By Lou Mancinelli
Rotten Tomatoes. It’s what inspired a local writer and movie critic to start his own website. He was already writing satirical parodies for a monthly Ohio-based publication, Outlook Weekly (now called Outlook Columbus), with a circulation of close to 200,000 readers. He’d also been banned from his high school newspaper and an online movie forum.
Adam Lippe created “A Regrettable Moment of Sincerity,” his sometimes scathing, sometimes humorous but always knowledgeable movie review website one year ago to build his reputation as a credible movie critic. He wanted to be listed on Rotten Tomatoes, a popular website that hosts reviews by hundreds of critics, gets quoted on DVD cases and has been mentioned in USA Today, The Wall Street Journal and Fox News.
Lippe talks the way he writes. Quick, interesting and with peculiar insight. “’The Social Network’ is a film about bored smart people who want to be accepted by nerd culture and create and manipulate a world they think they can control,” writes Lippe, 32, in his October review of this year’s movie about Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg.
Lippe is in the process of developing a theater with a large screen and 25 seats in the Video Library at 7141 Germantown Ave. in Mt. Airy, where he plans to show rare movies, something he hopes will bring culture to the area he thinks needs much more. The first one, a campy musical entitled “Voyage of the Rock Aliens,” will be shown Thursday, Feb. 10, preceded by the 1984 Hip Hop American Bandstand-ish TV pilot, “Graffiti Rock” (7 p.m. start).
But it’s his somewhat elitist attitude and clever thoughts that have always made his movie reviews stand out from the crowd. Yet what’s more interesting is how Lippe began writing reviews and why and how he has been able to get them published.
In high-school, Lippe wrote his first review at age 15 while attending high school in the Greater New York City area. He printed 50 copies of his “Fearless” (starring Jeff Bridges) and Clint Eastwood’s “A Perfect World” reviews and set them on top of a pile of school newspapers.
Lippe was inspired to write his own reviews because the reviews in the school newspaper were written by faculty, and “almost all of the language was over my head. I wanted to write reviews that would appeal to those who would actually be reading the paper.”
The next day his packet of reviews was removed by a faculty member. In fact, his writing caused the 10th grade dean of students to call Lippe in for a meeting, where it was explained that Lippe could not continue printing and distributing his reviews that competed with the school newspaper. The dean and editor of the school newspaper told Lippe he could join the paper, but before his reviews would run, he had to prove his worth by writing news stories. Lippe rejected that suggestion and continued to print his packets of reviews, up to 10 every two weeks.
“They all expected me to cave in and agree to write for the school paper, though I would still not immediately be allowed to write reviews,” he recalled. “I was not particularly pleased with what they were suggesting or the subtext that their writing was more valuable and important because it was sanctioned, so I declined and continued writing reviews.”
Lippe, who saw almost every theatrically released movie in New York City from 1993 to 1996, eventually joined the school newspaper, but in his senior year he was “asked to leave/fired because I refused to write anything other than movie reviews.” The events stained his inspiration enough to cause him to quit writing reviews when he went to Emerson College, located in Boston.
In college, he studied film but changed his major to video because he was frustrated with the way the program was set up. Students studied technical aspects of the craft and did not work with actual film until junior year.
“I think I went to college to get [film-making] out of my system,” said Lippe. After college, he moved back to New York City and worked a number of temporary jobs. Around that time, he started posting essay length “sarcastic pseudo-reviews that doubled as conversation in the [online] bulletin board world.”
One way or another, someone came across “a ridiculous” review he had written about “3,000 Miles to Graceland.” The individual was starting a magazine. It only lasted four issues, but Lippe wrote for them all. He continued posting reviews in online forums, not thinking much about how to expand his readership.
All the while his reviews generated feedback. Often times, other readers and writers in the forums were offended by Lippe’s satirical pen. “The misconception is that anyone can be a critic,” he said. “The true critic is an expert, an elitist, someone who notices things that the general public does not, evaluated from a perspective that distinguishes them from the general online critic who co-opts a bunch of pull-quote worthy phrases and jargon that they’ve read in other reviews … And to bring attention to films that don’t have big money behind them to the public.”
Eventually, a negative off-topic review about “Bad Boys 2” caused Lippe to be banned from a forum. He was known as an elitist. And so, in 2003, along with a friend he created www.WeHateYouAndYourHorrendousTasteInEverything.com. The site featured reviews of lesser known films made by big name directors like Roman Polanski’s “The Tenant,” Brian De Palma’s “Greetings” and Bernardo Bertolucci’s “1900.” The Web site lasted until 2007.
In 2008, Lippe was living in Columbus, Ohio when his girlfriend randomly met the editors of Outlook Magazine a publication angled towards the GLBT community. He started writing satirical articles like a parody of the ignorant straight guy’s stereotypes towards gays.
Starting in September, 2009, Lippe was simultaneously posting reviews on www.examiner.com, a site that hosts articles by thousands of writers. It is something you apply for, but according to Lippe, the standards are low. And making money through the site is possible, but the chances of paying a bill with it are dismal.
“I started A Regrettable Moment of Sincerity (in January, 2009) as a way to publish the longer versions of the reviews that appeared in Outlook, re-work 10 years of forum posts into reviews, and to make it easier to link to Rotten Tomatoes,” said Lippe.
“I’ve added a lot of other outlets like the Mt. Airy Independent and Germantown Chronicle simply as a way to appease the local PR companies who don’t really care about your quality of writing, or even how many people you reach online, just that you write for a local paper.”
It helps build Lippe’s credibility and increases his chances at being granted interviews with more influential directors and actors. “That’s not to suggest that film criticism provides even close to a living wage, because it doesn’t,” he said. “I have both money saved up and a very supportive girlfriend, and I don’t mean solely financial … I don’t care whether or not you agree with me. I just want you to rethink the movie.”
(Ed.note: You can contact Lippe through HYPERLINK “http://www.regrettablesincerity.com/”www.regrettablesincerity.com or HYPERLINK “mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org” email@example.com.)