OpinionMedia Bias

Confessions of a Right Wing Film Critic

Or, how I learned how to stop worrying and embrace my inner Andrew Breitbart

I blame Abbott and Costello.

As a boy I spent Sunday mornings watching their black and white comedies with my Dad. This was before the Internet, mind you, so laughing at their peerless shtick proved as good as it got.

Those comedies did more than make me laugh. They were my gateway drug to Hollywood.

Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (10/11) Movie CLIP - Evading The Monsters (1948) HD

Years later, when my art career crashed on the runway, I suddenly had a Plan B. Become a movie critic.

Easier said than done, even at a time when newspapers considered critics an essential part of their staff. What self-respecting critic would give up that gig? And what did I have to offer beyond a lust for darkened theaters?

I ignored both inconvenient truths and went for it.

Slowly.

In a Steel City Frame of Mind 

I joined a Pittsburgh newspaper as a metro reporter, filing reports from town meetings (noble work, just not my thing) and writing feature stories.

At the same time I volunteered for any entertainment assignment available. Opera reviews? Sign me up, even if my knowledge started and stopped with that 1957 Bugs Bunny short, “What’s Opera, Doc?” Plays featuring male nudity? Yup, I’m there, chief, just tell me the due date.

I was the original “Yes Man” before Jim Carrey co-opted the phrase. And it worked. Sort of.

When the paper’s veteran movie critic went on vacation I was the de facto backup. My first official movie review? Jeff Bridges and Ellen Barkin in 1995’s “Wild Bill.” I was elated, but vacations don’t last forever.

My career eventually took me to Virginia, and I found a similar gig at The Washington Times. Once again the paper had an established film scribe, perhaps the toughest critic I’ve ever read. He once gave a star and a half to a film that went on to win Best Picture.

And he wasn’t going anywhere. Nor was I.

RELATED: CJR Targets White Male Critics

I repeated my Pittsburgh polka, taking any entertainment task at hand. My bosses couldn’t turn down extra content, and I slowly proved my worth (and versatility). I didn’t pen any opera reviews, thank goodness, but I covered everything from Alabama concerts to Monkees’ profiles.

OK, the latter was my 100 percent my idea.

Eventually, I forced my way onto the entertainment desk and, later, began reviewing films on a regular basis. An overnight success story, no?

Politics rarely entered my mind during this period. Both the Pittsburgh paper and The Washington Times leaned to the right in their editorial content. That wasn’t necessarily my passion, though. I cared more about “Lethal Weapon” sequels than partisan theatrics.

September 11, 2001 changed that.

‘Why Do They Hate Us?’

The terrorist attacks woke me up in more ways than one. I drove past the Pentagon every morning, and when I arrived at work that awful day I saw colleagues huddled around the small TV sets that littered the newsroom.

I also witnessed how the Left, and Right, processed the attacks.

One side all but said we had it coming, raging against the very sight of an American flag in the ensuing weeks.
“Why do they hate us,” they cried. The other wanted justice. My political instincts rose from a long slumber.

I picked a side.

Politics didn’t weigh heavily on the entertainment scene at the time, though. Over the years it flared up, like the The author and self-described right wing film critic sharing his thoughts on pop culture at a Libertarian event.time Marlon Brando sent a Native American woman to pick up his Best Actor trophy on Oscar night. Years later, a flurry of films examined the Vietnam War and Watergate from a left-of-center perspective.

Still, reviewing movies was a thumbs up or down proposition thanks to the gig’s elder statesmen, Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert.

That slowly started to change.

Celebrities became increasingly political, and it reflected in some of their product. Consider the crush of anti-Iraq war movies flooding cineplexes during the Bush years.

The industry’s left-leaning ways grew stronger, louder, and it became an entertainment journalist’s job to cover that evolution. I took particular interest in how my peers framed these stories.

They often cheered liberal stars and stories on, or failed to ask actors tough but fair questions about their views. I silently stewed but kept on reviewing and reporting as best I could.

I eventually left D.C. for Denver, leaving The Washington Times behind. It remains the best gig I ever had.

Learn to Code … or Else

Meanwhile, the Internet’s rise left newspapers scrambling to evolve or die. Papers cut staff over and again, shrinking pages at an alarming rate. I couldn’t fall back on my three arts degrees, har-har, but I didn’t know what else to do

So I went solo, scrambling for freelance writing gigs and creating a web site to call my own.
WhatWouldTotoWatch.com.

Feel free to groan. In my defense I was new to the World Wide Web and wanted to leverage my goofy name. Only I didn’t fully embrace my conservative views on the site. I guess I wasn’t ready. I preferred to walk gingerly around politically-charged material.

