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The One Ring Forums: Off Topic: Off Topic:
Opinions on Film Critics?

Aragorn the Elfstone
Grey Havens


Dec 5 2012, 3:41am

Post #1 of 24 (330 views)
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Opinions on Film Critics? Can't Post

Anybody up for discussing their feelings on the idea of film critics, or how you react to them? This is relevant, of course, to the flood of Hobbit reviews that have come in over the past 24 hours. But since things are a little hot blooded on the topic over on the Hobbit board, I thought I'd raise the topic over here.

It's hard for me to not respect film critics on some level, since they basically do what I love to do all the time - only they get paid for it. Cool But, at the same time, I've got a sort of love/hate relationship with them. Without film critics, there's probably a fair amount of great films I wouldn't see - yet, on the other hand, they often influence my judgement of films before I even get to see them. On occassion, I go out of my way to not read reviews - and find that my opinion on a film may vary wildly from the majority of critics (though sometimes I find them right on the money).

I also think that the fact that they're subjected to such an enormous amount of films throughout the year is like a double edged sword. In one sense - they are always on the look out for unique films and filmmaking. This allows them to recommend us real jewels that can inspire us in surprising ways. But on the other hand, this often gets in the way of them enjoying somewhat simpler pleasures.

I've come around to appreciating critics more and more over the years. My favorite films of the past couple years have actually been critical favorites - Inglourious Basterds, The Tree of Life, Hugo, etc. Yet, in other instances (such as Million Dollar Baby, The Social Network, etc.) I've been unimpressed with their choices for best of the year. And then, this year, my favorite film thus far - Anna Karenina - has been wildly divisive and far from revered by most of the critical community.

...and, of course, I presume I'll also be an enormous fan of a certain December release Wink, which also seems to be getting a divisive response.

What say you, fellow TORNsibs? Do you read reviews before going to the movies? Do you often find yourself in agreement? Or do you find them to be merely more jaded moviegoers? Tongue

"All men dream; but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds awake to find that it was vanity; But the dreamers of day are dangerous men. That they may act their dreams with open eyes to make it possible."
- T.E. Lawrence


(This post was edited by Aragorn the Elfstone on Dec 5 2012, 3:47am)


Escapist
Gondor


Dec 5 2012, 4:09am

Post #2 of 24 (140 views)
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The critics are one source of information [In reply to] Can't Post

amongst many, and their opinion contributes to a film's overall quality - but doesn't determine it.

Sometimes, the critical opinions and appeal of a movie to a wider audience agree. Sometimes they don't.
Just look at the top grossing movies on the sidebar and compare the RT ratings. Then observe that the RT "certified fresh in theaters" aren't anywhere near the top grossing list.

Similarly, sometimes a critic's opinion will line up with mine, sometimes not.

In the case of The Hobbit reviews, I am seeing wildly divergent opinions and extreme variation.
I was looking at RT's reviews. We have a case where 95% of the audience wants to see it (wow - and that's out of 144,799), but the reviews are only 75% positive among all reviewers (most of which haven't reviewed it yet) and the reviews are actually mostly negative among "top critics" right now (33% positive only - wow - but only 3 have reviewed it ... so ... ).

This is still very early and the audience, in all fairness, hasn't seen the movie (although they have seen a great deal of it by now if they wanted to).
But all of the critics have seen it and although numbers are small, the difference between 75% positive and 33% positive is quite staggering. There is something interesting going on there but it's hard to tell what that could be!

It looks like the movie has mass appeal, has gotten the general audience very interested even a week before it is released, and has not impressed "the right people". I think I will probably love it! Sly
Look at that number of users who rated it (with the 95% wanting to see staggering statistic) again. Now compare that to new movies being released even earlier. That response rate is about 50 (FIFTY) times larger than the next largest "coming soon" and higher than any of the audience "liked it" rates that I have seen so far today.


N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Dec 5 2012, 4:44am

Post #3 of 24 (157 views)
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The best criticism is meant to be read after you see the film, not before. [In reply to] Can't Post

Let me quote again from the introduction to Reverse Angle, a 1981 collection of film criticism by John Simon:


Quote
What is film criticism all about? Praise for our product, says the industry. Recognition, or failing that, constructive suggestions, say the film-makers. Reliable guidance, says the public. All of those things, say the reviewers, except, of course, praise only for good products. None of these things principally, say critics. Critics are after something harder and more elusive: pursuing their own reactions down to the rock bottom of their subjectivity and expressing them with the utmost artistry, so that what will always elude the test of objective truth will at least become a kind of art: the art of illumination, persuasion, and good thinking and writing. The industry is not to be indulged, any more than the film-maker is to be told how he should make movies: the one would be dishonest, the other presumptuous. The public, to be sure, is to be guided, but not in the simplistic way it hopes for.

