Film critics vs. general public

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Vickie_M, Jan 20, 2003.

  1. Vickie_M

    Vickie_M Producer

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    I just saw this op-ed by Michael Medved. I'm not quite sure what he's going on about, or what he thinks critics should do. Ignore small, quality films? I wish the general public would follow the critics more often, so good, small films would make more money.

    Film critics often frown as movie fans delight

    Quotation deleted by Administrator. Please see HTF Rule 10:
     
  2. Dome Vongvises

    Dome Vongvises Lead Actor

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    Personally for myself, I take a little from column A and a little from column B. What I take from popular opinion is, "Is the film fun at the most basic of enjoyment (story, character, plot)?". Then I assess critical opinion (deeper meanings, relevant themes, philosophical implications, etc.).

    I think the reason for the divergance IMHO is that films today have gone to either extreme of all art or all entertainment. IMHO, neither of those two experiences are ultimately satisfying.

    You've either got an extremely artsy fartsy movie in which the same result could've just as easily been achieved in roundtable discussion, and then you've got ridiculously pandering to focus groups for other films.
     
  3. Darcy Hunter

    Darcy Hunter Stunt Coordinator

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    I think another factor to consider is that critics see pretty much every single movie that comes out in a year. After a few years of this, you've seen every story set-up, plot device, twist etc. under the sun. When a film comes along that pushes the envelope, or looks like it was put together with some heart and/or some enthusiasm, it gets a positive response because it's like a breath of fresh air compared to the recycled stuff of most big Hollywood productions. I'm not saying that anyone who enjoys these types of movies are brain-dead lemmings, (that would be hypocritical of me), but they simply have not been exposed to, or have time to seek out the smaller or "artier" films to give themselves a sense of perspective on what can be achieved in film besides the standard action/romantic-teen comedies, or what have you. My two cents.
     
  4. Dennis Pagoulatos

    Dennis Pagoulatos Supporting Actor

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    I agree with him for the most part...but I chuckle when he says:

     
  5. george kaplan

    george kaplan Executive Producer

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    I can't go into it due to forum rules, but beware that Medved has a political agenda, and take what he says with a grain of salt.
     
  6. Adam Lenhardt

    Adam Lenhardt Executive Producer

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    I'm not sure what to make of it myself. What does he want their Top 10 lists to be? The top ten grossers of the year? What's the point... we have boxofficeguru.com for that. I thought that critic's top 10's were their honest favorite ten movies of the year.
     
  7. Bill J

    Bill J Producer

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  8. Jeff Kohn

    Jeff Kohn Supporting Actor

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    I think there are several issues at play here

    1) As somebody else mentioned, reviewers see a lot movies and therefore get tired of certain formulas and tend to get excited with they seem something that strikes them as new/fresh/bold.

    2) Critics tend to like movies that are controversial or push the envelope, particularly movies that disparage middle-american values.

    3) Some critics just refuse to take certain types of movies seriously, either because they have a personal dislike of that genre or they just think it isn't "art." Science fiction, fantasy, and horror will rarely get good reviews no matter how good the movie is. Call this the snob factor.

    I tend to like a pretty healthy mix of mainstream and more obscure films, and I'm a big film of genre films. I've learned that once you can recognize the biases that a particular critic might have, you can use their reviews as good indicators even if you don't always agree with them. For instance, Ebert tends to do pretty good reviews (although he's sometimes guilty of #2 above IMHO). The thing I like about Ebert is that he's willing to judge a movie at face value, without expecting every single movie to be an artistic masterpiece. Ebert seems to be able to tell good popcorn flicks from bad ones, and he can appreciate a well-done genre film.
     
  9. Dennis Pagoulatos

    Dennis Pagoulatos Supporting Actor

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    All he is doing is pointing out the obvious; that there is a huge gap between film critics' tastes and the taste of the "dirty masses"...

    Not coming off too snobby, is he? [​IMG] But he's right...

    -Dennis
     
  10. Andy Olivera

    Andy Olivera Screenwriter

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    I'll second what George said. Despite the fact that I agree with him on many other topics, Medved doesn't know jack about cinema...
     
  11. Damin J Toell

    Damin J Toell Producer

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    1. As others have pointed out, critics see many many more movies than the average moviegoer has the time or funds to see, and so perhaps see films that the average moviegoer would like, had he or she seen it, too. Does Medved expect critics to therefore ask themselves what their favorite movie would be if they had only seen the top five grossing fils?

    2. Commercial success doesn't mean that all those people who paid to see the successful movie in question actually liked it. You have to see a movie before you can decide if you like it or not. A movie can have a record-breaking opening and still be widely disliked by the average moviegoer. Medved's logic of comparing critics' lists to box office receipts is fundamentally flawed in this way and the entire basis for his opinion is a completely spurious one.

    DJ
     
  12. Anders Englund

    Anders Englund Second Unit

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  13. Lew Crippen

    Lew Crippen Executive Producer

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    This issue exists for every art form with which I am familiar. Even for what might be considered art forms that are the exclusive province of ‘snobs’, such as opera. Opera is routinely criticized for churning out the same old 10 or 20 operas year in and year out: a few standard offerings from Mozart, Verdi, and Puccini, with the occasional nod thrown to Wagner, Rossini, and a few others.

