The Big Picture: Baggage

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Baggage

This week MovieBob critiques modern criticism, starting with Ender's Game.

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EVE Online for Kinect?

I dunno, Bob, I didn't see any spreadsheets on the screen.

That wasn't where I thought this was going. Good episode though.

How do you think the concept of impure/biased criticism relates to journalism as a whole?

Well said. I think the point goes further than just criticism as well. Look at how many people get their news from one source, for example. It's not just the idea of pure, objective, unemotionless criticism that is a problem, it's the idea that any human can ever give a pure, objective and unemotionless opinion on anything. Media sources like Fox News and the Daily Mail aren't a problem in themselves, no matter how little some might think of them. They become a problem because some people believe they're actually objective sources and therefore don't listen to anything else. This is exactly why I don't just visit one news site, don't just listen to one film reviewer, don't just watch one TV channel, and so on. With films, I rarely find myself agreeing with Bob's taste, but listening to the opinion of someone I don't agree with can often be more useful than listening to someone I do.

That's unique perspective. But, sometimes I feel that bringing baggage into the review sometimes sidelines the review of the actual merits of the film and gets caught up in political agendas that may or may not be in the film.

I have a select group of critics follow, not because they share my tastes/opinions/background/whatever, but because they entertain. Yahtzee, for example, is one of my favourite critics of *anything* and outside of disdain for generic war shooters, I rarely agree with him.

It is, however, important to me that the critics I follow have an agenda. Bob, as a monumental movie nerd, approaches a review with the eyes of one who knows the ins and outs, is obsessed with the minutia and the external & internal influences, while retaining the ability to switch off when appropriate and just enjoy the ride (see G.I. Joe). I often find him too harsh, but because I know where he's coming from, I can gauge how I'll likely feel about the movie.

In this episode: Bob describes the history behind how CoD keeps getting good reviews.

@Andrew: Agreed. There is a difference between a critique with a bias and a critique aimed at pushing the reviewer's own bias upon the audience.

Makabriel:
@Andrew: Agreed. There is a difference between a critique with a bias and a critique aimed at pushing the reviewer's own bias upon the audience.

What's the difference?

When you make a claim against critics that they aren't behavior statisticians you're inadvertently giving credit to Rotten Tomatoes and Meta Critic. The average scores of users, and critics, is the statisticians way of removing the bias to show the "Normal", or "Objective" view. That's really the only way to do it, but I wouldn't expect a movie critic to understand the wisdom, and madness of the crowd.

Great episode this week.
There's something that bother me though, even if I agree on the fact that honest critics are what's important, there's a point you brought up to introduce the topic (and didn't really come back to) I find equally important.
I don't think it's entirely possible to separate the art piece from it's author. taking out of french literary examples (well since I'm french) you can't really fully grasp the sense of Les Fleurs du mal without knowing Baudelaire, same Une Saison en Enfer and Rimbaud or Molière's plays, and this is why acknowledging the "elephant in the room" as you did in your Ender's game review is important. Eventhough Card might had never to do with the movie script it's still his book in the end, and what he thinks matters because it's going to transpire through the book (because complete objectivity is a myth). It shouldn't stop people from reading, seeing or admiring any sort of art piece being a book, a movie or a painting, but it should indeed be acknowledge.

I'm pretty much disagree completely. Thrusting stuff into the review that doesn't belong there isn't mature at all. It isn't a question of thinking about things from a different perspective, as much as forcing a certain perspective on to something. Ender's Game made no attempt to have an opinion on the issues Card himself has associated with. In my opinion, boycotting because of Card's stance is just being butthurt. In the end though, I respect people's right to not see or see whatever they want. It's their opinion; they can have theirs as long as I can have mine.

Mega_Manic:

Makabriel:
@Andrew: Agreed. There is a difference between a critique with a bias and a critique aimed at pushing the reviewer's own bias upon the audience.

What's the difference?

A review with a bias
http://www.escapistmagazine.com/videos/view/jimquisition/7196-Boob-Wars-and-Dragon-Crowns

A reviewer pushing their bias
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tropes_vs._Women_in_Video_Games

One uses thoughtful insight on the matter, the other twists and bends what they are reviewing to try to make the audience believe that what they are saying is the truth.

