Film Criticism: A Criticism

Movie critics, for the most part, are overrated. Do we really need someone to tell us that the new Jessica Alba movie is going to be awful? Most trailers give a pretty decent idea what the film will be like. If you can't tell that 27 Dresses reverses the feminist movement even by its very title, there's something wrong with your judgment system.

But my biggest beef is the need to say if something is either good/bad or rated with stars, ignoring the variance of skill and creativity that goes into to filmmaking Maybe because films are a form of mass media, we feel the need to judge movies based on mass appeal. But even when critics do look deeper at a film with lesser immediate appeal, most of the public ignores them--quality movies go unnoticed and lazy films make millions upon millions of dollars.

I guess I should define what I mean by "quality movie". I'm talking about a movie that has clearly been thought through thoroughly: if the script is well polished, the set design reflect the themes/characters/time period, the music enhances the film, the cinematography helps the audience to experience the film, the editing supports the tension, I could go on. Basically, all aspects of film are well thought out and support the purpose of the film for the intended audience. If it's a comedy, there should be good comedic timing with the actors, editing, and music; it obviously won't have sweeping and dramatic shots--that would be inappropriate. But a film that has a goal and sticks to it is a pretty good one right off the bat. Clearly there's room for preference within this definition, but I can acknowledge that even a film I disliked was a quality, well made film.

Unfortunately, some people cannot get passed certain aspects of a movie, so they call it bad. For many, The Village was terrible. I'll admit the ending felt cheap and contrived, but the rest of it was wonderful. The costuming, cinematography, and musical were gorgeous and lush, creating a surreal atmosphere. For me, Pride & Prejudice (2005) was terrible, but the tone of it was consistent in the music, costumes, and script adaptation. I could probably rant about my complaints about the film, but what it would come down to is that it didn't fit my preferences and my tastes. That doesn't make the movie bad, per se, just not my favorite. A wise friend once mentioned that people want to see a movie that fits their expectations and are disappointed when directors/writers/producers create something else. It's not their movie, they don't have to see it, so why act like the victim? (Again, I'm talking about quality movies. You can complain all you want about the terrible movies your friends make you see.)

I recently stumbled upon a film site that's seems fairly well established, but I soon realized how limited the criticism is. Case in point: There Will Be Blood. This was one of my favorite movies released in 2007. Granted, it's not everyone's cup of tea: it has slower pacing than most films and leaves out a lot of exposition that would explain why the lead character is the way he is. Whatever. But to take issue with the questions the film raises. I personally like a movie that makes me think. Maybe it's because I also love literature, but are we so illiterate a country that we need themes, characters, or motifs spoon fed to us? I understand that films cost a lot to make, so mass acceptance is just being economical, but surely there are many moviegoers who love to think about the art of film. This movie obviously rubbed the reviewer the wrong way, so he ignored how the very aspects he hated supported the film as a whole. I'm at a loss for how much that review hurt my faith in people and their thinking skills.

So, I guess my point is that I love movies--especially good ones--and I love good commentary on films. Unfortunately, most of it drives me crazy, which is why I've reduced my review reading mostly to Pajiba. Although a little crude, it features review from smart, knowledgeable people who take the time to pick out the good aspects in well made films and insult the horrible aspects in lazy ones. If anyone knows any other good reviewers, let me know. I'd love to check them out. And take care to hate movies with good reasoning. After all, rants are so much more fun when they're well supported.

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