Christian Toto inspired by Andrew Breitbart

I also had next to zero marketing experience. Yes, I spent countless hours drawing naked people and learning how to sharpen pencils (really) in college. I didn’t jot a single note about how I could peddle my talents.

So I improvised.

I read every blog post I could on social media, content marketing, branding and more. Later, I turned to podcasts to boost my education. Little by little, those lessons started sinking in.

Then Andrew Breitbart tapped me on the shoulder.

‘More Voices, Not Less’

I spent two years contributing to Breitbart News’ entertainment section, putting my entrepreneurial journey aside. I learned plenty at the site and worked alongside some rising superstars, like Ben Shapiro. Still, I longed to cover Hollywood my way, on my terms.

So I left and created HollywoodInToto.com … I hope you’ve heard of it.

This time I put all my chips in. I’m a right wing film critic covering Hollywood from a conservative point of view. Full stop. No apology.

This site gives conservative artists eager for a little press a place to grab just that. More conservative outlets should do the same. End of micro-sermon.

I was officially out of the ideological closet, for better and worse.

Right Wing Film Critic Reporting for Duty

The former? I learned there were thousands of readers eager to have their views reflected, finally, in entertainment coverage.

The latter? Not as bad as expected, to be blunt. I’ve had some interview subjects turn tail and run once they learned the site’s perspective. One subject spoke to a HiT contributor and, later, requested the story be yanked after discovering the site’s point of view.

Request denied. The writer in question worked his tail off to prep for, and conduct, the interview.

It’s hard to know what opportunities I’ve lost due to HiT’s politics, but for the most part I’ve been able to do my job without much interference. The perks? Free movies, of course, and the chance to tell Albert Brooks how much my family uses the words “nest” and “egg” together.

Lost in America (8/10) Movie CLIP - The Nest Egg Principle (1985) HD

Some Overnight Successes Take Longer Than Others

Looking back, I forged my career path [mostly] on my own terms. It just took a long, long while to get there. Six years, to be exact.

I haven’t changed my approach over time, though. I still cheer quality films no matter their ideological leanings. I proudly point to my positive “Booksmart” review, one of the wokest movies to emerge from our social justice age.

What’s different now about me?

I’ve embraced more of Andrew Breitbart’s spirit, his vision. It IS a culture war, and one side has far more ammunition. I’m not looking for domination, though. Given the chilling clampdown on free speech I simply want all sides to be heard without, as Dave Rubin would say, being called a Nazi … and then punched.

Once upon a time that was the liberal’s default position. No longer. It’s time to act accordingly. Taking that basic stance makes me both an outlier and a culture warrior. Guilty as charged on both fronts.

If you’re a left-of-center movie buff, I hope you’ll stand by me, too. Let’s argue about the best, and worst, content streaming into our homes.

We can agree to disagree, assuming you acknowledge “Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein” got stiffed by the Academy in 1948.

Photo by y entonces on Foter.com / CC BY

Show More

32 Comments

  1. I’m extremely glad I found this site and am very appreciative of the work you do. Thanks for sharing this personal history.

  2. Great bio, my friend. You’re a terrific critic, whether on the radio, here on your site or even just over beers at the Walnut Brewery pre-screening. I will take issue with one comment you made, however. You said “Celebrities became increasingly political…” but if you go and read up on the chaos in H’wood during the era of the House Un-American Committee, you’ll see that celebrities (like Ronald Reagan and John Wayne on one side and Dalton Trumbo on the other) were plenty political already. I think what’s changed is that the public at large ascribe more wisdom to actors who have played roles that seemed erudite. Played the President in a movie? Then you’re qualified to be a sagacious commentator on world affairs!

    But Abbott & Costello meet Frankenstein? Really. I can go for some good ’48 noir, but that’s a nope, not a noir. 🙂

  3. “The Time of Their Lives” from 1946 was A&C’s best movie movie. But it didn’t use them as a team and that disappointed what fans were expecting to see. Universal went back to what had worked before and then in ’48 threw in the studio’s collection of monsters for “Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein”.

    Hollywood’s lurch left really started in earnest with the end of the Motion Picture Code in the late 1960s and the beginning of the actor-driven movie outside of the normal studio system (about the only actor nowadays who has any long-term tie to one studio is Clint Eastwood and Warner Bros.) Films started being made where the desire to move the political needle was completely unbidden, though only a few actually struck paydirt, like 1979’s “China Syndrome”.

