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I have always been bothered by Joel Siegel’s split allegiances as film critic/reviewer: Washington City Paper vs. Good Morning America. No doubt the financial split is heavily lopsided toward the latter gig, though I really don’t begrudge Siegel that in and of itself. On the conceptual level, however, I’ve felt all along that his integrity was a little blemished as a result of his morning-show participation in what is, on the whole, a TV/movie review spot that’s not significantly more content-driven than what the insipid Arch Campbell does locally (happy-face reviews), Siegel’s professional delivery and demeanor notwithstanding (he actually does decent reviews for them, but rarely of interesting movies of course, so who cares). I have been willing to nonetheless let that stand as long as his print reviews for City Paper were of a high quality, and they usually are.

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With Siegel’s recent review of Shine (Film, 12/27/96), however, it appears that he’s crossed a line. What I think can fairly be described as a—on the balance of things—negative review of the movie for City Paper, I see by an ad for the movie in the same edition (p.103) that he’s produced a fairly unambiguously positive assessment of the same movie for the “good morning” show, describing it as “one of the best films of the year, any year!” I did not witness his GMA review and cannot account for counterbalancing elements he may have dropped, but “one of the best, etc.” leaves little room to whittle away at.

I certainly do not regard Siegel as a run-of-the-mill “blurb critic” who cheaply offers his stature as critic to movie studios, but this episode certainly begs the question of his integrity and that of City Paper’s if there’s no good answer to this apparently duplicitous situation. It goes without saying that neither Siegel nor City Paper should be allowed to have it both ways.

Chevy Chase

via the Internet

Editor’s Note: We thought it was obvious, but our Joel E. Siegel is not the same guy as the hirsute boob-tube tastemaker, who works without benefit of a middle initial.