Rex Reed Used to be Relevant

Rex Reed used to be a rather important film critic. When there were only a few channels on television his opinion undoubtedly impacted ticket sales and he was a frequent television guest with appearances like this one on the Dick Cavett Show circa 1969.

Here he is taking fashion risks in Bill Blass and explaining to all the non Hollywood types why Midnight Cowboy can’t win an Academy Award (it won three: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay). He’s a critic. Some people feel like the value in a critic is that they can guide them to good films others feel like a critic can stir the pot. Clearly the New York Observer hired Rex Reed for his pot stirring abilities.

Reed’s reviews have a range similar to the movies they discuss some (though few) hit tender and charming notes:

Directing with all the right fluctuating tempos, Mr. Hoffman can’t do much to hide the fact that Quartet is a small timepiece in the ticking clock of cinema history, but he blends the activities and attitudes of the old folks’ home, chock full of withering one-liners (“I saw your Barber of Seville … it brought tears to my ears”), with the faces of a veteran cast—beautiful, expressive, brimming with life and experience.

Others are ordinary:

The critics have spoken (well, some of them, anyway), declaring the overrated Zero Dark Thirty the most important movie of the year. I wish I could agree, but I don’t. It’s about the 10-year hunt for Osama bin Laden, which makes it important. But it’s the theme that earns stature and attention, not the movie.

And still more are downright offensive:

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?

Rex Reed will likely flame out with his most recent review wherein he refers to Melissa McCarthy as “tractor sized”. Really. Now, I’m not saying that we shouldn’t note that Melissa McCarthy is fat. She is. In fact it’s safe to assume that an exam would mark her as morbidly obese however noting someone’s size (and if you’re an actor that is fair game) and publishing truly hateful words are two very different things.

In the trashy, stupefying screenplay by Craig Mazin, Jason Bateman is a Denver accountant named Sandy Patterson—another in a long line of victims of the increasingly dangerous world of cyber-crime—whose credit card has been hacked and copied by a felonious thief in Miami (cacophonous, tractor-sized Melissa McCarthy).

Followed by:

The snafus in the worst road movie since The Guilt Trip plunge Mr. Bateman and his female hippo into a motel with only a double bed, a grotesque sex scene with a pickled reprobate she picks up in a bar who demands a threesome, a violent bar fight that bloodies his nose, a kidnapping, a multi-car collision going the wrong way on the freeway … but why go on?

It’s fair for a critic to dislike an actor for their perceived lack of talent, and it’s fair for a critic to note an actor’s size particularly as it relates to their role. In fact Reed makes a good point when he writes:

Melissa McCarthy (Bridesmaids) is a gimmick comedian who has devoted her short career to being obese and obnoxious with equal success.

I don’t know that she’s obnoxious. I’ve only seen McCarthy in Bridesmaids. This one simple sentence shows McCarthy to be a one dimensional comedienne who is disliked by Reed. This would have been enough.

Currently America is big. Big and fat really. When formerly esteemed members of the media use deliberately hurtful terms like tractor-sized and female hippo it prohibits us from having real conversations where we are able to talk about the fat and not the person. Of course it’s hurtful and harmful to Melissa McCarthy who is being unfairly attacked for her size as opposed to noting the quality of her work.

Because of Reed the ability to talk about obesity is set back just a little further and for many fat will remain a bad word, something associated with name-calling as opposed to an accurate descriptor passed along without judgement.

In the twilight of his career (Reed is 74 years old) it’s sad that a once talented wordsmith will be remembered only for his cruelty and lack of tact.