    But nothing new and little that is not in the standard repertoire. But the opera houses feel that they have to mount productions that will draw audiences, as they already lose tons of money every year. Meanwhile the general public feels that even going to an opera is an over-the-top event, and that attending even a standard like La Traviattia is asking too much.

    Meanwhile, music lovers all know each note in each score and can recite the librettos backwards and long for new, challenging productions.

    So it is with movies. So it is with all art.

    I am not sure that there is a solution to this at all, but why should anyone be surprised that those who see lots of movies, want to see something different and challenging, while those who don’t, don’t care?
     
  14. Ashley Seymour

    Ashley Seymour Supporting Actor

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    I can't go into it due to forum rules, but beware that Medved has a political agenda, and take what he says with a grain of salt.

    It is pretty obvious where they lie, but you listen to or read him and you know what you are in for.

    Roger Ebert is probably further from center on the other end of the political spectrum. You always have to read between the lines with his reviews as he tries to come across an an impartial critic, but often disapoints (me) when misses a point or misrepresents it.

    Now, maybe Medved has a hidden agenda that he is dancing around. Popular and financially successful movies generally have to be uplifting to a significant degree and emphasize a widely accepted societal value. Over the last 100 years of the history of cinema, these accepted societal values have shifted. Films on the cutting edge of change are hardly likely to be successful. In fact, they hardly even get made. To Kill a Mockingbird in 1963 was daring in the depiction of race relations, but luckily it was successful because it handled the subject more artistically than most other films of the era.

    There are still plenty of controversial subjects today and film makers try and do attempt to make a statement and be entertaining. The critics and reviewers are often who we look to when making a decision on which films to see. I certainly can't see them all and don't ascribe to the opinion that I should make up my own mind after seeing a film. I have to be guided first, then I rate it. What I have to do is be aware of what the abilities of a reviewer and are what is his/her agenda.

    Michael and Roger generally do a good job of identifying how well a film does in meeting it's agenda. A schlock film does no good to it's political agenda if it alienates the audience it is attempting to entertain and influence.

    There are no even handed critics and I am still learning how to read a review to dig out where these people are coming from.
     
  15. Jeff Kohn

    Jeff Kohn Supporting Actor

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  16. David Rogers

    David Rogers Supporting Actor

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    (sigh)

    Film critics.

    Seeing most of, if not all, the movies that come out in a year doesn't make you "better" than other moviegoers. Your opinion is not more refined, your taste doesn't become of a higher caliber, and you don't get to sit in the special section of Heaven either. It only means you saw a lot of movies.

    Now, seeing a lot of movies should give you a wonderful education in all sorts of technical aspects of filmmaking, from shot composition and editing to drawing comparisons between actors' performances. These are useful abilities and knowledges for a film enthusiast to have. They can be irritating things for a critic to have, however.

    A film critic is paid to supply content to a publication and/or broadcast. They are, in effect, required to submit 2000 words for each Friday's column or put together four minutes of presentation for the Thursday morning segment. Having written reviews, I can personally say it sucks the fun out of film to meet a schedule and to have comprehensive coverage.

    What happens, or what happened for me (and I suspect happens with many if not most critics), is you go into the job knowing you love movies and/or love writing/speaking about them. The problem is once you become a critic/reviewer, you suddenly are exposed to an expanded slate of projects. Things you might have thought about, even favorably, but now you must actually watch them.

    What I found out is there are a lot of movies out there that suck. I don't mean suck like normal suck, I mean suck like "how did these people talk ANYONE into giving them cash for a movie production?" I mean suck as in you feel like hunting directors, writers, and producers down and making them watch their own output. Movies that generated a deep and intense agreement with a statement Henry Rollins made, "I wish you could sue people for time".

    So what I suspect occurs with even noble critics (since I don't care about the hacks) is burnout. I watch trailers and read online, and pass on a lot of projects. The three major flavors of teen movie (I call them Slash, Dating & Gross) probably move from 'amusing and harmless' to 'someday I will find the person who invented Teen Dating films and kill them ritualistically' after you've been forced to look at every one that comes out. Ever. All the time. Each month. Each year.

    Basically, I understand why critics might be burned or tired or flat out just bitter.

    H-O-W-E-V-E-R!!!

    That's the job. The job of critic isn't to give us YOUR opinion, critics and reviewers, though that's part of it. The job of a critic is really to provide expanded thoughts about a movie. I can't imagine how sad it must be to be unable to decide whether or not one likes a movie on one's own, and since I don't have this problem I don't need critics to tell me if the movie is good or not. What I want from critics is expansion, thoughtfully, on the movie and what it was about, what it meant, how it went. I want critics to point out the story elements and discuss them in contrast to one another. I want reviewers to discuss a film in the context of the director's career, or in the lead actor's, or in the writer's.

