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A Critique Of Critics
By: Mickael
Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Mickael, and I love movies. That’s what this website is really about- loving movies. My mission is to show appreciation for the flicks that I enjoy, and to share those little bits of art and culture with you. There is no value to me in film criticism and I don’t plan on rating movies for you. For one, your enjoyment of a film is unique to you, so even if I had a religious experience watching Keeping The Faith, that doesn’t necessarily translate to you. For another, there are far too many people eager to criticise a filmmakers’ shortfalls without offering a better solution or necessarily agreeing with that filmmaker’s initial vision anyway. Lastly, if Uwe Boll wants to make a movie where a female protagonist in a tight leather leotard fights Nazi vampires, then who the fuck am I to tell him that sounds stupid? Who are you to knock on somebody else for their work? It’s been said that opinions are like assholes: everyone has one, and they all stink. In few places is that more true than in the realm of film criticism.
There are two much larger problems with critics, though. The first is this conceit that a film HAS to have some deeper, hidden meaning. It’s an insistence that directors must always cleverly weave a story of deep emotional significance where literally every piece of the scenery, every shot selection, and every color palette choice indicate a singular, shared vision of whatever “theme” the movie is meant to express. Why do we have to have a protagonist wearing a blue scarf against a red background to suggest that in the midst of others’ rage, only our story’s hero feels sorrow? Must we really generalize martyrdom and insist on thrusting the “Christ complex” upon every action hero; from The Matrix, to RoboCop, to The Lego Movie? Why do you feel that the director, writer, composer, cinematographer, costume designer, makeup artist, set designer, production assistant, gaffer, and best boy all follow the rules of effective storytelling taught to you by your film theory professor? If they want to make something that is maybe, I don’t know, a little more chaotic, for instance... isn’t that THEIR right as the artists? If you finally received the funding to create your dream movie, shouldn’t you reserve the right to collaborate with the people that you want and create a movie that tells your story? Shouldn’t you choose not to tell a story wholly conceived to placate the pedantic intellectuals whose only mission is life is to think and then criticize rather than to plan and then do?
An easy parallel is to imagine that a film crew is like a basketball team. There’s the coach (director), general manager (producer), athletes (actors), trainers (choreographers), and right on down to the ball boys and towel boys (production assistants). In basketball they’re executing a game plan: when to drive, when to shoot, when to draw fouls, when to control the pace of the game, when to foul the opposing team and so on. It’s a plan that was created before the game, was altered during different breaks in the game based on how it was proceeding, and once the clock is ticking down, it’s all taking place on the court, not in the stands. When there’s 2.1 seconds left on the clock and the game is tied, and Steph Curry steps up to the free throw line, he does what he does. Sticks to his routine. The opposing team’s fans are in the stands and they’re making noise. The coaches on both sides are taking this time to shout orders at players. Cameras click, fans chant, haters boo, sideline reporters chatter. He blocks it all out. The chants don’t help. The boo’s don’t hurt. The chatter doesn’t matter. The plan was either executed well and they come out winners, or there were some failures and they come out losers. When you endeavor to do something great in front of others, you must do the same thing. Ignore the chants, disregard the boo’s, and block out the chatter. All that matters is seeing your dream through to it’s end. There is no right way and wrong way to tell a story. Steph Curry isn’t going to adopt LeBron’s playing style. Neither should you insist that writers and directors and actors all do certain things the way that you like. If they did, every movie would be the same. And hasn’t everyone been complaining about generic filmmaking formulas for years now anyway?
The real world is full of awkwardness, illogical behavior, mismanagement, poor planning, and sometimes just people behaving badly. Can’t a few of those themes sneak into a story? Just because? Why can’t a plot have holes? Go back in time and retell the most important, or most heartbreaking, or most joyous, or most savage story from your own real life. Tell it to a friend or coworker who didn’t know you back then, and has never heard the story. Chances are, they’ll ask you numerous questions like “Why didn’t you just do _____?” or “how come ______ didn’t come help?” or “didn’t you already know you can’t put a ______ in a _______ without _______-ing yourself?” Because in real life, there are unanswered questions. Hidden motivations. Stupid decisions. Allow them, occasionally, to seep into your stories without being overly critical or nitpicky. Maybe the plot issue of Jurassic Park where billionaire John Hammond says that his park “will not only be for the rich, but for everyone,” yet its located on a remote tropical island only reachable by helicopter, bothered you. But for most of us, it’s just a way for the man to be endeared to the audience and not seem like the cut-throat businessman that he probably is, and this in no way hampered our enjoyment of the movie.
The other large problem with critics is the need to be “right”. You can only be “right” if the thing you are arguing about is specific and measurable. If you’re creating an argument for the atomic weight of banana molecules, somewhere there’s a test to empirically determine that. You can submit that data to your eagerly awaiting banana molecule fan club, and create a conclusion based on those facts. However, with film criticism, we’re really talking about the level at which you can personally enjoy a leisure activity. Not a lot of people are out here writing criticisms of roller coasters or the game of bowling, and yet we have thousands upon thousands of people waiting to give the next 17 Transformers sequels a 1-star rating on Rotten Tomatoes just on principal alone. There is no standard way of measuring your personal enjoyment of a movie, so there is no way for a critic to be “right” about any of it. Roger Ebert gave the 1979 film Caligula, starring Malcolm McDowell, Hellen Mirren, and Peter O’Toole a rating of 0 stars. That same year, Roger Ebert was actually given a chance to write his own film under director Russ Meyer. What brilliant script did famed critic Ebert produce? Beneath The Valley Of The Ultra-Vixens. A sequel to his earlier script Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls, which itself is sort of a sequel to an unrelated movie. Really, Roger? For years you harshly criticize others’ work, and when given an opportunity to show the world what your made of, you write cheesecake porn sequels? I guess I shouldn’t expect much from a man who’s favorite restaurant was Steak ‘N’ Shake.
