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'What a tool' 

Philip. Fucking. Martin. What a tool.

I hate to sound so petty, but it's about the best thing I can say about the guy right now, given his screed in this morning's paper against my friend and colleague, Lindsey Millar.  Half papal bull, half three-year-old-in-a-sugar-crash whine fest, Phil's windy sermon on his own piousness would be sad if it wasn't so goddamned funny. All it needs to be a complete artifact is an accompanying video of Phil working himself up into a good cry on wine coolers and the half-pack of cigarettes he keeps in the back of his drawer for emergencies.

A couple days back, Lindsey had the balls to call Phil, movie reviewer for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, on what has been a long-running trend with the guy: giving movies with an Arkansas connection a pass when it came time to dole out the criticism. In this case, the movie in question was “The Love Guru,” written by Arkansan Graham Gordy -- a movie so reviled for its stupid plot and juvenile humor that one memorable criticism said that if “The Love Guru” got on shit, shit would wipe “The Love Guru” off. Phil, by contrast, gave the movie an 85; a score which, in his new, inexplicable, as-complicated-as-String-Theory numeric formula for scoring movies (“I give it a 41 for humor, a 22 for action and a 67 for plot. Add in a nine point bonus for joie de vive and  subtract the morning bell price for a barrel of Grade A kerosene on the Lichtenstein stock exchange, and we end up with…”) ranks it as “Better than most to remarkable.”  Lindsey had the temerity to call bullshit on that.

In response to a 200-word item on Lindsey's “Rock Candy” blog, Phil has managed to gin up a solid 1,000-plus words on the matter for his “On Film“ column. The column is, in a word, a Martinesque masterpiece, full of the self-righteous pomposity and red-cheeked indignation Phil has pretty much trademarked over the years. I‘d love to go through it line by line, but I‘ll just pick up the highlights. 

1) HOW MUCH IS THERE TO SAY?   If you figure in both today's column and the ungodly-long e-mails Phil has already sent to Lindsey at the Arkansas Times about the subject, the guy has written a good 3,000 words on the subject at this point. When does he ever have time to -- you know -- actually write for his job?  It's like a historian penning a two-volume history of  George Washington's wooden teeth. Open the Movie Style section of the D-G on the jump, and the text of what Phil has written looks like a gray cinder block on the page -- a lump of print as solid and monolithic as his own sense of self-satisfaction. Luckily for Phil, most of what he's written concerns the subject he knows the most about; namely, himself.  In his defense, however, one can only imagine what deep and abiding courage it takes to weather the slings and arrows of an OBSCURE, 200-WORD BLOG ENTRY that maybe thirty people read at the time it was first published.  I mean, in the face of an assault like that, who WOULDN'T use their statewide soapbox to alert the good people of Paragould and Smackover and Standard Umpstead?

2) THE OL' SWITCHEROO: What's a critic to do when caught with his hand in the ethical panty drawer? Turn things around, that's what! To wit, Phil writes: “I notice no one from the Arkansas Times reviewed the movie. I could suggest the reason for that is the Times wanted to avoid running a review that might say bad things about a movie with an Arkansas connection… I don't believe that's the case --  I'm plenty aware of the problems inherent in trying to produce a weekly publication of quality with limited resources and I can only assume that people were too busy and deadlines too tight to allow a Times writer to get to one of the advance screenings.” Notice how, ninja like, Phil turns our barbs in mid-air and fires them back at us? He truly is a black belt of Douchebag-Doo. Down in Standard Umpstead, Mr. Jones nods approvingly over his toast and bacon. Just for the record: We did review the movie. It was on-line two days before his column appeared.

3) THE BACKHAND: For my money, nothing says “condescending asshole” like saying, “I could suggest ‘X‘… but I don't believe that's the case.” That's like saying:  “You know, I heard once that David Koon likes to go down to the train station late at night dressed in women's clothing and pay bums to pee on him. I don't believe that's the case, but that's what I heard” 

For example, I could say that I've heard Phil has a couple of screenplays tucked back, and that maybe he believes giving plugged-in Arkansas filmmakers and screenwriters like Gordy the critical reach-around is a way of padding his Rolodex for the ground assault portion  of his whirlwind, inevitable and too-long-delayed Discovery by the  People That Matter, wherein one of his screenplays will rise from the slush pile at a major but not too soulless production company, be recognized as a staggering achievement, and get made -- possibly with  Billy Bob Thornton in the lead and Ray McKinnon in a Best Supporting-nominated role as the lanky, alcoholic ex-center-fielder who lost his leg in a sun drenched, slow-motion threshing accident. I don't  necessarily believe that's true, but I might have heard it somewhere.

4) AND THEN I FART IN YOUR GENERAL DIRECTION: “Did Arkansas connections figure in?” Phil writes. “Yes, and that's one reason we scrambled to get to a screening that would allow us the opportunity to review the film.”  Thanks for pointing that out. Too bad we at the Arkansas Times were so strung out on crystal meth and cough syrup that we couldn't get our “scramble” on to make a screener THE DAY AFTER WE WENT TO PRESS for the issue of June 19. That, and the fact that we'd heard from NEARLY EVERY CRITIC IN THE FUCKING UNIVERSE that “The Love Guru” made “Pootie Tang” look like “The Bicycle Thief.”

5) AND HE SAW THAT IT WAS GOOD: “I don't mean to pick on the Rock Candy blog,” Phil writes toward the end of the column. “It's a good resource and I enjoy its existence…”   “I will therefore,” he continued, “allow it to continue to exist in this metaphysical plane. One more slipup, however, and I shall be forced to wish it into dark abyss of from whence nothing returns.”

6) WE COULDN'T HAVE SAID IT BETTER OURSELVES: “Questioning someone's intellectual honesty ought not be something that's done lightly.” Phil writes. ”And if you do it, you'd better have your facts rowed up. To paraphrase an old baseball coach I knew,  If you're going to throw at the jackass, you'd better hit the jackass.”  Yes, Phil, you're a jackass.

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