On page 11 of the current issue of Entertainment Weekly, next to an article about the Oscar race, there is this brief item:

"Earning some of the harshest reviews of the year, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas is officially the first Holocaust movie that won't have a shot at winning an Oscar."


First of all, it's not even true. There have been several Holocaust movies that never had a serious chance at an Oscar. Robin Williams' loathsome Jakob the Liar comes to mind. (Whoops, EWliked that one.) But I get that EW is exaggerating for the sake of a joke about how Holocaust movies "always" get Oscar attention. Fair enough.

The more baffling assertion is that The Boy in the Striped Pajamas is "earning some of the harshest reviews of the year." It has gotten a few very scathing reviews, that's true -- but they comprise a very small minority. The film has a 64% Fresh rating at Rotten Tomatoes, with an average score of 6.2 out of 10. Saying it's earning some of the harshest reviews of the year while failing to mention the overwhelming majority that aren't harsh is like saying "some people" hate ice cream. It might be true, but it's misleading when you're looking at the big picture.

And are the harsh ones really that harsh? I tend to think the fiery excoriations of Disaster Movie and Witless Protection were much harsher, though I guess that's a matter of opinion. Most of the reviews of Striped Pajamas have been average-to-positive. The negative notices are in the minority, and the truly blistering ones are in the distinct minority. At Metacritic, only 5 of the 26 reviews compiled really hated it. These include the Chicago Reader ("reeks of self-righteousness"), the New York Times ("see the Holocaust trivialized, glossed over, kitsched up, commercially exploited and hijacked"), and -- well whaddaya know! -- Entertainment Weekly ("an appalling, jaw-dropping movie that will cause serious nightmares").

The impression I get is that Entertainment Weekly is looking at its own harsh review and somehow deciding it's part of a major trend or consensus, even though the facts indicate otherwise. It's human nature to assume that most people agree with our opinions (that's why liberals think most Americans are liberal while conservatives think most Americans are conservative), but you don't usually print those assumptions in a magazine ... especially when there are websites like Metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes that summarize other people's opinions for you. A more honest blurb would have read, "With mixed reviews and some downright negative ones (including EW's), The Boy in the Striped Pajamas will probably buck the trend of Holocaust movies earning Oscars." That would certainly be a more accurate summary of the situation.

(P.S. My own feelings on the movie? Eh, didn't care for it. But it's the principle of the matter.)