More importantly, though, is that critics often feel like achieving a consensus makes them right. So, if some critic wants to create a list of the “Top 10 Sci Fi Movies Of All Time”, all one needs to do is ensure that it features films that other people pretty much agree upon, and not try to ruffle any feathers through omission or tread any new ground by including something too obscure. Surely, they think, all of the best sci fi movies of all time also appear on the top grossing movies of all time list, so let’s just throw the same tired shit at it, in no particular order: 2001: A Space Odyssey, one of the Alien films, a Star Wars movie, Back To The Future, E.T., Close Encounters Of The Third Kind, Avatar, Blade Runner, one of the Terminator movies, and throw in something sort of recent so the hipsters feel like you are with them... Interstellar, Looper, Serenity, or one of the Matrix movies. Bam! Done. I just nailed 95% of all “Top 10 Sci Fi Films” lists on the internet. These lists are made less from an objective, informed, or interesting viewpoint and more like how the yearbook staff of your local high school selects what the “Senior Song”, “Senior Book”, and “Senior Movie” categories are... they just make it up based on what they think won’t cause a ruckus. If “Milkshake” by Kelis and 2Fast 2Furious were really popular that year, then I’m sorry, Class of 2003, but your yearbook will be a time capsule of embarrassment that prevents you from ever showing it to your children.
This is just as easy to do with the Horror genre; you just pick any one film from each of these big franchises: Halloween, Nightmare On Elm Street, Friday the 13th, Scream, and the Texas Chainsaw Massacres and immediately your list is half-finished. Add a dose or two of legendary horror auteurs doing their thing with The Shining, Psycho, and Night Of The Living Dead. Don’t forget to throw respect to either The Exorcist, Carrie, or Rosemary’s Baby but you don’t need all three, just one will do. Polish that bitch off with the hipster pick of either Insidious, Blair Witch, Paranormal Activity, or Evil Dead and congratulations you’ve nailed another top 10 list! We can do this all day, with all genres, because everyone is too damn scared of facing the Wrath Of The Fanboys that they can’t actually write their own lists of favorites. It’s been written for them by tens of thousands of message boards, polls, blog posts, and iMDB ratings. Everyone agrees that those movies are pretty good, or at least they’re part of our shared experience, and that’s what makes us agree on them. These types of broad agreements on films tend to lack personality. They shy away from challenging each other to try new things, they’re scared of the conversation. It’s like going out to eat with your coworkers every Friday night. Each individual in the group may have a particular night spot they really want to go to, but in order to make everyone happy, you’ll always end up with a subpar meal at Chili’s. Not that Chili’s is bad. It’s agreeable. It’s easy to sort of accept that Psycho is quite a good horror film, even though you haven’t watched it in 10 years and honestly, why would you? You know the story, you remember the shots, it’s been in our collective consciousness for quite some time. Psycho, then, is like Chili’s, too. It’s quite good, if a little boring sometimes... but, if you’ve been there once then you’ve been there for all time. You would never walk up to a girl you think is cute, ask her out on a date, have her say yes, and then you say “Good, I’ll pick you up at 8! We’re going to Chili’s.” You won’t go to Chili’s, you’re tired of it and it’s boring. You want something new and bold to tickle your taste buds and impress your girl! You want some cool fusion joint? Get Behind The Mask: The Rise Of Leslie Vernon. You want Thai? Get Nang Nak.

It’s frustrating. As cinephiles, we have very few places to just discover films. To enjoy films. To be passionate about them. If you want to bash a “bad” movie, either for it’s inaccuracies in story or it’s technical shortfalls, everyone is waiting in the wings with a witty one-liner to be the next MST3K. But if you want to actually love movies? Just love them, flaws and all? Have some fun on a Wednesday afternoon watching some 80’s special effects, eating junk food, and just sort of having fun around film culture, you know? That’s what I’d like to do. And it’s what we will be doing with this website. We’ll be bringing positivity back, and showing love to a whole huge pile of films that have been lost, overlooked, or forgotten and that deserve your attention. We’ll be reminding you of what it really means when you say to someone, “Oh! Yeah, I love movies!” because ever since the trend of trying to be the first and the funniest with your criticisms of film started, it doesn’t actually seem like you do like movies at all. It seems like you hate them. Let’s fix that... come with me and learn to love movies again. Learn to be wild with passion when you discover a lost gem. Learn to laugh along with the silly plot twists and ridiculous special effects. Learn to be a Cinemaniac!
Which film did the critics get wrong?
Crossover (2006) - 2% RT Score
Deuces Wild (2002) - 3% RT Score
Redline (2007) - 0% RT Score
Down To You (2000) - 3% RT Score
The Covenant (2006) - 3% RT Score
Quizzes
Are you fixing to pitch a bitch fit over what I had to say? Please let us know at: cinemaniac@cinemania.co
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