Criticize This

“I love criticism just so long as it is unqualified praise.” -Noel Coward

“I have always been very fond of them (drama critics)…I think it is so frightfully clever of them to go night after night to the theatre and know so little about it” -Noel Coward

I came across a couple of entertaining reviews this past week. The first appeared in an article in Saturday’s Globe and Mail about the vicious nature of London food critics. Here’s what Giles Coren, the Times of London’s restaurant critic, wrote about the chicken marsala at Goodfellas restaurant in Belfast:

“It is revolting. It is ill-conceived, incompetent, indescribably awful … I cannot leave it alone but return to it every few minutes with the grim fascination of a toddler mesmerized by a pile of its own feces. … If you’ve ever sniffed your finger after scratching your arse, and then done it again, then this dish may not be entirely wasted on you.”

I actually lived with a friend at Queen’s who used to scratch his nether regions, bring his fingers to his nose, inhale deeply, wait two seconds, and then say “Interesting”. I guess this dish would be perfect for him.

Ken Winters wrote a scathing review of Yundi Li’s piano recital at Roy Thomson Hall last week. Yundi may be one of the classical music world’s hottest stars at the moment, but Mr. Winters obviously didn’t think much of his performance. Among his comments:

“It was only when he played, alas, that we heard what a fragile hold he has on musical reality.”

“He opened the slender first half of his program with Chopin’s most shopworn Nocturne, the one in E flat, Op. 9, No. 2, and played it very badly indeed.”

“All of these were accompanied by the subliminal but distinct sound of Arthur Rubenstein spinning in his grave.”

“The one thing immediately obvious in Li’s performance was that he appeared to have never listened to it in its original song form. He played the melody in a manner no singer could have followed.”

“Yundi Li will continue to play when and how he likes so long as he fills halls and sells CDs. Everything will profit except the music.”

These two reviews brought to mind food critic Anton Ego’s statement from the movie Ratatouille:

“In many ways, the work of a critic is easy. We risk very little yet enjoy a position over those who offer up their work and their selves to our judgment. We thrive on negative criticism, which is fun to write and to read. But the bitter truth we critics must face, is that in the grand scheme of things, the average piece of junk is more meaningful than our criticism designating it so.”

Pretty insightful for a cartoon…

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