensive.

Part kung fu, part revenge-theme Charlie Chan murder mystery, part metaphysical Oriental mumbo-jumbo, all of it incomprehensible.

“Oriental mumbo-jumbo?” Damn, Rex. I expected more sensitivity from a man who had a bit part in Inchon!
“Were we watching the same movie?”
That’s the hyperbolic question people often ask when they don’t agree with a movie critic. But with Rex Reed’s review of Cabin in the Woods, the question should be asked literally.
Film critic Henry Stewart attended the same screening as Reed, but somehow came away with a very different understanding of the film. And I’m not talking about a difference of opinion regarding its overall quality. The two actually disagreed about the film’s plot.
According to Stewart (and anyone else who saw the film), Reed’s review references scenes that were never filmed and plot points that never occur, while at the same time omitting events from the film that actually took place. As a result, Stewart was compelled to write a scathing critique of Reed’s review. The fact that you’re about to read an excerpt of a review of a review is a prime example of why the Chinese are eating us alive.

He can’t even get the basics of the plot down; his review is literally about 50 percent inaccurate—factually, objectively wrong. “Vampires circle the moon and suck the hot stud’s blood,” he writes, describing a dream he had while nodding off during the movie, which features no vampires circling the moon. “What they fail to notice is the hidden cameras,” he writes about the characters who notice the hidden cameras. “It’s all part of an elaborate video game that allows paying customers to watch real people slaughtered according to the horror of choice. The five kids in the cabin are innocent pawns to test the mechanics of the game,” he writes of a movie without an elaborate video game, paying customers, or pawns testing anything’s mechanics.


What a waste.

Although he is best known for his film criticism, Rex Reed has also tried his hand at acting. In 1970, he appeared in the transsexual comedy Myra Breckinridge, the second-best X-rated movie released by 20th Century Fox that year.
Unfortunately for Rex, 20th Century Fox only released two X-rated films in 1970.
Time Magazine said the film was “about as funny as a child molester,” which means it’s still a lot funnier than Grown Ups.
Now, most people who appeared in a film this terrible wouldn’t have the balls to spend the next 40-plus years sh*tting all over everyone else’s work. After all, if your movie is a distant second to Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (which was written, coincidentally, by another movie critic by the name of Roger Ebert), it’s time to do some soul searching. But luckily, Rex Reed has no soul, and that’s why I love him. He’s truly an inspiration to film bloggers everywhere.
In closing, please enjoy this clip from the Myra Breckinridge, in which Reed’s character has a wet dream about cupcakes.

Jame Gumb works for ScreenJunkies.com, and sometimes they let him near the Honest Trailers.