    The problem is most people who genuinely enjoy movies, I suspect, aren't critics. I base this claim on simple evidence; critics never like popular movies. How can I take someone's opinion as relevant if their lists of good movies and mine are so far apart I have to use the Internet to figure their list out? The job title is "film reviewer/film critic", not "film historian". There are ways to go about each, but in my opinion a reviewer needs to connect with the audience of movies and speak in a way they want to hear. I'm not saying "the masses are always right", but the masses' opinions COUNT more than the solitary critic's. If the country selects, by attendance (which really means dollars, not presence or favor), Spider-man as a good movie they enjoyed, that should mean something. It should mean enough that critics act like it does.

    Which they don't. Most critics seem to take a superior, elitist position. They proclaim "I am a film expert, while you're a mere audience member". This is usually followed with a bashing of whatever movie just came out and is really popular, and then an enthusiastic plug for the latest foreign film that takes the life of a simple goat herder to illustrate the complex facets of finding one's self in a big and varied world. Every popular film can't be crap, even though more than a few certainly are.

    The natural response to my position is to accuse me of having simple and uneducated film tastes.

    When did film become something you have to have a degree in to enjoy? At what point was your published word count the defining fact for the binary set question: do you love movies, if published then yes, if not then BEGONE UNWASHED HEATHEN!

    ???

    My first movie in a theater was Star Wars, when I was 4. From there, the good times have rolled. I go to the movies to escape, to have fun, to relax, to experience. I go to the movies to expand my life beyond the confines imposed upon it by reality. I can't jump tall buildings or help people find the special something in one another. I'm not the President, I haven't traveled to Mars, and I've never seen what the look in a bookie's eye is when you tell him there's no money. I've never had to tell someone I love them so much, and that's why I have to leave. I've never faced a tidal horde rushing from the horizon hellbent upon destroying everything I ever knew or loved, alone.

    But I have in the movies. I've love and learned, I've laughed and cried, and I've seen things that made me think. And it's made all the difference.

    My nearly nephew is close to 3 now. He recently discovered Toy Story 1 and 2. I had SUCH delight with those movies, in ways too numerous to count. I have MORE fun watching him delight in them than I did myself when I saw them. When he wants to watch them he asks "Woody? Buzz?" in a quiet and hopeful voice. After he watches them, he'll go play, but every now and then we hear him pipe up with "To 'finty 'n beyon!"

    Movies are about having fun, for the audience. Studios just want the cash, but the audience wants the fun. They want what my nearly-nephew wants, to have a good time. He gets it. Why don't the critics?
     
  17. Jeff Kohn

    Jeff Kohn Supporting Actor

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    There's another point to consider here. You to ask yourself who is the audience for a critic, if not movie-goers. If a critic's tastes are totally diametrically opposed to the people reading the reviews, then I would argue that particular critic is not providing a very useful service. I'm not saying critics should be forced to supress their true opinions and pander to the masses, but if a critic is that disconnected from the general public, maybe they're in the wrong job. After all, you can't really blame people for wanting to read reviews from a critic who they have a tendency to agree with. What good is a review that has no awareness of the target audience?
     
  18. Terry St

    Terry St Second Unit

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  19. Jason Seaver

    Jason Seaver Lead Actor

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    Now, hang on, Dave... You seem to be painting with an awfully thick brush here.

     
  20. David Rogers

    David Rogers Supporting Actor

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    Sorry you disagree Jason. Don't quite see how my piece attacks you, though you apparently do since you felt the need to reply as you did.

    Edit--
    quote:
    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    There are ways to go about each, but in my opinion a reviewer needs to connect with the audience of movies and speak in a way they want to hear. I'm not saying "the masses are always right", but the masses' opinions COUNT more than the solitary critic's.
    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Why?

    Seriously. Why should a critic compromise his opinions, style, etc., just to "connect with the audience"? There are other mechanisms in place for that; if that audience doesn't find a critic's comments particularly useful, they'll tell his publisher, and eventually, if the newspaper (for example) finds him a liability, they'll replace him with someone who better matches their audience.


    Why? I would have thought reading my first post would make that abundantly clear, but I'll simplfy it as much as I can.

    Why? Because the movies are made for people, not critics. Because people go to movies, not critics. Because movies affect and change the lives of people, not critics.

    Critics go *to*. They're not the Be. They're the footnote.

    Movies are for fun, after you get past the part where they're *really* for making money off us with. Some folks feel the need, and are enriched by, going to the movies to learn or to think seriously. The majority of the movie-going and dvd-buying audience, however, apparently prefer to have fun when they engage in the time-passing activity we call "watching a movie". Fun could be comedy or action, tear-jerker drama or warm-hearted romance. Fun is defined by the one experiencing it, and excepting dangerously abnormal answers, anything goes.

    And history shows it is entirely possible, even likely, a great movie can be both fun and great. There is no either/or when it comes to it, though some studios and many critics apparently feel it does. But for every "Transporter" or "Tomb Raider" there's an "Equilibrium" or a "Titanic."

    You make movies for the audience. You write (or speak on TV) for the audience.

    The audience tunes in because they want to see and hear what you have to tell them. If a critic laments no one listens, perhaps that's what he needs to hear.
     

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