Well. At least you should know what "baggage" you are carrying around, and from that knowledge, know what your bias is.

I found it funny that MovieBob at one moment claims that other views are neither best nor worse them his, and just moments later suggests that people who disagree with him are immature and need to grow up, as he once did.

medv4380:
When you make a claim against critics that they aren't behavior statisticians you're inadvertently giving credit to Rotten Tomatoes and Meta Critic. The average scores of users, and critics, is the statisticians way of removing the bias to show the "Normal", or "Objective" view. That's really the only way to do it, but I wouldn't expect a movie critic to understand the wisdom, and madness of the crowd.

I'd say that these still wouldn't be "normal" or "objective" as there are still a number of sampling errors and choices indicative to the methods. If you're looking at the professional reviews that might mean that its coming from the opinions of an audience with say potentially more of an arts/film education slant. Or if you're looking at the average of all the votes could have a slant for a younger tech savy group or a more affluent group with more access to the internet. Third possible bias country, the USA has more film critics and viewers then say Canada (where I live) which would also shift perceptions in the films (believe me we do in fact think about some things differently). Hopefully a good statistician would realize the limitations of such methods and not claim them "objective".

Well, I gotta say this was way more interesting than what I thought it was going to be.
Thanks Bob, now when someone says they want an objective review I can just point them to this video.

Finally, "How often do you think about things you don't think about?" is something that fucked my mind for a few minutes.

Tturbo:
Great episode this week.
Eventhough Card might had never to do with the movie script it's still his book in the end, and what he thinks matters because it's going to transpire through the book (because complete objectivity is a myth). It shouldn't stop people from reading, seeing or admiring any sort of art piece being a book, a movie or a painting, but it should indeed be acknowledge.

I disagree as none of his "elephant in the room" beliefs had anything to do with the book he created. I never knew of his beliefs when I read the book 20 years ago and in now knowing these beliefs, I don't suddenly go "Oh, that's what that meant!"

I believe most artists rely on their audience to take whatever meaning they come to find in their work. Anything else would be a work of non-fiction.

medv4380:
When you make a claim against critics that they aren't behavior statisticians you're inadvertently giving credit to Rotten Tomatoes and Meta Critic. The average scores of users, and critics, is the statisticians way of removing the bias to show the "Normal", or "Objective" view. That's really the only way to do it, but I wouldn't expect a movie critic to understand the wisdom, and madness of the crowd.

Not sure if you're serious about this...

I don't follow Rotten Tomatoes but Meta Critic at least has repeatedly been shown to be incredibly vulnerable to the creators inflating their product's scores and users bombing it for little to no reason. That's far from "Objective."

Edit: It still surprises me that Card is against homosexuality. Ender's Game being a fairly recent read for me, I remember a good amount of time being devoted to describing Ender's young, muscular body rippling in the sun and his particularly close relationships with other male trainees that bordered on if not went right into romantic at some times.

I can't help but feel there's room for both objective and non-objective critique of media. On the one hand, trying to view a film or read a book or play a game looking only at the quantifiable information does have value - if a movie for instance has serious technical issues or plot holes which it fails to deal with, thereby making the film "less valuable", than I sure as heck want to know about them. I don't want to pay money for a plot hole filled mess of a film.

On the other hand, it's true that every piece of art is touched upon by the lives and views of those who make them. Where would Django Unchained be without the discussion of slavery or Cloud Atlas without the in-depth analysis of discrimination and prejudice. Even more "market-focused films like Transformers are affected by the real world (hyper focus on militarism and the myth of "perfect romance" come to mind). These readings of media can help purvey perspective and understanding - the very purpose of art. Even when unintended, these readings can explain ideas and therefore have a value.

I guess in that sense, I like the idea of having both kinds of reviews - ones who try to remove bias in all its forms and ones who embrace and make known biases.

Thanks for the episode Bob; it's been another great one!

I like the way you describe your viewpoints on things like this, Bob. It's entertaining and thought-provoking. At the end of the episode I came to the conclusion that I completely disagree with you, while I never had really thought about my preference in this matter before.

