Ah, the infallible critic: that supreme objective citizen, his idiosyncrasies mortgaged to the will of the people! One wants the critic to stand as an insolvent pillar of rightness in a confusing sea of culture. Well, the fact is, most of them are weak-willed, lying, easily impressed hacks. As often as not, their supposed crystalline judgment is clouded by self-interest, jealousy, sexual longing, or alcohol. Certainly that describes the illustrious critics on The Stranger's crack(-addled) film squad. By way of proof, here are a few films we were dead wrong on. Watch them on tape--and stop reading our reviews as anything other than entertainment.

THE WAR ZONE (1999)

dir. Tim RothOn December 16, 1999, I wrote that "[The War Zone] recalls Andrei Tarkovsky's Sacrifice and Ingmar Bergman's Through a Glass Darkly. Both are brooding dramas about families in remote outposts." I must have been drunk when I wrote this (or was it the season?), because, as a work of art, The War Zone comes nowhere near the visual brilliance of Tarkovsky's Sacrifice or the philosophical darkness of Bergman's Through a Glass Darkly. Really, no one in their right mind would recommend and praise a long, lugubrious British film about a father who likes to fuck his daughter in the ass. I was not in my right mind. I was disorganized by gin and the weird winter weather. CHARLES MUDEDE

RAVENOUS (1999)

dir. Antonia BirdOver a year ago, I was flown to L.A. by 20th Century Fox to watch and critique a daring new film called Ravenous. After spending a fancy weekend in a posh hotel, eating and drinking four-star fare on the studio's tab, I came back to Seattle and wrote a mean review that described the film as trivial, and made for little boys who liked to be grossed out by things like cannibalism (which was the film's central theme). Well, I must now apologize for that review: I was wrong, dead wrong. Ravenous is a smart film made by a smart director, Antonia Bird, for a mature audience. Indeed, it was one of the most intelligent films to come out of Hollywood last year, and I have no idea why I thought and said otherwise. CHARLES MUDEDE

PRIMAL FEAR (1996)

dir. Gregory HoblitMy biggest regret about the review I wrote for this thriller isn't so much my negative assessment of the film--thinking back, it's cleverer and more complex than I admitted, but no great shakes--as the fact that those 250 words may well be the worst I ever wrote. A stunningly unfunny attempt at parody, painfully laboring to sound like a studio press release, this unnecessary and unreadable pastiche deliberately avoided mentioning all that was good about Primal Fear in order to cram in more lame gags. And beware the failing of hero worship: I was so ecstatic about Andre Braugher's supporting performance that I not only underrated Richard Gere's fine, oleaginous lead--a good man too successful at being a con artist to change--but didn't even mention the screen debut of Edward Norton; an oversight comparable to a history of WWII that neglects to mention the atomic bomb. BRUCE REID

BOOGIE NIGHTS (1997)

dir. P. T. AndersonI completely trashed this film when I first saw it, going so far as to say it was "worth leaving the country for." Now, I am not so humble as to imply that I was wrong--I still think it is the single most overrated film of the '90s--but I will admit to lying shamelessly at the time. You see, despite the general lousy quality of the film throughout, I was, and remain, fully aware that there is a short film within Boogie Nights that is (ahem) brilliant. It even has a name: Long Way Down (One Last Thing). In this excellent climactic scene, Dirk Diggler and his cohorts get stuck in one of the best drug-deals-gone-south yet put to screen. From the glorious set (the best in a well-designed film) to the only truly inspired use of music in the whole soundtrack (the hubris of "Jessie's Girl" morphing into the vacant nostalgia of "99 Luftballoons"), this scene is flat-out great. Then, of course, there's Alfred Molina's inspired, over-the-top performance as the crackhead, and Cosmo the Chinaman's firecrackers detonating across the sound mix. The devil take me: God, it's good. JAMIE HOOK

I STAND ALONE (1998)

dir. Gaspar NoéWhen I saw this in Toronto, I was a stranger in a strange town. I stumbled into the screening by accident, and obviously responded to the loneliness and strange (ugly) thoughts in the mind of the butcher walking the streets of a small town in France, unable to connect with anybody--that and the expert filmmaking and bracingly nasty sense of humor. When the movie came to Seattle's film festival, I only remembered the expert filmmaking and dark sense of humor, so I brought a date. Big mistake. Though still an extremely powerful movie, it was transformed into a misogynistic, ugly, and just plain mean-spirited film. Squirming next to me through the duration of the film, the girl I brought no doubt questioned what it was about me that responded so well to it the first time through. As did I. We walked home, barely talking, feeling shaken and dirty. ANDY SPLETZER

INDEPENDENCE DAY (1996)

dir. Roland EmmerichCritics always consider themselves impervious to "hype," but I can see no other reason for my recommendation of Independence Day when it first came out. Sure, it's fun to be a defender of big, dumb, action blockbusters, particularly ones that are full of blatant American propaganda and that blow up treasured landmarks and cities, but in this case I was just plain wrong. I tried to watch it again, and it was far too boring to sit through. Even the explosions were dull. To think I was critical of Mars Attacks! upon its release, when that has since become my favorite Martian invasion film of 1996, and the only one I would even think of watching again. How embarrassing. ANDY SPLETZER

Support The Stranger