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This View by Nancy LeMay
Nancy LeMay is a five-time Emmy winning broadcast designer who has worked both in New York and LA, in network and local. She is a teacher and a painter as well. You can reach her through her website, and by email at

Vox Populi, Amazon Style

Freelance Graphic Artist KNBC

My best friend in New York (we've been buddies for nearly 30 years) is Michael Wilk. He is a professional artist, like myself, working for the US Postal Service. He is a fan of all kinds of film: depression era feel-good films, '40's noire, 50's musicals, bouffant-topped horror cheapies from Hammer, camp of every description.

He has educated me over these decades about everything from Busby Berkeley musical numbers to how Alfred Hitchcock dressed his heroines. And now, he is doing the same for the general population of the known world, thanks to the Internet, by way of Amazon. "Customer Reviews" has been his medium for about the last year or so, posting over 40 of his reviews of films he's purchased on DVD or video, as well as music CDs. You can read him as he weighs in on such diverse offerings as "Carnival of Souls", or "Leave Her to Heaven".

There are several things I find fascinating about this. Obviously, I get a big kick out of signing on and seeing my old friend on the web. (Call up his "All About Me" bio paragraph and you'll find a really good picture of him that an e-correspondent buddy posted). Keen wit, sharp observation, a gentle and nostalgic humor, and a memory like a bear trap are the foundation of his reviews.

For example, he reviews a CD of Hammer Vampire Film Music, and titles his review "A Disc with Bite"; "I have to hand it to Hammer Films, or, as I call them, the studio of the 3 "B's": Boobs, Blood, and Bouffants!

...My personal favorite, "Kiss of the Vampire", features a dark, Lisztian piano, which was later orchestrated by (composer) Bernard into a concert piece, "Vampire Rhapsody". It is an hypnotic, seductive piece, which added tremendously to the feeling of pervasive evil in the film...".

He's fun to read, informative, and has an eye (and ear, too) for the level of detail you expect from professional reviewers.

Fascinating, too, is the exchange that Michael is receiving. E-mail pals from as far off as Australia have formed an electronic salon of sorts; a cyber round table of opinions on the highs and lows of American Popular Culture. Perhaps the most important part of "Customer Reviews" is that there is an outlet- a free one- for an individual voice, a 'civilian' who has an opinion to share, and something worthwhile to contribute.

It is a great thing for Amazon to be doing for its' customers as well as the culture at large. They are encouraging people to participate, as well as encouraging them to trust their own responses to things, and this is very valuable.

Our culture is filled with "authorities" who, frankly, often are more concerned with convincing everyone how smart they are so they can get their next 'expert' gig.

I'm always disappointed when I go to a museum and see hordes of folks drifting, as if hypnotized, to the tones of some canned "art jockey" who has decided which pieces are IMPORTANT in the galleries. (In the Van Gough extravaganza a couple of years back the galleries sounded like they were filled with small, annoyingly tweeting birds. And I like birds....). Someone's thoughts are made available to everyone in this way, and this is a real service.

Michael, in particular, is not trying to convince you of the rightness of his opinions, but is offering memory, experience and reflection from the vantage point of a single life lived.

It is, if you think of it, the opposite of censorship.

It is the opposite of what Orwell feared; what we all fear could be the loss of the imprint of the individual in this cyber-controlled and increasingly bionic world.

When it feels as if Rupert Murdoch, Michael Eisner, Jack Welch (and his inheritors) and Mel Karmazin will run all of the media outlets- and soon!- I'm glad there's a home for the opinions of the single individual.

Am I glad that there are still Richard Corliss and Roger Ebert in the world?

Sure; there are plenty of reviews on Amazon which fall into the "This Film Sucks!" realm, but, hey, some films do .

Take a look at this stuff if you haven't already; there is a surprising amount of wit and insight about in the cyberworld, which has so quickly moved toward the center of our lives. I have been finding some unexpected twists and turns there myself; more about that soon.

About the Author

Nancy LeMay is a five-time Emmy winning broadcast designer who has worked both in New York and LA, in network and local. She is a teacher and a painter as well. You can reach her through her website, and by email at