Mega_Manic:

Makabriel:
@Andrew: Agreed. There is a difference between a critique with a bias and a critique aimed at pushing the reviewer's own bias upon the audience.

What's the difference?

An interesting question:

- At first I thought that one would be more "up front" about being a "biased critique". But I think all critiques are bias in the sense that they are the product of the opinions and knowledge of the person making the critique.

- Then I thought, well it would be whether the critique was "selling" its perspective. In other words, a critique which is encouraging or cajoling the reader into agreeing with it. But that's part of the point of a critique. Why bother explaining or arguing something if you don't think its worth someone else's time or consideration.

- Then I thought its whether the critique admits there are other perspectives or if it presents itself as the "right" answer. But this is just the first two points combined. It would be tiresome to preface every statement with "there are other opinions but..." Its clear enough that even if MovieBob shouts "Transformers is terrible" at the top of his lungs, there are plenty of people who disagree with him. He doesn't need to tell you that.

I think realistically the difference is mostly whether the listener agrees with the opinion of the reviewer or not. If they do then the review seems like a reasonable take on the topic, and if they don't then the review seems wrongheaded.

But Bob!, how many FPS does the Enders Game have!?.

Well said Bob, there are a few examples on this very site about a couple of controversial reviews (you know wich ones) and people tend to forget critics (most of the time), simply offer their "honest" opinion about a certain product, in response, people simply keep asking "but what about teh ending!?", "but what about my previous choices!?", "but is the game any fun and how smooth does it run!?".

These are valid points, but if the reviewer didn't seem them important, that's his own opinion, not "bad jurnalizm". Didn't like his opinion?, search for a second or third one, or someone else you can highly trust, ie: your friend, your cousin, your uncle, your workmates, etc.

medv4380:
When you make a claim against critics that they aren't behavior statisticians you're inadvertently giving credit to Rotten Tomatoes and Meta Critic. The average scores of users, and critics, is the statisticians way of removing the bias to show the "Normal", or "Objective" view. That's really the only way to do it, but I wouldn't expect a movie critic to understand the wisdom, and madness of the crowd.

Because obviously you're an expert.
MC and RT don't do statistics, they hang up signs for people to either pray to or throw eggs at. Nobody at those sites is handing out questionnaires at a theatre, they just wait for people who care enough to either praise it or shit all over it to come to them. How is that ever going to get you the average of the moviegoing public? Don't let the crowd review things. Don't let the crowd do anything because the crowd is dumb as hell. Instead, critics should try harder to understand for whom they are reviewing.

As for the bigger issue: yes, if some outside political or social phenomenon is relevant to the movie, then it should be discussed during the review. you're reviewing for people and people have those same social and political biases, so why is it so wrong for them to be aware that there is some greater issue involved?

RTR:
snip

You may want to edit some text into that post mate, a gif on it's own will earn you a low-content warning sooner or later.

OT: Great episode Bob, the best for a while and a nice change of tone from Shlochtober. A lot to think about indeed...

Honestly one of the Best Big Pictures in a very long time, it had aa lot of good insight, a nice historical basis of where criticism started from (something I didn't know actually) and also points out the truth. No one is ever objective, even when they think they are being objective.

I just hope Bob's mention of Anita doesn't turn this whole thread into "How dare Bob, defend her... This is why she's bad... blah blah blah" like the last time she was shown in one image during the Big Picture.

Harker067:
I'd say that these still wouldn't be "normal" or "objective" as there are still a number of sampling errors and choices indicative to the methods. If you're looking at the professional reviews that might mean that its coming from the opinions of an audience with say potentially more of an arts/film education slant. Or if you're looking at the average of all the votes could have a slant for a younger tech savy group or a more affluent group with more access to the internet. Third possible bias country, the USA has more film critics and viewers then say Canada (where I live) which would also shift perceptions in the films (believe me we do in fact think about some things differently). Hopefully a good statistician would realize the limitations of such methods and not claim them "objective".

True, but the User score is Selection Bias. People who had enough interest in a movie and choose to see it are more likely to rate a movie higher than a critic. This is why Horror movies get much higher score from viewers than from critics. Most people know before hand that they want to watch a horror movie, but a critic has to watch it because its on the list of opening movies and they have to review it. For movies the User score is much more valuable than the critic score for this reason. If you've self selected yourself as interested enough in a movie to look up the score then the score is more likely to reflect your view of the movie. That's actually why I used sarcasm quotes on "objective", and "normal".

