Since writing my blog I have read less and less of the opinions of professional critics, this is not because there is anything wrong with of professional criticism, it is simply because I choose to watch films with less information than I did in the past. Reading the writings of other bloggers I have noted that many feel the same as me. Some because they don’t want to be influenced before their inevitable review. Others like me enjoy the movie more without too much prior knowledge. I’m sure a few just don’t have the time.
I also like to read the opinions of other bloggers, there are a lot of them out there; In 2010 my blog appeared on list of “600 Movie Blogs You Might Have Missed” in Total Film. They describe it as ” We did a little digging, and came up with a pretty damned comprehensive list of blogs”. There are a lot more of them now! At last count 1740 bloggers had joined the LAMB (Large Association of Movie Blogs) with an estimate of over 1000 active members. Bloggers cover every part of the spectrum of knowledge and writing ability from those who struggle to structure a coherent sentence to the ones who put many pros to shame.
Film blogging has become a community with a large proportion of people who read blogs being bloggers themselves. This is why professional criticism is more important than ever. The film industry responds to the public, the public respond to critics, therefore it is import for the wider public to have access to professional critics, as strange as it sounds, this is too bigger responsibility to be left up to people like me. I can happily read reviews of people like: Ryan from The Matinee, Caz from Lets Go To The Movies, Allison form My Film Habit. I have read so many of their reviews to know that not only do they know what they are talking about, but I also know where their opinions differ from mine. But your average film fan needs to dip into any publication an trust that there is a certain neutrality to a reviewers work. Listening to Roger Ebert’s widow Chaz talking about Life Itself (2014), a documentary about her late husband summed this up. Although Ebert was a advocate for online film criticism, both amateur and professional he had sound advice for people wishing to become film critics: Go to college, get an education in something other than film such as English and or Journalism. Study other subjects like history or science, and most importantly, experience life.
I have listened to podcasts from both sides of the Atlantic, both by professionals and armatures, the consistent thing about them is the inconstancy. Some are eloquent, some are knowledgeable, some are both, others are neither. it isn’t always the ones you think it will be. The significant and potentially dangerous ones, are the critics on the fringe of professionalism, they have the opinions and the eloquence but aren’t immersed in cinema in the way that is needed to be a competent critic let alone a great one. The notable film critics in the UK at the moment are most probably Mark Kermode, Mark Cousins, James King, Peter Bradshaw and Philip French. Again, like the bloggers mentioned above, I have read and heard enough of their reviews to understand their prospective and some of their ideals and agenda. But anyone who has never read any of their work can pick it up with the confidence they are reading a review by someone with both breadth and depth of knowledge.
But what do filmmakers think? Jon Favreau’s recent movie Chef is hailed as an allegory for his return to independent cinema, however if we take this subtext, we have to embrace the full meaning of it. The film charts the rise, fall and redemption of its central character (like so many films that have gone before it), however the catalyst for this story ark is a critic. If Favereau’s Chef character is a representation of Favereau the director, Oliver Platt’s critic must be seen as a representation of film critics. This takes on its greatest significance when we realise that Platt is ultimately right.
Just like my article about blogging last year wasn’t anti-critic, this one isn’t anti-blogger, they are both a reminder that we do similar but significantly different things and there is space for both of us. The industry would surly suffer if there were no more professional critics. While, there is relevance to what I have to say, true film criticism is too important to be left up to me.