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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

because critics should just learn how to keep their opinions to themselves

I’m really trying not to overreact to Kevin Smith’s tirade against film critics (not to mention the cancellation of At the Movies), because I’m getting tired, frankly, of hearing myself complain and moan about the death of film criticism, and I’m trying to be positive and optimistic and stay focused on figuring out how to adapt.

But I can’t resist highlighting this, spotted in the comments section of a Cinematical post responding to Smith:

There is far too much personal opinion in critic reviews these days.

This has been your WTF Thought for the Day.



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posted in:
critic buzz
  • Knightgee

    This person will be saddened to find out that film critics are not in fact cold automatons that ingest films and then grade them on an objective scale based on a concrete numerical system.

  • misterb

    There is far too much personal opinion in blog comments these days.

  • “Too much personal opinion in film reviews” is something I used to encounter in my readers’ comments on regular basis.

  • I’m getting tired, frankly, of hearing myself complain and moan about the death of film criticism

    Welcome to the club!

    Film criticism isn’t dying any more than music is… it’s just losing its exclusivity, and thus critics are losing their ability to be paid to watch movies. Just like how artists are losing their ability to get paid to sing and dance.

    Get a real job like the rest of us! ;)

  • MaryAnn

    Okay, I will. Effective midnight tonight, I’m shutting this site down. And I’ll go work at Wal-Mart, where I will enrich our corporate overlords while barely being able to support myself — so that I will only be able to afford to shop at Wal-Mart. But at least I’ll have a real job and become a productive member of society.

    I feel so much better now.

  • JosephFM

    Wait, so you make better money than me running this site? That really ISN’T fair.

  • MaryAnn

    Probably not. I’d make more money working at Wal-Mart.

  • Knightgee

    Get a real job like the rest of us! ;)

    Would a real job in this instance be defined as skill-less labor that anyone off the street could do with a week’s worth of orientation and a employee handguide? Oh how special and essential she will feel.

  • Those are MaryAnn’s only real employment options: film criticism or Walmart?

    Perhaps she should move to a bigger city. ;-)

  • Oh well let’s all become emotionless robots then and write mindless reviews which state the basic facts and no opinion. Now that would kill the movie reviewing industry.

  • Der Bruno Stroszek

    I love people who think railing against film critics and supporting any bland blockbuster the studios shovel down our throats makes them brave, against-the-grain, anti-authoritarian rebels, as if the film critics and not the studio bosses are the authority here.

    Oh wait, I don’t love them at all. I’m sick to the fucking back teeth of listening to their cretinous self-important knuckle-dragging ill-informed culture-warrior bullshit on every frigging messageboard I encounter, and think they will eventually be responsible for the death of art.

  • mortadella

    Yeah, I second what Der Bruno said.

    Actually, I’m repeatedly shocked to hear how many people harbor anger towards film critics. Where’s the motivation? I don’t get it. I’ve enjoyed reading film criticism since I was a teen, even reviews of films I’ve never seen. Now, for those who don’t, well, that’s fine…but, what’s with the hostility? Is it that mind-blowing to learn that some people don’t appreciate the same films as you? That some people measure quality in a diffrent way? Is it part of that modern group-think that believes competition in schools is bad because it harms student’s self-esteem? Do people really need to be bottled up with like-minded people so they don’t collapse emotionally (maybe like Teabaggers)?
    I have this sister-in-law who loves the Twilight series….and I seriously don’t. And I’ve been told repeatedly not to express my opinion in front of her. Now, isn’t that ridiculous? I always ask them, why the hell not?
    For god’s sake, this constant facade of neutrality that we’re all expected to fake is terribly boring and unchallenging.

  • Mel

    It’s not just films–I’ve seen many people rail about how book reviews should be “objective” and not have “personal opinion” in them.

    I don’t get it. I always thought it was about either a) finding a reviewer with similar tastes to follow or b) reading enough reviews to get an idea of what different people thought.

