By Will Ashton
It may sound like an oxymoron, or perhaps an insult used to describe a film reviewer who didn’t see the “greatness”of a certain movie—or, perhaps, visa versa—but Thomas “Tommy” Edison, a.k.a. The Blind Film Critic is no joke. Endorsed by the late film critic Roger Ebert and with millions of viewers for each of his reviews, Edison has made a name for himself reviewing films, even though he has never seen a single frame of one in his life.
Edison’s career and life was discussed in a new article from The Guardian. Born with an undeveloped optic nerve, Edison has blind since birth. The inception of his personable and chatty YouTube persona grew “out of frustration” to show people his humorous insights arising from being a long-time lover of films, but being unable to see anything in front of him, as well as exploring a language he can never understand, a.k.a. the language of cinema. His candid style, involving lots of self-depreciation, fast-paced talking and other forms of humor, earned him a loyal following online. He’s even been on everything from CNN to The Howard Stern Show.
“I thought it might be fun to review movies from a blind person’s perspective to show sighted people what that frustration is like,” Edison told the publication. “Some people say: ‘How can you even review a movie? You can’t even see it.’” But a word to the wise: After 1928, they started putting dialogue in films. They’re not all silent any more! Before that, OK, yeah, I couldn’t review movies. But now I can and I love it.”
In fact, thanks to the wonders of audio description—a feature only available in a small amount of theaters and DVDs—Edison has gotten the chance to experience his first silent film last year. Needless to say, this had a grand impact on the critic.
“I got it,” he said. I knew what it was. That was huge for me. Pardon the pun, but it was really eye-opening.”
Some movies Edison loves include Hugo, which had a story that “just was cooking,” Clerks and Goodfellas, two films he believes “any sighted person could watch that without pictures, on a broken television, and be able to understand,” as well as American Hustle, for which he only responded, “That movie won awards for costume design, which was completely lost on me!” These are just to name a few, of course.
In light of this fame, Edison has gone on to address the world of the blind beyond the cinema. His recent videos address questions from commentators, wondering how he does everything from whether or not blind people can open their eyes to how they use the ATM. Additionally, as the Sydney Morning Herald reveals, Edison is currently in Melbourne for The Other Film Festival, a program looking at film for people with disabilities.
Movies are, like many things in life, a work backwards for Edison, but he loves it regardless. To explore more of his work online, go to his website, blindfilmcritic.com.
“People look at a person in a bar or something like that and think: my god I’ve got to talk to them,” he said. “Then after you get talking you learn what their mind is like. I do it the other way. I learn somebody’s mind first and then I learn what they look like afterwards. I think that’s wonderful.”