Games are biased in a different way though. Critics are the ones biased by several factors. Time being the first one since most critics don't have enough time to play and finish a game they're review is frequently incomplete. Movies shouldn't ever have this problem. Then there is the fear of being fired. Movie producers don't have as much power to get critics fired as Game publishers do, and that causes game reviews to create a floor in their reviews. You'll rarely see game critics give scores below 3 when compared to user scores.

Shjade:
EVE Online for Kinect?

I dunno, Bob, I didn't see any spreadsheets on the screen.

I concur, needs more spreadsheets, but damn if that phrase doesn't make me want to see it now. Or read the book.

My biggest issue with this type of critical review is that it very often delves into a couple problems.

The first is that, at least in our current time, reviewers very often intermingle the two so that the social commentary they are bringing feels out of place. GameSpot's review of GTAV is an excellent example of this. It talks about the actual merits of the game from a gameplay, story, and presentation perspective, and then it suddenly goes off on a tangent about the presentation of women without ever having any meaningful dialogue on the subject (obviously, considering it was relegated to a few seconds of the whole review) or without any meaningful links to the other talking points of the review. It was simply treated as a side note, and trying to merge "objective" presentations of the work with your own political, cultural, philosophical, or religious baggage makes the review feel unfocused.

Second is the way in which this analysis often takes place. So often it fails to actually engage in conversation but simply acts as a soap box for the reviewer to monologue for a few minutes. It doesn't look at the work critically, taking into account all the information as it is presented, and use that information as a springboard into meaningful conversation and dialogue. Instead, very often, it is based around taking your perspective, finding what supports it, ignoring what doesn't, twisting facts if necessary, and then claiming anyone that disagrees with you or calls out your falsehood is a bigot. I'm sure we're all familiar with at least one person who does this, but I don't feel like giving her any more attention than that.

Of course, if a review can focus itself and be as objective as possible in its subjective presentation, using the critical review as a means to open discussion rather than a means to monologue about your "enlightened" position, then I have no problem with it. I actually find those types of reviews very interesting to follow.

It really annoys me when people make complaints like; "Dx You put too much of your own opinion in your review!".
If people reviewed things with none of their own opinion in the review, then the review would be as bland as your "perfect reviewer diet".

That said, I don't see why so many people complained about your review of Ender's Game. You mentioned at the beginning that it's possible that some ticket money might go to a bigot, who could give it to his anti-gay group, and then you went on to review the movie.

I don't see how your "bias" affected the review seeing as it wasn't even really a part of the review. Just kind of a buyer beware warning. Like saying, hey you can buy this diamond, but it may be indirectly funding slave labor in Africa.
Then, you go on to tell us how well cut the diamond is.
Also, no, blood diamonds are equal to funding anit-gay groups. :p

Anyway, thanks for this video, Bob. =w= b

Makabriel:

Mega_Manic:

Makabriel:
@Andrew: Agreed. There is a difference between a critique with a bias and a critique aimed at pushing the reviewer's own bias upon the audience.

What's the difference?

A review with a bias
http://www.escapistmagazine.com/videos/view/jimquisition/7196-Boob-Wars-and-Dragon-Crowns

A reviewer pushing their bias
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tropes_vs._Women_in_Video_Games

One uses thoughtful insight on the matter, the other twists and bends what they are reviewing to try to make the audience believe that what they are saying is the truth.

Two issues, the first is kinda semantic as one is a review and one is a industry wide critique. I'm not sure if you can compare something that is focused on one game as a case study, and what that is a survey of many games.

The second is, what if I think Anita's is truthful and insightful? What if what she says is true to me?

A much more difficult issue is if you have a movie/book/game that you really like but it has a message you completely disagree with, like me playing a video game that tells me that you can never be truly happy unless you have a boyfriend\girlfriend.

Excellent video. I'm tired of the popular resistance to critical analysis, and this idea that looking for deeper meanings or relating works to broader, real world topics is just "reading too much into it."

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