Posts Tagged ‘film criticism’

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.lamb-banner-wide

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.roger and chaz ebert

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.Mark Kermode

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.oliver platt chef

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.

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Anyone who has seen Contagion (2011) will know that “Blogging is not writing. It’s just graffiti with punctuation”. but what is film criticism? The most notable difference between a critic and a blogger is what they watch. As a film fan I watch a lot of movies (over 100 a year at the cinema) but the difference between me and a critic is that I only see what I choose to. While we may all love a Kermodian rant the fact of the matter is that Mark Kermode had to sit through all 146minutes of Sex and the City 2 (2010).  Although I have seen some truly terrible movies (Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009)) but, I have seen them by choice, not obligation.mark kermode

It would be foolish to think professional film criticism has no place in the world of the internet but what is that place? When I first started blogging I saw it as an outlet for my ramblings, I didn’t expect to become part of a community. But that is what has happened, I have become part of a community, as such when I want to know about a film I am more likely to visit the blog of someone whose opinion I have grown to trust than a professional critic. I accept that what I am reading is the opinion of an individual, I understand this and treat the information accordingly. However if the uninitiated wants to know about a film and choose to read the words of a professional critic on a website or in a magazine they expect it to be gospel.  But ultimately, whether it be a blog or a professional critic it is all just opinion. A perfect example of this is Ender’s Game (2013). As reported in my October movie of the month list I kind of liked the movie despite its faults. However two of the nations most respected magazines; Total Film and Empire had greatly apposing views .ENDER'S GAME

Total Film stated that Enders Game: “aims to marry The Hunger Games’ adrenaline rush with brain-teasing philosophical inquiry” its verdict of the film was “Like its hero, Ender’s Game relies on brains more than brute force. An absorbing portrait of Lord Of The Flies-style morality housed in imaginative sci-fi casing” they gave it four stars out of five and suggested: “whatever the icky personal politics of its creator, makes you hope it isn’t game over for Ender after this first round”. Empire on the other hand started by saying of the source novel: “Ender’s Game is a very odd novel” and “barely cinematic” they describes Asa Butterfield’s performance as “generally effective”. Their verdict: “It admirably avoids many of the pitfalls of adapting this book, but seems to have lost some of the life and pace as well”. they gave it a mere two stars out of five.

It isn’t that Matt Mueller from Total Film and Helen O’Hara from Empire are wrong, it is just that their opinion is just that, their opinion.

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