May 16, 2005
A thought by James Berardinelli

On the Croatian version of the Alexander DVD: "remek-ejelo vrijedno divljenja" - James Berardinelli. I am reliably informed that this is translated to be: "A masterpiece worthy of admiration." It's funny, but I can't remember saying anything quite that nice about Alexander. I'm guessing some creative re-working has been done with the following line: "Although some aspects of Oliver Stone's sword-and-sandals epic are worthy of mention (and even praise), they are dwarfed by the missteps and examples of bad judgment." See.. "epic worthy of...praise" isn't all that different from "masterpiece worthy of admiration." The changes could be the result of the translation. So... oops. Maybe I did say that.

The point is that publicists will jump on any quote and use it as they see fit. A review could slam a movie with this phrase: "Words like 'intelligent' and 'entertaining' would never describe this film." An intrepid publicist might then use: "Intelligent! Entertaining!" I'm not one to overanalyze word choice to avoid the possibility of a quote being used to misrepresent how I feel about a film. There are always going to be less ethical publicists out there who will do this sort of thing. It can't be stopped because... well... I did write that. I may not have meant what they are indicating I meant, but I typed the words into my computer.

One of my Croatian readers suggested I sue. Even if I felt I had a case (which I don't), I wouldn't bother. I'm in the anti-litigation camp. I also believe in the commonly-held belief that no publicity is bad publicity. This got my name out there and it is being talked about in some circles. My reputation isn't going to suffer. There are some respected critics who liked Alexander. It's not like someone is trying to say I praised Freddy Got Fingered. ("Green gives us some cinematic moments that seem destined to become classics.")

Of greater concern to me is plagiarism, which is rampant in the on-line community. I wonder how many of my reviews and essays have been passed off as high school assignments? (I get dozens of e-mails annually from teachers.) How many have been reprinted under another name on the IMDb message boards? And, most disturbingly, how many have been attributed to another writer as a paid assignment? The most galling possibility (and I am aware of at least two instances when this has happened) is for another writer to use my words to collect a paycheck... when I didn't get paid for writing them in the first place.

For me, I guess the situation is simple. When it comes to journalistic sins, you can misquote and misrepresent me, but don't plagiarize. I might turn a blind eye to the former, but I'll go after you with bared fangs for the latter.