It is not for the critic to do the reader’s thinking for him; it is for the critic merely to do his own thinking for the reader’s benefit. This may seem like a slight difference, but it is in fact tremendous.



I have posted this excellent statement before, and on that occasion it was suggested that Simon was wrong, because a critic's duty, as anyone paid to do a job, is to his employer, and she should write what that publication, or perhaps by extension that publication's readers, want to read. I don't think that's so, or not exactly so. The critic's duty is to the truth, as she perceives it, and the publication is paying the critic to honor that responsibility.

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Silverlode
Forum Admin / Moderator


Dec 5 2012, 5:03am

Post #4 of 24 (129 views)
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It kind of reminds me of [In reply to] Can't Post

the difference between reading for fun and reading for a literature class.

I love to read; I read constantly. I choose my books by topic, or by author, or by some other criteria which is dictated entirely by my own preference and desires. I consider enjoyment, or desire for information, etc. I read for fun. I have read and enjoyed all kinds of books, modern, classic lit, and many things in between, but I judge them by how much I enjoyed, or learned, or was drawn in or presented with ideas or perspectives that appealed to me.

But a critic (or a lit. teacher) is more likely to be looking at other things, things like the technical elements of plot construction, pacing, description, etc. I've been in classes where we dissected the elements of writing ad infinitum, but never even mentioned what the story was about. We talked about how the story was told, how the characterizations were achieved, how the ending or twist was foreshadowed, how the sentence construction affected this or that....but never about the story, or the themes, or even whether we liked it or not. It is hard for me to love a book I meet in this context, and I hate to have a book I love taken apart in this way. To me it can be like missing the forest for the trees.

These story elements do of course affect the experience of reading the book a great deal, but for the casual reader, or the reader for entertainment, they are secondary: they are meant to serve the story being told. A book may be written artfully, but if I don't like what the book is about, I still probably won't like it even if the writing is brilliant. I may objectively be impressed, but with no desire to re-read. On the other hand, even a good plot can't save a book when the writing is poor. There are some best-selling authors I cannot read because their style is so simplistic it bores me to tears. Best of all is an author whose writing style I enjoy and who tells stories I want to read.

As a movie audience member, I am looking for pretty much the same thing as I am when I read for pleasure; I want to be informed, entertained, or excited. I do appreciate artistry in support of those things, but there are plenty of films I have little interest in watching despite their proficiency. I think, like me, mass audiences are usually looking for entertainment. A smaller group of people are looking for art, and all of the technical and structural artistic elements that can be a part of storytelling - this group includes many professional critics and also art house and film festival audiences. They are often using a different set of criteria than others.

It is always thrilling when the story and the artistry are equally strong, and both mass audiences and critics love them as much, but this does not happen as often as one would wish. There are movies I love despite their technical or artistic failures or just plain mediocrity - sentimental favorites, or "guilty pleasures" - and there are movies that are brilliant but I never want to watch again. And there are films that critics love that you couldn't pay me to watch.

I've never wanted to just watch movies for the sake of the form, I want to watch stories in movie format. It seems to me that most people who become professional critics love the art form for itself and want to watch films, all kinds, and look for the ones which most nearly approach their ideals. I would never survive as a critic, because there are so many movies I simply don't want to watch. But that makes it inevitable that I will often be at odds with those who do want to be critics, because we begin by approaching a movie from very different viewpoints. So I find reviews most helpful when they simply tell me what sort of thing I can expect - that way I can decide whether I'm likely to enjoy it or not (which is the main point for me). I don't find opinion pieces helpful unless I know whether I have tastes in common with the reviewer or unless enough reasons are given for the reviewers' conclusions that I can reason out for myself how they sit with my preferences. So I guess I just use reviewers as an info-gathering source to try and find out what I want to know, without caring very much about whether they liked it. So some critics I take note of because they tend to like the things I do, and some I take note of because they tend to be opposite of me. Either way, I can get an idea of whether a particular film is the sort of thing I want to spend my entertainment time and money on.

