The Critics Club

It had been years since movie critics mattered. By 2034 the technology got so good that movies could be edited on the fly to adjust for an individual audiences' tastes. There were no more bad movies. No more flops. It was like a choose your own adventure book, but with surround sound and a satisfying ending you didn’t have skip ahead to read.

When the technology first came out, producers worried that there would be too many possibilities to program, even for the near-sentient algorithms putting it all on screen. What they forgot, was that people are simple. Out of the thousands of possible outcomes, almost everyone ends up seeing one of about nine. Of course, they had to come up with a filter to keep all the movies from turning into porn in the theaters—an industry also forever changed by this technology.  Because again, people are simple.

It was a win-win. Viewers knew they would enjoy themselves every time they entered a theater. Producers knew they would never lose money on a flop. Only natural disasters and the occasional actor’s scandal (sex, drugs, coming out as Christian) could ruin a movie’s payday.

The only losers? Film critics.

There wasn’t any need for them. The film tech would churn out movies with no less than 98% on Rotten Tomatoes—which also shuttered its site only a few years after the tech emerged. Where once critics were treated like rock stars, with free screenings and gift bags, they were now treated to needing roommates to pay the rent. Sure, some of them were able to transition to food critics or fashion bloggers. But not all of them were lucky enough to have the foresight to pursue a second hobby during their critical reign.

Kyle Graham was one of the unlucky ones. He spent most of his day just staring at his obsolete Blu-ray collection. Even classic movies had been revived at art houses, made even better somehow. The Godfather in 2040 on the big screen, rewritten by the tech, makes 2016 The Godfather look like Paul Blart Mall Cop…which is also really good now.

“What will undoubtedly earn Kevin James a disgusting sum of money, will also earn him the honor of somehow being the year’s second funniest movie mall cop” Kyle Graham, Rolling Stone 2009

He would often reminisce. About the movies he loved. More often about the movies he hated. Now that movies were universally loved, he felt even closer to those films that he used to eschew. Like a keeper of the memories of flops lost long ago. A noble, if not extremely low paying, profession. He could share his knowledge and Blu-rays with the hipsters had they not all moved to Argentina in the 2020s. Now it’s just him, his memories, and a few devoted blog followers; most of them not porn bots.

He also had his group meetings. Every Thursday night. Him and a few other down on their luck critics. They would eat popcorn and discuss past reviews like soldiers at war pining for home in their foxholes.

“I was front row center for Zoolander 2 in 2016. I walked out after 35 minutes and wrote a scathing review in the Times. I would give anything to go back and sit through the remaining 73 minutes” shared Fran Greenberg, a former arts & culture editor for the New York Times and current Starbucks barista.

“God, I hated that movie…I think I grew an extra thumb that week, just to give it another thumbs down” exclaimed Kyle.

They all laughed, to keep from crying. Three thumbs way down.

Every Thursday, just like the last. Through the years they shared their stories and shook hands with butter soaked fingers. With each passing year, the details of movies long ago became muddled. Details mixing together. Plot points blurred. And Scientology forgotten completely.

Until one Thursday, as the group sat in silence drinking their oversized cherry ICEEs, one of the older critics had an idea.

“Let’s write our own movie” Blaine Rathers excitedly blurted out.

“We don’t make movies. We just review them.” Kyle was hesitant.

“We don’t review them anymore. Do we?” Fran, chimed in.

“No I guess not.”

They found an old copy of Final Draft 10 and began to outline. Scene after scene came pouring out of the critics who had seen thousands of movies between them. It was easier than they thought. The dialogue was natural. The plot points following just the right cadence. It was all coming together.

Tired from old age, but energized by their new adventure, the writing team even flew to Argentina to recruit a team willing to film the whole thing on phones. When it came time for the screening, Kyle’s health had already started to fail. He was bedridden, but determined to see this thing through. With a makeshift theater setup by his hospital bed, the critics club held one last exclusive screening.

The end credits rolled. None of them could have anticipated what had just happened. It hit them like a wave of memories as the amnesia of time faded away: They had accidentally remade 2001’s The Wedding Planner, shot-for-shot.

It sucked. And it was beautiful.  

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