Bad wordplay in film criticism: The Master

Look, I don’t want to sound like this self-righteous prick, but the fact of the matter is there have been a lot of journalists who have broken George Orwell’s first Rule For Effective Writing, which states: “Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.”

Having read several reviews of The Master, I have become very used to seeing variations of the same crap pun. Admittedly much of the blame here must lie with sub-editors as much as anyone else, but still.

  • “The Master is simply masterful” – LA Times
  • The Master: it’s masterful stuff” – Daily Star
  • “Masterful cinema” – The Sun
  • “The very masterful Master” – Huffington Post
  • The Master not entirely masterful” – National Review
  • The Master: a masterful not-quite masterpiece” – Bloodshot Eye (bonus points for both variations!)
  • “A less than masterful Master” – Washington Examiner
  • The Master is masterful” – Seattle Times
  • “The Master is a masterful dissection of cult” – St Louis Post
  • “Philip Seymour Hoffman is masterful” –
  • Master performances masterful, story not so much” – Atascadero News
  • The Master less than masterful” – CBS St Louis
  • The Master is itself masterful” – FlickFeast
  • The Master is (yes, I’m gonna say it) masterful filmmaking” – Yahoo!
  • “Obvious pun notwithstanding, it’s truly masterful work.” –

The Master is out on limited release in the UK today. Be sure to bring a thesaurus to your screening.

Previously in overly-pedantic dissections of lazy wordplay in film journalism:  Extremely Loud & Incredibly CloseThe Hangover Part II.


  1. […] has something of a precedent of calling out sickeningly obvious wordplay in film criticism (see here, and here, and also here), but I must say, the film criticism community has come out shining today […]

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