    By the 1990s you started having the vanity project progressive movies, where A-list actors in movies for all audiences would do small budget political films that got their message across, but didn’t threaten to cost them or their studio any big dollars. It’s only the past decade or so that you’ve seen Hollywood abandon the idea of making their big budget movies for a wide audience and have started making woke movies with nine-figure budgets, which is insane. The message has become more important than the profits, though with the COVID-19 cutbacks the entertainment industry is facing, we’ll see if producers, actors and directors can indulge themselves like that in the near future in making films with huge budgets that only appeal to niche audiences (or ones which need repeat customers to make their costs back, but only get one-time viewings).

  4. Not sure when I stumbled across the HiT website, but I know it was after “The Dark Knight Rises” when I was looking for online reviews from other than mainstream papers. That film came out around the time of Occupy Wall Street and got me thinking; I saw “TDKR” as a cautionary tale of the French Revolution, and a warning about following mob mentalities and the failures of utopian dreams. Around the same time also read Dennis Prager’s book “Still the Best Hope”.

    Also with HiT are the podcasts with fun frank open discussions. It’s great to hear people chat about their passion in the entertainment industry be they writers, directors, editors, comedians, or comic book artists. And they have different POVs, some are libertarian, others are liberals who are fed up with the cancel culture too. Favorites include interviews with Mark Pellegrino and voice actor Rob Paulsen.

    Keep up the great work, Mr. Toto! My go-to classic comedy? “Some Like It Hot”.

  5. I always enjoy your articles on Hollywood in Toto, more so now that you have invited us in to know more about your story. You are the only observer who agrees with me that the left was never united on behalf of our country on 9-11. I keep hearing how “we came together” “our country was never more divided than it is now,” but that is a convenient manipulation of the left to control the narrative and erase their tracks.

    1. What don’t you get about the fact that the United States brought those attacks on itself……?
      Oh, I guess that’s a hard pill to swallow for you?

  6. Good article. BTW, A&C Meet Frankenstein is the only good movie those guys ever made. It’s actually funny.

  7. I’m not sure the Academy has ever been up to the level of “Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein,” so no, I can’t agree.

  8. Question for you: Do you see a way to get certain right of center book series green lit as movie series?

    The Monster Hunter International series by Larry Corriea would IMHO, be a multi BILLION dollar movie series if made with top notch production values. I know there have been deals for the movie rights, but I fear the studios would rather snap up the rights so that the series could be kept from being produced instead of so that it could be.

    Watching my beloved Star Wars series put out SJW tainted garbage only makes my thirst to see a truly good story made and put to screen again that much greater. MHI could be that. Regular people would appreciate a series like that immensely.

    So how do we get gold old fashioned exciting movies that aren’t leftist drivel made today when the obvious ginormous payday they could find doesn’t seem to be enough?

    1. Oh gosh yes, the sequel trilogy of “Star Wars” was the beginning of the end for me. All epic storytelling must be sacrificed on the alter of progressivism; the old must be reduced to ashes and forgotten for the new to replace them. Just seeing Luke Skywalker reduced to a bitter old decrepit man was heartbreaking. Time to go re-read some Joseph Campbell.

    1. “Oh mighty warrior of great fighting stock,
      “Might I inquire to ask ‘eh, what’s up Doc?’

      “Oh Bwunhilda you so wovewe,
      “Yes, I know it, I can’t help it.

  9. I don’t care about or left or right, I care about intelligent opinions intelligently argued.

    And I have enjoyed Hollywood in Toto for…I don’t know how long. A while, it seems,

  10. Thanks for a great story on your career. I worked with a reporter with similar ambitions who weaseled his way into becoming our paper’s fill-in movie critic. He gave “Out of Africa” one star because it bored him stiff, privately complaining that the newspaper’s policy prevented him from giving it no stars. When I edited his review of “Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home,” I saved him a bit of embarrassment by correcting his several references to “hunchback” whales. He went on to have a very successful freelance career that includes several ghostwritten sports autobiographies that landed on the bestseller list.

  11. You are a liar and a POS. You even admit your own BS is BS. Breitbart is a coward and a traitor to this country. As a disabled Marine Vet you disgust me. As a movie buff you a speck in history that no one will remember. F U

