Friday, 21 February 2014

Who the hell is Katherine Monk, and what is she doing reviewing movies in my Montreal Gazette?


I know newspapers are dying but do they have to speed up the process by eliminating local writers and stuffing their pages with cheap crappy content from their wire networks??

That's what I found myself asking this morning when I read Katherine Monk's take on the new Kevin Costner flick, 3 Days to Kill. Sent the following to the Montreal Gazette. We'll see if they publish it. I'm not holding my breath, which is why I'm including it here:

“Who the hell is Katherine Monk, and what is she doing reviewing movies in my Montreal Gazette?”

It wasn’t the first time I’d had that thought on reading Monk’s movie reviews, but this morning, as I read the sidebar titled “Costner Clunkers,” cheek by jowl to her truly execrable take on Costner’s 3 Days to Kill, I finally had to write back. Seriously, a sophomoric McDonald’s metaphor throughout because the director’s name is McG? Where—and what--is Monk’s beef?

Costner may have made some bad films, but the guy has made a phenomenal 56 of them in a career that started in 1979, according to Wikipedia. His oeuvre has been recognized by a slew of awards: BAFTAs, Golden Globes, Primetime Emmys, and two Oscars--best actor and best director--for Dances with Wolves. Not too shabby, by any normal person’s reckoning. Yet all Monk could find time to mention were Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, Waterworld, The Postman, and 3000 Miles to Graceland?

Let me prod Monk’s memory: Kevin Costner is a bona fide Hollywood star. His movies are iconic, among the best of his (and my) generation. These include the aforementioned Dances with Wolves (a $15 million blockbuster where most of the dialogue took place in Lakota!), The Big Chill (which Monk weirdly labels a clunker because his scenes, probably all flashbacks, ended up on the cutting room floor), and the absolutely perfect Field of Dreams (who can ever forget the chill chased up the spine by his whispered “If you build it, they will come?”)

Costner was also magnificent in No Way Out, The Untouchables, Bull Durham, JFK, The Bodyguard, and Thirteen Days. Westerns, romances, historical thrillers, docudrama, and baseball. Actor, director, producer. That is quite the range, totally ignored by Ms. Monk.

Yes, I’ll admit, the quality of Costner’s pics is also highly variable, from iconic through magnificent to, admittedly, at times, downright lamentable. But in a career cruising up on 35 years in length, how could it be otherwise? You try things and sometimes they don’t quite work out. Through it all, he has maintained a gentlemanly aura, truly amazing in a world where “there is no such thing as bad publicity” remains a mantra. Here’s hoping his next reel will push him into Clint Eastwood territory.

Coming shortly on the heels of Philip Seymour Hoffman’s sordid passing, I feel Monk’s tunnel vision on Costner’s career is doubly sad: it underlines how we only seem to appreciate our great performers when they are taken from us, and it is also echoes the many changes The Gazette has undergone in the past few years. I often disagreed with John Griffin’s reviews, but at least there was a thoughtfulness, a depth, to them. They reflected my Montreal reality in a way that Monk’s--and Jay Stone, another Postmedia wire service parachute--do not.

In our wired reality, if I wanted to read a collection of ahistorical clichés masquerading as reviews from a Vancouver Sun writer, I could read the Vancouver Sun online. When I want to know what a savvy Montreal film critic thinks of Costner’s latest work, I should be able to find that in my Montreal Gazette. Head office may believe that gutting quality locally derived content is required in today’s sad business context, but as a long-time Gazette reader, I must tell you it only hastens the circling of the drain.

(By the way, Monk slammed the film, which I haven't seen, yet still, mystifyingly, rated it 3 stars; Rotten Tomatoes gives it 28%...they also have a post on Costner's 10 best films you might enjoy. It's reviews like hers that now send me to Rotten Tomatoes, rather than The Gazette, when I want to find out about new films.)


  1. I totally agree with you. She's now on Global TV in BC and it's called Katherine's Nuts and she has the loudest, obnoxious voice that's extremely irritating. Normally my TV is on 30 for sound. When she's on it's down to 20. Now I PVR it so I can skip her reviews, which, IMHO, suck.

  2. Who the hell is Katherine Monk you ask? She is one of this country's best film critics and has been for close to 25 years. I started reading her reviews back in the early 90s and was so impressed with her writing and criticism it compelled me to pursue an education in art and film studies. I have been passionate about it ever since. You come across as a film goer who is just resentful a film critic panned a movie that features one of your big crushes. As far as Costner he has some ok movies but I dont believe he stands out as one of the great film directors or actors. And Dance With Wolves featured some great cinematography but alas the flick is an example of colonialist racist narcissistic and trite piece of movie making that is not admired by any of my film director/producer friends and acquaintances. Monk's appearance in the Montreal Gazette as opposed to a 'local critic' has a lot to do with not only the consolidation of print media but its very survival. In an effort to survive and compete it's natural Postmedia would choose their best journalists and feature them in all their papers across Canada including Katherine Monk. It's time to shed your parochial Montreal/Quebec view of the world.