  • Der Bruno Stroszek

    Mortabella, I don’t get it either. I mean, it’s not as if I blindly agree with the critics on every single issue – looking at RottenTomatoes.com, I see that I absolutely loved Green Zone (52% critical approval), enjoyed The Lovely Bones (32%), was bored by Avatar (82%) and actively hated The White Ribbon (83%). But when I saw that low rating for The Lovely Bones… what can I say? I didn’t get bent out of shape. I read a few of the reviews, thought “Huh. People saw this differently to me”, maybe concede that some of them made good points, then went to bed.

    I really don’t understand why more people don’t see it like this? I mean, let’s leave aside that the people who say critics should be sacked because their tastes don’t match the taste of the people are giving a better definition of fascism than The White Ribbon managed to – let’s just look at what happens when a movie like, say, Iron Man, District 9 or The Orphanage comes out. Genre movies all, massively high Tomatometers all.

    Now, do these people who always complain that critics hate genre movies go, “Wow! The critics really loved these movies, that’s good to see”? No, of course they don’t. They zero in on the five or six critics who didn’t like these movies and write poorly-spelled essays on why they’re dicks.

    I mean, what? Why do people get so psychologically unbalanced when the acclaim for something they love is very very high, but not completely unanimous? What is wrong with people, that they can’t cope with knowing someone didn’t like something they loved?

    Most of all, how is it that the internet – which was supposed to bring a glorious end to monoculture – has ended up breeding a generation who go completely apeshit whenever they find out someone disagrees with them?

  • I think a lot of people get bent out of shape because deep down they have these opinions for emotional reasons instead of rational ones, and going crazy is there emotional defensive reaction to scare off rational thought. Here’s a tip of the hat to the Tea Party, which is our best example these days.

    As for salaries, there’s lots of professors, at some universities up to 60% of them, who would actually make more money at Walmart because of the excess Phds running around looking for work. The universities are saving money by only employing them part time.

    And Amazon tried to attract new writers to Kindle by giving them 30% royalties, but keeping 70% royalties for themselves when all they have to do is upload and download data files.

    Knowledge wants to be free, and we want our intellectuals on the cheap.

  • LaSargenta

    Paul, regarding:

    Most of all, how is it that the internet – which was supposed to bring a glorious end to monoculture – has ended up breeding a generation who go completely apeshit whenever they find out someone disagrees with them?

    I think the internetz is just the messenger. I think that a surprisingly large amount of people have probably always gone apeshit when they encountered an opposite point of view (Inquisition? Simon de Montfort during the slaughter of the Cathars? The Crown during the buildup to the Opium Wars? L. Frank Baum and his odium for Lakoda? …I’m avoiding invoking Godwin’s Law here, but that reference is the obvious one…) Anyhow, insecure and close-minded people tend to breed more of the same.

    AND, now, just for our reading pleasure, we get a direct line to the thoughts of all these people that they think are important enough to broadcast. As a result, we occasionally ‘meet’ people we might not have otherwise who we admire and follow the work of (like MAJ) and, unfortunately, we also metaphorically turn over some really big, heavy rocks and discover what lies beneath. [Total aside: I have learned the hard way that if I have a fling with someone, I really don’t want to also read his myspace/facebook/website ramblings ’cause there is a HIGH liklihood of it’s intellectual aesthetics not matching his body’s.]

  • LaSargenta

    Apologies Paul/DBS, I attribute DBS’s quotation to Paul, while I was intending to build off of what Paul was saying in answer to DBS.

  • I almost agree with the Internet being just the messenger, because this psychological tendency to hate people who point out you are doing something wrong has a long, long history, especially if it is violation of their own religion’s teachings, because they don’t want to think about it.

    Having said that, I do think the medium shapes the message in little ways. Political speeches have been getting shorter and less intellectual for a century now, and I do suspect it has something to do with the technological changes in the media. The big change the Internet brings is the increasing ability of people to talk back, and it often ain’t pretty.

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