May 03, 2007

The point of movie criticism

Don't Read This Column!In print, and increasingly online, we help guide readers who might want to see a movie for a reason other than that a barrage of 30-sec. commercials told them to. Critical praise for Little Miss Sunshine and Pan's Labyrinth launched those films into the public conversation. Indeed, the reader feedback I get is less "Shame on you for dumping on that megahit" and more "Thanks for championing that 'little film' I might have missed."

Hollywood's marketers have become tremendously efficient at getting their core audience to see their big movies. They don't need critics for that. But critics have a larger utility: to put films in context, to offer an informed perspective, to educate, outrage, entertain. We're just trying to do what every other writer is doing: making sense of one part of your world.

So, dear reader: If our opinions on a movie don't coincide, I don't care, and neither should you. I'm not telling you what to think. I'm just asking that you do think.
Comment:  That includes criticism of Native-themed movies such as Apocalypto and Pathfinder. It also includes criticism of Native-themed TV shows, cartoons, and comic books.


writerfella said...

Writerfella here --
Fascinating article, because the writer more is defending how he earns his paycheck and less is defending whether or not he has the qualifications to ajudge the topic for which he is employed. Somehow, that got left out of his argumentations. The truth in what he said, "We see them all, so you won't have to..." is this: he DOESN'T see them all. No one person could and most certainly he never saw THE BUSINESS OF FANCYDANCING, per exemplum. Yet, that is what he claims, in no uncertain terms. Thus, he clearly is a liar. Somehow implicit in his defensive stance, that talent becomes one of his qualifications. If he only were defending his choice of a vocation, it might possess some creditability. But it simply is that he never got past his own definition of "criticism" as being a pejorative and failing therefore to see that a "critic" must have both Janus' faces to function meaningfully...
All Best
Russ Bates

Rob said...

I think he meant he saw them all figuratively, not literally.

Fortunately, I don't need to see more than a fraction of the movies out there to criticize them successfully.

If you've seen thousands of movies and you have a critical eye, you too can be a movie critic.

Rob said...

Re "he DOESN'T see them all":

Wrong. He said "we," not "I." Critics as a whole see all the movies, analyze them, and judge how good they are.

As with one viewpoint on anything (e.g., science, politics, religion), you can't be sure of its authority. But when you get a consensus of viewpoints on something, you can accept their validity with confidence.

For instance, I don't have any personal proof that global warming is happening. And if only one or two scientists said it was happening, I'd be skeptical. But when 99% of scientists say it's happening, I'm confident that they're right. They've studied the science and reviewed the research, so I trust their conclusions.