In the News Toronto (a.k.a. Accordion City)

"Guess Who’s Back. Back Again. Russell’s Back. Tell a Friend…"

Photo: Poncey boy Russell Smith.

Poncey boy Russell Smith. The only time you’ll see a better-dressed cracker is on an hors d’oeuvres tray.

Russell Smith, whom I’ve described as “a well-dressed, well-coiffed, well-read cultural Pharisee

who badly needs a good solid punch to the mouth”, has for the most part

managed to not get up my nose with his “I’m not really an essential

member of society, but I play one at the Globe and Mail” scribblings. Chris “Planet Simpson” Turner, during a recent visit to Accordion City, mentioned Smith’s fruitless (hah!) defense of capri pants for men.

I like to think I have a rep for being a very open-minded guy, but upon

hearing about that, I remarked “You know what we call guy like Russell?

Chicks.” The man has less

macho than most of the salads I’ve eaten this week.

Perhaps we could

take a little of the tsunami relief goodwill and hold some kind of

local fund-raising concert to raise money to get him some testosterone

patches. I envision Danko Jones being one of the acts, just to show him dude-itude.

Warren Frey wrote to me yesterday, informing me that Russell’s back to his old tricks, having written his latest screed, titled The films stink more than the greasy audience. Since the Globe and Mail

is going to make you pay to read the article online and since I

generally say “I’ve seen better paper after wiping my ass” after

reading Smith’s stuff, I’ve copy-and-pasted the article for you below:

The films stink more than the greasy audience


It’s time someone came out and said that not only are movies terrible,

but that the whole experience of going to movies is highly unpleasant.

How is it possible that this sensory stressfest has become the most

popular entertainment of the contemporary age?

How can people possibly enjoy the lining up, the waiting with coats on

for tickets, then the shuffling with the heated herd toward a crowded,

windowless room? And when you get to that butter-scented trough, with

its seats piled high with coats and scarves, the representatives of

humanity who surround you are anxious: They are focused on their feed.

This focus is quite dramatic. Their eyes are glazed and dilated, their

shoulders are hunched over their cartons, they are stuffing themselves

with viscous oil products with orange cheeze whip on fried nachos, with

yellow “topping,” with gallon jugs of liquid sugar. They have the

concentration of chess players, of athletes before contests, of the

starving. Do you like this, the greedy scrabbling in greasy boxes, the

whole herd determinedly chomping and chewing and slurping . . . don’t

you feel even a little bit as if you’re in the pig barn, at exactly the

moment the big trough full of ground intestines slops over for all to

rush towards and snuffle in?

They will settle down, after 15 or 20 intense minutes. Once they have

had their fill of trans fats, they wipe the chemical film from their

faces and they start talking to each other. This is where my angst goes

up a whole notch on the hystero-meter. Because I have been trying to

distract myself from the nauseating smells and the comical cacophony of

crunching by watching the slides on the screen. These slides test your

knowledge of Hollywood stars. They are there to remind you of death, of

your inevitable subsumption into the great terrifying artistic void

that is movieland. They are there to remind you that you do actually

know all the stars’ names, even without wanting to: As soon as you see

the blurry visage and the clue “went postal” you murmur, automatically,

Kevin Costner, and then you are amazed at yourself. How do you know

every Hollywood star’s name? It has happened by osmosis; you are so

immersed in it every day, like a nacho chip in a tub of yellow goop,

that it has seeped into your pores.

Anyway. The slides are at least better than hearing your neighbours

begin to talk. The sociological lessons learned from overhearing

conversations in cinemas are even more depressing. One learns that most

people like to communicate by announcing what food they like to eat and

what food they don’t like to eat. This is an interactive discussion:

Each participant takes a turn. You may change the subject slightly in

the second or third rounds — you may, for example, announce how tired

you are today as compared to how tired you were yesterday or on

Saturday, and then everyone may follow suit with similar admissions.

This apparently amuses and interests most people, for it can go on for

some time.

You will think that there is a merciful God when the lights finally

dim, because the movie is about to start and save you from the insane

boredom of your surroundings. But you will be very, very sadly

mistaken. Because this is the beginning of the ads. These are ads you

must watch. When you are watching television, you can change the

channel during ads, you can get up and have a sherry. But here you are

trapped, and the ads are amplified. Everyone sits docilely munching and

slurping and watching extremely loud ads on a big screen for a

half-hour. And they pay to do so. They pay to have various cheery

jingles and swooshing automobiles blared at them for a half-hour. No

one seems remotely uncomfortable or bored.

Who can make it this far into the movie-watching experience without

being so agitated, so depressed, so foul-tempered that even the

greatest masterpiece would not provide anything, at this point,

remotely resembling pleasure? At this point I have wanted to leave for

half an hour, and that desire to leave will simply continue for the

length of the film.

I don’t even need to go into how disappointing that great payoff

invariably is. You’ve heard me on this before: It doesn’t help that 90

per cent of films shown here and discussed here are made by the great

schmaltz factories, the megastudios of southern California. So that the

great treat of this experience, the feature presentation that is the

point of all this suffering, is going to contain a lot of very

emotional music which lets you know when to feel sad or happy or

scared, and a lot of huge close-ups of the sad faces of famous actors,

and very probably a final scene with a sun-dappled forest with a deer

emerging to remind our characters of their natural wonder. . . . (I’m

thinking here of the film Kinsey, which I was persuaded to see because

otherwise intelligent critics, their minds numbed by exposure to

schmaltz of even more preposterous gooeyness, had proclaimed it

brilliant, and which turned out to be, of course, another Hollywood

weeper made according to the strictest rules of narrative convention.)

