Wednesday, June 04, 2008

The TV show, the movie, the review, the blog post

I'm always a little bummed out when people complain that a particular magazine's or newspaper's critics are bad because they don't like the same movies as the complainer or they don't supply reliable recommendations. Critics should be read for the quality of their ideas and their writing, not for their particular tastes and opinions. I think this used to be the case almost exclusively, until forty years of critics on TV, blurbs, star and number rating systems, weekly box office tabulations, hyperbole, fanboy pantswetting, infotainment, the uniquely American sense of entitlement, the capitalistic demand for the victory of the majority consensus opinion, aggressive advertising hype, the intermingling of advertising and journalism, overpaid stars, the dumbing down of nearly everything, and a consumerist approach to filmgoing turned most American criticism into an offshoot of Consumer Reports. Every film, from the latest McIndiana Jones Mcfranchise to the latest from Bela Tarr, is written about the same way. Comparisons to recognizable brands (or real artists reduced to brands), plot descriptions (careful not to reveal any spoilers), a brief sentence about how good or bad so-and-so was in the lead performance, and a recommendation of whether you should spend your money or wait until it comes out on video. 3 1/2 out of 4 stars. 8 out of 10. 13 screeching owls out of 15. 9 Jon Benet Ramseys out of 10. And don't forget some clever puns! ("Bee Movie" is an A!) Or hyperbole (The best, and only, film I've seen since brunch. I don't think I will see a better film for the rest of the day, though I will be visiting my aunt Judy so I probably won't see any other films today anyway. 75 thumbs up.)
I like to read critics who are good writers, know a lot about their subject, have some interesting ideas, and focus on a variety of films, not just the overhyped business as usual. I usually read their reviews after I see the movie, not before. I don't particularly care whether they share my opinion or not. In conclusion, my way is the best, and the other way is ridiculous. (Not to disavow the importance of a recommendation from somebody who shares your sensibilities, however. That's a little different from 50 critics telling you about a movie you've already heard about 50 times. Still, it's the least important part of a good critic's job, in my arrogant opinion.)

I meant to write about something completely different and got sidetracked on an only slightly related rant. I'm thoroughly enjoying reading some of my favorite critics write and talk about a movie I have no intention of ever seeing, Sex and the City. In fact, two interesting posts are by critics who also have no intention of seeing it. Jim Emerson contemplates the film's popularity and its reviews at this link. Glenn Kenny, who was recently fired from his editing and writing job at Premiere and the blog he wrote on its site called "In the Company of Glenn," wrote a quick, little post on his new blog saying that a perk of unemployment was not having to care about the Sarah Jessica Parker et al. summer juggernaut. He got a pretty heated response to a tossed-off comment and wrote a great post about it here. A couple people who did see the movie and have a lot to say about it are the Real Geezers. I'm always pleased to watch a new Real Geezers review. I worry about one or both of them kicking the bucket since they are well into their eighties. They should have a weekly TV series. Here is their Sex and the City review:


Lynell said...

They are the BEST! I especially love her. I wish she lived here so I could have coffee with her. I bet she drinks hers black.

Anonymous said...

I do not read movie reviews to be awed by the intelligence of the critic. I read them to get a feel of what the movie is about. Even a review written by a fool gives perspective on whether or not a fool would like the movie. Would I like a fool's movie? Sometimes. I can usually tell by how a fool judges the foolish.

But I see your point, and understand your beefs.


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