    1. You act like you have rights in a country that has taken Capitalism to the utmost extreme!
      Are you an owner of a big business or major corporation?
      Are you a wealthy, powerful man?
      Seriously, you can’t be that naïve !
      In this country, the ONLY thing that matters is business and commerce and marketing, etc.
      The everyday person is good for one thing and one thing only, and that is to be a good little worker ant, who works day in and day out toiling their life away, in order to have a roof over their head and some cheap food in their belly, while all the rights and privileges and liberty and freedom, etc are really only for those wealthy owners of industry and trade in the country, those who own property and estates and assets, those who have much wealth, and those who control business and commerce in the nation…..
      It isn’t for the everyday poor person in the US…..
      It doesn’t matter if you served this country……
      I don’t know what makes the poor in America believe all the rhetoric that says that they’re free and that they are supposed to have all these rights and privileges! smh
      No, you have the right to toil and labor your life away, while those who own big businesses and major corporations live the high life and enjoy their liberty and freedom and power and influence…..
      What planet did you think you lived on? lol
      The United States of America is still on planet Earth, a vicious, cold, cruel planet, a planet of injustice and cruelty, a wild, animalistic place……
      It has never been a place of true justice or fairness or freedom…..!
      And that is precisely why conservatives hate the ideology of neo-liberalism so much, because the new liberal is one who fights for the rights of the downtrodden and for those who unfortunate or who has suffered much. The new liberal is concerned about the lives of all people and protecting their rights, no matter who they are….. The new liberal is concerned about fairness, but an ideology of fairness is so disgusting to those who wish to conserve the way of the world, i.e. the way the world has always worked……

      1. Six comments, and a post full of small-chested tub-thumping.
        The “new liberal” is concerned about the same crap the “old liberal” is… the consolidation of power, nothing more.
        It’s probably about time for you to put on your black armband, and commence to swingin’ that bike lock, Pantifa boy!

  12. I hate social justice so much, because it has been nothing more than a blatant disregard for the original meaning of the Constitution of the United States, and the intentions of its authors.
    Since the founding of this great nation, it was made abundantly clear by our Founding Fathers that for one, the rights and privileges mentioned in the Declaration of Independence and in the Articles of the Confederation, and in the Constitution, were never intended for the African race, for those who had been forcibly transported to this land to serve as slaves.
    The rights of liberty and the pursuit of happiness and the right to vote were never intended for anyone but the White race, and especially White Anglo-Americans.
    I agree that many of the slave owners, especially in the southern states were rather cruel with their slaves, and often treated them worse than they ought to have treated them, but the right of liberty and freedom, the right to vote, and the pursuit of happiness, were not meant for enslaved Africans, or their descendants. These rights and privileges were meant only for land-owning, White Anglo-Americans. It was never intended by our nation’s Founding Fathers that Africans would share in those rights and privileges.
    Furthermore, in the issue of slavery itself, it was clear that our Constitution gave each state the right to decide its position and its stance regarding slavery.
    Each state was meant to have the right to make its own laws.
    Then, Abraham Lincoln, because of his utter obsession with abolitionist ideology, but also his unquenchable thirst for power and dominance, acted as an absolute tyrant, an all-powerful monarch, and forcibly reunited the states that had seceeded, and forced the abolition of slavery upon this nation, completely disregarding the rights of the states to make their own laws, leading to the bloodiest war on our own soil, in the entire history of our nation, with so many Americans losing their lives, as well as the economy of the South being brought to complete ruin, all to force his abolitionist ideals upon all the states, no matter their position. Lincoln utterly disregarded their state rights and state laws. That’s when all of this social justice garbage really began. It was with the abolitionists and good ol’ King Abe I……
    Hopefully you understand that I am speaking sarcastically and that I am not in fact a disgusting, hateful racist piece of garbage, but I am expressing the ideology and worldview of most Americans during the first 80 years or so of this nation’s history….. My point is that sometimes the thing people want to conserve is something evil, a practice or a system that is evil and unjust and cruel, and those who support it must be stopped and defeated for the sake of justice….. Conservatives in this country are all about conserving old traditions and old ways, many of which are not right or just…… They are so sure that they’re in the right, but they don’t know how wrong they really are….. Conserving an old practice or way of doing things is not always a good thing…..

  13. You have zero credibility as a critic (left, right or center) if you do not proclaim Dinesh D’Souza’s movies genuine crap.

  14. I’m left of center, but I honestly appreciate commentary coming from the right, so long as it’s constructive (something I equally want from the left). While I may skew left, there are many times I feel like Hollywood pushes it too far and goes for the easy thing to win over it’s intended audience.

  15. Movie reviews, film critics; I never have understood this job. Yes, a movie should have good production values, the lighting should be good, the cuts well done, the camera angles right, the script well written. But the point of a movie is to entertain for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, nothing else. Nothing else. If it doesn’t do that it isn’t worth seeing. The best two movies ever made, Casablanca and The Magnificent Seven, do that. The best line ever is also in The Magnificent Seven: ” Never rode shotgun on a hearse before. ” Even better, none of the characters say f**k every third word. Two requirements: a movie should entertain, and it shouldn’t insult my intelligence too much. Is that really so hard to do?

    Other than that, I don’t much care about the viewpoint unless it is overly heavy handed.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Back to top button
Close