Critique of the Critic

Film critics — both professional and amateur — are, mostly, verbose assholes. Amateur does not mean unprofessional (in this instance) but merely someone providing altruistic film recommendations.

Everyone needs a film umpire; I’m no exception. I suspect, however, that most professional critics are confused as to why they write film reviews. Since the only reason to read a review is to determine if a film is worth watching — there’s only one reason to write them, which is to either recommend a film to readers, or warn them away from one. That’s it. The film reviews I read (and the critics who write them) fall into four categories:

  1. Name Droppers feel the need to prove they really watched the film and also accomplished extensive research afterwards. They pack their rambling reviews with obscure references, titles, famous names, and about a hectare and a half of unneeded shit.
  2. Book Report-ers always include a near-complete description of the entire film. Unless they’re paid by the word, there’s no reason to incessantly blather about details, which have no bearing on recommending or not recommending the film.
  3. Film Snobs believe their ability to construct a complex sentence using non-vocabulary words, somehow improves their review. Bullshit. It only proves they don’t know their readers, or why they are writing. Film Snobs dislike most films and are condescending in their reviews.
  4. Gen Y-ers think the attention span of their audience is as short as their own and, therefore, rant in sound-bytes. They never compare films to others and expect readers to follow their advice without explanation or reason.

My film reviews are constructed to be concisely informative and assist my readers in selecting films. This was extracted from my ‘early spring 05’ review:

Millions (2004) directed by Danny Boyle (Trainspotting, 1996); starring Alexander Nathan Etel and James Nesbitt: Snaprating=Keeper, PROBLEM-theme (CHARACTER secondary theme). Etel's adorable quirky-sweetness causes this 'Sleepless In Seattle meets Pay It Forward' to shine above the mass of other British 'found loot' films.
In less than fifty words, my encapsulation of Millons offers the following blocks of information:
  • Title.
  • Year of release. (To avoid confusion with like-named films)
  • Director’s name. (Film makers create consistently — remember your favorites)
  • Previous film from this director. (For those who forget their favorite directors)
  • Main actors. (For those who want to watch their favorite actors)
  • Snaprating. (Best to worst: Keeper, Cheaper, WFD, WFC, WFT)
  • Theme(s). (All films fit into four: Milieu, Character, Problem, Re-Order)
  • Brief comparison. (with others which share its characteristics)

Michael Wilmington, a critic with the Chicago Tribune, utilized over 675 words to recommend Millions. Beginning by awarding three and a half stars out of a possible four (although I can find no explanation for his stars, what they mean, or why nine ranks — with zero as the lowest — are needed), and then in typical Book Report-er style, he describes the entire film in unnecessary detail [“…not millions actually, but 229,320 pounds…more than $400,000…”]. In his twelve paragraphs, Wilmington’s redundancy competes with his personal bias. He cites the director three times and lists Trainspotting as a previous film of his, twice. In Name Dropper style, Wilmington lists unneeded proof of his research [“…ace Dogma 95 cinemtographer Anthony Dod Mantle…”] and provides his opinion as to what was in the director’s mind [“…It’s a fable…a Christian morality play/fantasy about Mammon and the soul of man…”].

Nick Schager, a critic with Slant Magazine, only needed 400 words to label Millions as worthy of two and a half stars out of a possible four (ditto on his explanations). In a perfect combination of Film Snob and Name Dropper (a must, in order to be a Slant employee), Schager trumpets his disdain from his opening [“Sure to be Sally Struthers's all-time favorite film…”] to his close [“…given the devalued state of current Hollywood kid's pictures, Boyle's lighthearted fairy tale nonetheless slightly outperforms…”].

Kyle Smith, a reviewer with the New York Post, (who hasn’t seen many films in his short life) also used a little over 400 words to label Millons as worthy of two and half stars out of a possible four. In strong Gen Y style, Smith throws around a flurry of snippets [“Flashy, messy kids' tale.”], [“…a jittery jumble, a weird Christmas fable…”], [“…a fantasy even less likely than a visit from Saint Nicholas, but never mind] and [“…this enchilada is so overstuffed, it's falling apart.”] but with all his pointless paragraph-sentences, he doesn’t communicate anything of value.

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