theater critic sees a few films, figures that’s basis enough to trash film critics

Oh my goodness. The Los Angeles Times’ theater critic, Charles McNulty, is calling out film critics for what he perceives as our lack of critical rigor. Because he’s seen a few of the year’s Oscar-bait flicks, and he doesn’t think they’re all that great:

By overwhelming critical consensus, 2013 was a banner year for movies. End-of-the-year lists, that dependable fruitcake of entertainment journalism, arrived with festive unanimity. It was a “tremendous” (the Atlantic’s Christopher Orr), “amazing” (the New Yorker’s Richard Brody), “flat-out, stone-cold, hands-down spectacular year in movies” (the Washington Post’s Ann Hornaday).

As a theater critic who loves spending his free nights plunged in cinematic darkness, I couldn’t haven’t been more excited to get these reports amplifying the raves that came fast and furious all fall. There’s nothing I like better than bingeing on Oscar bait in late December when I play Scrooge and take my holiday from the theater and its myriad revivals of “A Christmas Carol.”

But as I caught up with most of the likely trophy contenders, I found that I was arriving at a different estimate from my reviewing brethren: What others proclaimed great, I would have begrudgingly called good — leaving me to wonder whether this might have been a more uplifting year for critics, relieved that the studios were remembering that adults buy tickets too, than for regular moviegoers, who judge a film solely on its merits.

There’s a lot more, and it’s all infuriating. Not because McNulty has an opinion on the year in film, but because he thinks his — formed by “bingeing on Oscar bait in late December” — can stand next to opinions formed by critics who see hundreds of films each year.

I wonder how he’d feel if I, who saw maybe half a dozen stage productions in 2013, decided to publicly reject and trash his opinion on the state of the stage in 2013 because I just saw the latest hot show that everyone is talking about, and I hated it? Would that be reasonable? I think not.

You’d think that the sorry state of arts criticism — particularly at corporate publications such as the L.A. Times — would create a sort of camaraderie, or at least professional courtesy, among those still lucky enough to be well-employed to discuss the arts from a mature perspective. Pity that doesn’t seem to be the case.

share and enjoy
notify of
newest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
view all comments
Sat, Feb 22, 2014 7:27pm

and really, as far as dealing with his subject, how many plays could he possibly see in a year? even if it were 50 — which would be a tremendous number — it can’t compare to seeing 200+ different works of your chosen subject…

Karl Morton IV
Karl Morton IV
reply to  bronxbee
Sun, Feb 23, 2014 10:54pm

Irrelevant. Dude is obviously Better than us. Our cross to bear.