Honestly, why, why, why do we pay to have ads broadcast at us at insane

volume? Why do we pay to have productive hours of our lives removed and

replaced with the sameness, the predictability, the boredom of the

grave? Explain it to me: .

I have to agree with many of Russell’s points, but does he have to be

such a misanthropic Little Lord Fauntleroy about it? One iamgines he’s


to write an article about the horror of going to the men’s room

(“…and the guy in the stall beside me was pooping too! In such close proximity!”)

Russ better not commit any jailable offences. I figure some inmate

would churn his ass like so much creamy butter within 30 seconds of his

being put into his cell.

Warren pretty much sums up my own feeling when he writes:

While I’m forced to agree with him that the opening weekend movie

experience sometimes ain’t all that, he bitches in such a godawful,

pretentious, “I’m superior and did I mention I wrote a book about the Toronto art scene” way that you want to reach through the screen and strangle him by his immaculately knotted tie.

Part of the problem for me is that I love movies, and I love most of

the movie going experience. Yeah, you can run into some real idiots,

and the deluge of ads is a little ridiculous. But when things click,

and you see a really good move like Lord of the Rings on opening

weekend, with a crowd that’s just as hyped as you are to see a glorious

big screen spectacle, the movie theatre is almost magic. That’s

something ol’ Russ will never get, not that he’d bother trying.

Russell’s article was enough to get the notice of MetaFilter, who thus far have provided an impressive 84 comments.

14 replies on “"Guess Who’s Back. Back Again. Russell’s Back. Tell a Friend…"”

That guy’s bad, but he’s no where near as bad as Rebecca Eckler at the National Post.

To read her tripe is to subject yourself to every rich dim-witted female college freshmen(women?) talk about her boyfriend, his money, and how she wouldn’t touch a dirty dish, or move the vacuum around.

She’s so bad in fact that Wife & I had to change our paper from the National Pest to the Glove and Snail.

I’ll take this priss over her anyday. I laugh.

Steve – Fooworks

Hrm… methinks AG doth protest too much. “churn his ass like so much creamy butter”, eh? That’s very imaginative.

Yes! Savaged! I also loathe this metrosexual. How surprising to go online and lose the advantage of not reading the Globe. Now I must hunt down a barely remembered reference to his being reported at a fetish party. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

You think this “savaged”? It’s schoolyard stuff.

Accordion Guy, when you carry on like a closet-case, you really diminish your credibility, even when you make otherwise good points.

I think I’m entitled to a “macho shithead” moment every six months. That’s not too much to ask, is it?

You’re right — Eckler is by far the worst of the bunch, and she really gets to whatever-the-opposite-of-shine-is in that new “Advice to the Lovelorn” column they’ve given her.

Unlike the Eckler’s and maclaren’s of the toronto columnist tribe, it has always seemed to me that Russel Smith is very good at crafting his persona as a columnist as something separate from his private self.

You sense that maclaren would be as tedious in person as her prose, but I think smith would be a hoot to hang out with.


I hate to say this (and I am posting anonymously so I won’t get flamed) but I really really liked “How Insensitive” as well as “Noise”.

Have you read them? Utter hilarity! I think his secret is that he knows how to get under people’s skin by being a pretentious little quiff – it’s his “gimmick”, don’t fall for it or you’ll let him win!

“Crafting his persona as something separate from his private self” is the inflated liberal arts term for troll, last I checked. 😉

But seriously, Deenster, I’m quite sure he’d be fascinating company. That’s why I accepted an invitation from a friend of his to meet him in person. Alas, it never came to be.

Still, were I a single man, I could cite a dozen different reasons why an intellectually inconsequential evening with Leah McLaren might be preferable over an night of scintillating conversation with Fancy Boy.

You’re right — it’s probably his little hook. The problem is that Toronto, being the financial and cultural capital of Canada (pace Montreal, but that got frittered away with the whole separatism thing), is full of pretentious quiffs. I have great Googlejuice, and to paraphrase Spider-Man:

WIth great Googlejuice comes great responsibility.

I wish the line were mine — it’s from an article in The Onion about the guy who keeps talking about his backup plan in case he ends up in jail.

I have to agree with a lot of what Smith said in his article. But I also did not appreciate the elitist snotty manner in which he presented his perspective. I too, think that this is just part of his gimmick to sell himself as the intellectual Dandy of Toronto. I have met him in person, and he is very friendly, very witty, and not at all pretentious. And I have read a lot of his fiction, and have enjoyed most of it. He writes very well, and has a great sense of humour. I have not read his latest, (‘Muriella Pent’) yet, but plan to in the near future. I think part of his problem is that he does not realize his ‘Little Lord Fauntleroy’ image has become exceedingly tiresome, and actually kind of pathetic. If he doesn’t try to re-invent himself soon, he will become a sad caricature of his former self. I think that it is a shame, becase it takes away from his actual talent. I do wish he would stop writing about all the rich ‘beautiful people’, and start writing about subjects that most of us could relate to.

Anyway, as much as I kind of feel sorry for him, I too, am not above mocking him, because quite frankly, sometimes the little pansy is just asking for it.

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