    1. Costner is not one of my "big crushes." I recognize that I wrote the post in the heat of emotion. But I disagree that Monk is their best critic: she's just the one who hasn't taken the buyout. What Postmedia doesn't realize is that by gutting local content, they only intensify the flight of readers. If my local critic--a person I have a sort of "relationship" with--is gone, I'm just going to read what NYT, TNY, and the REAL critics write about the flicks I'm interested in on Rotten Tomatoes. Which I now do. I don't know from where you hail, but if you think Vancouver is less parochial than Montreal, good luck to you!

  3. If Rotten Tomatoes gave it 28% and Monk 3 stars she was being charitable. How Costner is still able to get support and funding for his projects is mystifying. The movie sucked not Katherine Monk.

    1. And my point is not whether the movie "sucked" or not, but the absolute lack of respect with which Mr. Costner was treated. That's what really sucked in her review.

  4. This obnoxious 'critic' thinks she is the star, not the films she is supposedly reviewing. So she litters her articles with terms that are part of the subject matter. Example :

    "Welcome to the jungle. Katherine Monk is the 800-lb gorilla in the room. As she swings through her reviews, we know she is only paid peanuts, forcing National Post readers to knuckle-walk through her opinions. Though sometimes she takes a hairy on hard-working film-makers, and likes to nit-pick more successful accomplished people than herself, she is not the gorilla of my dreams and continues to monkey around with the facts."

  5. Hi Beverly,
    I am Katherine Monk. I was born in Montreal, and lived there until I started studying at UBC in 1984, where I earned two degrees: an honours undergraduate degree in English Literature, and a graduate degree in Film Studies. I was film critic for the Vancouver Sun until 2002. Then I got a promotion to the Canadian News Desk, the national bureau. My movie reviews were then published in all Canwest-Postmedia properties including the Montreal Gazette. I find your hate-on rather mystifying, especially since I did not write the sidebar you found so offensive. Sorry about that, but your tirade of hate is entirely misdirected. And at the moment, rather outdated. I was terminated by Postmedia in February. Now you can read another national writer whose copy is all over the chain. Anyway, so sorry you hate me so much. I never met you. And as a critic, it's my job to say what I think. The sidebar "Kevin's Clunkers" was not mine. I did not write lists. Oh well.
    As Taylor Swift sang.... "the haters are gonna hate hate hate... and I'm just gonna shake shake shake it off."
    All the best.
    Katherine Monk - THAT'S ME!
    hee hee hee....

    1. Hello Katherine (if it really IS you). I'm not a hater. I guess, in retrospect (my post is from Feb. 2014), what I really was objecting to is the disappearance of local reviewers...there's a kind of relationship one has with a reviewer. You get to know what if whatever he likes, you'll hate (etc.). I'm especially sorry if the sidebar I was complaining about wasn't by you, and that you lost your job. Too bad: movie critic is probably everyone's dream job ("You mean they pay you to go to the movies??"). These days, I use Rotten Tomatoes.

  6. I love Katherine Monk's film reviews.

  7. I used to read Katherine Monk's movie reviews, and sometimes liked them. Then I made the mistake of listening to her reviews on CBC radio. I found her so utterly obnoxious on the radio, that I could no longer read her reviews.

  8. I am fairly sure she does not watch all the movies as she claims, mispronouncing a characters name which is read one way but pronounced in the movie another, or reviewing a moving and only commenting on the first few minutes

  9. In a recent conversation Katherine Monk's name came up and I realized she kinda disappeared from our media (and yes, now local reviews are by Jay Stone, Chris Somebody, etc) a Google search brought me to your post. A couple years stale, but I could relate to your outrage.
    I read Monk's reviews in the Vancouver Sun when she was the 'house critic'. I found her inconsistency constantly frustrating. Some reviews were spot-on, some 'meh', many didn't match the star-rating, slagging the review like 1-star would be generous, yet it got 3 stars. I finally rationalized that someone else - who must have not read the review - arbitrarily picked a star# using some completely random formula of their own design, which helped reduce how crazy reading the review made me. And when I understood which types of movies made Monk filter through her personal politics and ideologies, I learned to read between the lines with a tub of salt. And I usually enjoyed the movie a lot. Certainly a lot more than she did.
    I read many different reviewers, some of us are more aligned, and it feels gratifying to feel on the same page. And I often value the ones I disagree with because they present me with a viewpoint I might not have considered, and it often pushes me to see something they disliked. And I agree, when you feel like there's a 'print relationship', it feels a little like a betrayal when your reviewer is absent, or replaced.
    But I much preferred when Katherine Monk was The Sun's music critic. Maybe because I felt like I learned something. And less frustrated. So thank you for your opinion, no matter how outdated l. I heard you.