Critics who needs them?

20 02 2007

This is a question that continuously comes up and most respected critics have a glossy answer ready. But as an aspiring film critic one can only wonder as to whether our work is a) utilized, b) sought-out and c) even necessary to anyone else. While a small percentage of films really thrive on a good critical consensus. As much as it pains to say this … there are films that are indeed critic-proof and have tremendous success despite what any film review says.
Like the old saying “opinions are like assholes, everyone has one,” and with more than 200 professional film critics and a countless number of Internet blogs (such as this one) it is incredibly hard to find one voice with which you agree with. Undoubtedly, you will run into the delusional ones who give Madonna’s Swept Away a glowing thumbs up but trash, om … let’s say The Departed. Are they wrong? To me and the vast majority of people they most definitely are, but to this person it is us who are missing something. Therein lies the problem, art is impossible to critique because it can mean so many different things and evoke a wide-range of emotions. The judgment of art itself is subjective, so then how can a review be a objective look at a piece of cinematic art. It can’t. This simply does not exist, but we can gather a overall opinion for the critical community.
Here’s a typical example: We have Jim who has just finished watching Norbit and thought it was the greatest movie ever created. Don’t laugh because there are people out there like this, it is a serious epidemic. Jim then goes onto http://www.rottentomatoes.com and sees the film is rated rotten with a meager 9 percent. One of two things will follow soon; first, Jim could accept the criticism of the film as valid and understand the stance of the reviewers, or secondly, he could dismiss them all as “stupid” and “out-of-touch with the contemporary movie landscape.” The latter is the conclusion most in this position settle with.
But are movie critics indeed out of step with the current crop of flicks invading theaters each week? The honest truth is their not. Regardless of what some might think, critics have standards and don’t (and rightfully shouldn’t) lower them because a movie that is lacking in every aspect of good film-making is popular. As a reader you are entitled to disagree with the reviewer and even question his judgment, but at least respect the viewpoint of the writer. I have yet to personally find a reviewer who has absolutely no knowledge on the subject they are covering. Granted, humor and thrills are a bit more subjective than screenwriting and direction because what tickles someone’s funny bone can just as easily offend or upset the person next to them. In these cases, I’d advise you use your own judgment because no knows your sense of humor better than yourself.
Critic proof films usual consist of gore-filled splatter fest, family-friendly adventures and of course, Superhero fares. The main reason for this is quite apparent: these genres have a loyal, sizeable built-in audience just clammering for the next release. The majority of these films no longer screen early for critics because they having not to gain from even a positive review. Increasingly since 2000 more and more movies are not being screened for critics bringing the age old question into the limelight.
I firmly believe critics are necessary to the movie industry and to the public at large as a barometer of great cinema. While a review no longer holds its sway when even the ’50s and ’60s a scathing review could easily bury a movie. The effect is more subtle, giving outstanding films such as The Queen and Notes on a Scandalan increased profile in a market place cluttered with films spending hundreds of millions for your $8.50 this weekend. Though, critics can’t derail suckfests, the aforementioned Norbit, they can build awareness of films that deserve to find its own niche. And as a personal side-note: if I can convince a person to check out a stellar indie or intelligent drama over the latest action-crowd pleaser then it is all worth it.

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One response

21 02 2007
lori

very true.

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