MovieBob - IntermissionAbout Critics (Part 1)MovieBob - Intermission - RSS 2.0
What I can cop to, to a degree, is that while I don't think that bashing a movie because it's popular is anywhere near as widespread as people think, it is clear that popularity can play a role in the manner in which something is bashed. No one good at this job works in a vacuum, and as such the majority opinion on a given film is something one tends to be attuned to, and obviously, that's going to color the way you talk about it - though mostly in a benign way. For example, everyone know who Batman is, so that The Dark Knight doesn't feel the need to recap his origin story again isn't really a "missing" element.
Speaking only for myself, I've never been harder (or softer) on something solely for its popularity, but does it change how I talk about it and how I react on a visceral/emotional level? Of course it does. To take the two most recent examples - Pirates 4 and Hangover 2. Both are, on their own merits, absolutely wretched, terrible films that are sequels to very strong, very popular franchises that are almost guaranteed to make billions of dollars. And I resent that. I resent the hell out of that. I resent the idea of people being rewarded for lazy, slapdash work. So you'll probably find my tone to favor the bitter over the merely dismissive.
"Critics aren't reliable because they see too many movies."
Boy, does this one annoy me.
The logic at play here, I imagine, sounds solid to some people: I probably see between four and five movies I have never seen before each week, often more than that. Most of my audience - hell, most human beings - do not. This is more or less the case for most film critics. Our overall perspective is not the perspective of our audience, particularly when it comes to the area of originality. We get bored more easily. Cliché and formula bothers us more. Tropes you've seen a handful of times we've seen thousands of times. This means we are much harder on the formulaic, and that we are much more excited by something that is original. This, as I keep reiterating, is the whole point of this profession.
Let me be blunt: If we weren't so jaded, things would almost never get better. That, in the end, is our job - nay, our duty. Movie studios, like all businesses, take the path of least resistance, and they'd be all too happy to take advantage of the average person's inability/disinclination to see everything and just keep giving you the same five movies over and over again. Smug, impossible-to-please know-it-alls like me, frankly, keep them from doing that - perhaps only a little - by sharing our informed opinions with people who might benefit from them.
In fact, I'll do some of that right now: You may have heard of a movie called The Tree of Life. It presents the life of an American family over several decades (concentrating on the birth-to-teens years of its children) as a torrent of painterly-composed (and occasionally surreal) scenes set to classical style music with minimal dialogue (and most of it is inconsequential) and, as a kind of bonus, contrasting scenes detailing the life of the Planet Earth from the Big Bang up through the dinosaurs (yes, dinosaurs!) toward something that looks very much like Armageddon. It is, without a doubt, a more visually stimulating movie than any action blockbuster anyone is likely make this year. Consider checking it out.
And that's probably enough of that, for now. As the "Part 1" indicates, I've got a few more of these, which I'll reveal soon (possibly next week, possibly slightly later than that).
Bob Chipman is a film critic and independent filmmaker. If you've heard of him before, you have officially been spending way too much time on the internet.