Silverlode






Aragorn the Elfstone
Grey Havens


Dec 5 2012, 5:13am

Post #5 of 24 (122 views)
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Your last comments... [In reply to] Can't Post

...are ones that I can definitely get on board with. Though I'm typically aware of critical consensus, the only critic whose writings I like to consistently read is Roger Ebert. I very often don't agree with him, but I can always tell whether or not I'll like the film in question. He's able to describe the different aspects of a film that did or did not appeal to him, and I can use this as a barometer for how I think I might respond to it. I also don't feel like my opinion might be tainted, for better or for worse, by what he has to say about the movie.

"All men dream; but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds awake to find that it was vanity; But the dreamers of day are dangerous men. That they may act their dreams with open eyes to make it possible."
- T.E. Lawrence


Silverlode
Forum Admin / Moderator


Dec 5 2012, 5:22am

Post #6 of 24 (123 views)
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I agree with you about Roger Ebert. [In reply to] Can't Post

 


Quote
I very often don't agree with him, but I can always tell whether or not I'll like the film in question. He's able to describe the different aspects of a film that did or did not appeal to him, and I can use this as a barometer for how I think I might respond to it. I also don't feel like my opinion might be tainted, for better or for worse, by what he has to say about the movie


This is my experience as well. He's good at describing what a movie is about, and what it is like, without campaigning for or against it. In other words, he's good at what he does.

Silverlode






Escapist
Gondor


Dec 5 2012, 3:01pm

Post #7 of 24 (107 views)
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Those words are quite eloquent! [In reply to] Can't Post

They must have been written by a skilled critic Wink.


The only quibble I have is the use of the word "truth" and it may not be so much a quibble as it may be a caution.


Tampa Phil
Rivendell


Dec 5 2012, 3:09pm

Post #8 of 24 (107 views)
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Tangentially, [In reply to] Can't Post

I've been pondering (contemporary) music critics. Back in the heyday, they were hugely influential and idiosyncratic. Now that we are in the long waning post-period, dated to perhaps the late 90s, with almost nothing original, exciting or innovative going on now, and with the genre itself relegated to background noise status, I think they are in denial, because to acknowledge this truth relegates them to irrelevancy too.

The film industry has undergone a similar arc, with commercialism, corporate consolidation and control (and all the risk-aversion that implies), digital media, global reach (dumbing down blockbusters), contributing to a less vibrant landscape. Just as perhaps all the good songs have been taken, so has all the good plots, but there's also a collective failure of nerve at work as the bean-counters trump the auteurs.

However, whilst the music industry has been decimated by falling revenues, the film industry is holding steady. So film critics wield considerable influence still.

For myself, I have to pick and choose more carefully than when I was younger and freer, so critics play a role. My tastes are broader now, and I'm more interested in quality than genres. 20 years ago, I would never have seen (or enjoyed) The Master, nor would I have skipped the latest Spider Man.

There are critics I align with (New York Times and The Onion AV Club) because there tends to be good correlation with my verdict, and because I enjoy reading the reviews. And those I avoid (Roger Ebert, others) either because they are contrarian or ego-driven or just there to promote instead of critique.

But generally, I look at the indices (RT or Metacritic) for a general impression. These are more reliable, although occasionally they all like something I hated (The Avengers, Shrek).

Interesting topic, this.

TP.


Radagast-Aiwendil
Gondor


Dec 5 2012, 5:51pm

Post #9 of 24 (114 views)
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I'm afraid that I no longer have much respect for some critics.. [In reply to] Can't Post

I know that this does not apply to many critics, but there are so many of them who seek to cram exaggerated statements into people's brains and mislead them with conclusions based on little or no evidence. The opinions given by many of them are also very biased.

Unfortunately many people fall for it, and it's a great shame, because the preconceptions of one individual should not interfere with the choices of many other individuals (i.e. whether or not they see the movie), said members of the public should at least see the film before they make up their own minds.

"Radagast is, of course, a worthy wizard, a master of shapes and changes of hue, and he has much lore of herbs and beasts, and birds are especially his friends."-Gandalf, The Lord of the Rings.


Ardamírë
Valinor


Dec 5 2012, 6:21pm

Post #10 of 24 (115 views)
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I never read the critics [In reply to] Can't Post

Unless I just happen to come across them. I guess I'm not a huge movie viewer, so the movies I am interested in I already know I want to see - there's no reason to read the critics.

And honestly, why would I let someone else's opinion gauge what I'm going to see or like? I'd much rather listen to people I know and get reviews by word of mouth from friends and family.

"...and his first memory of Middle-earth was the green stone above her breast as she sang above his cradle while Gondolin was still in flower." -Unfinished Tales


squire
Valinor


Dec 5 2012, 7:44pm

Post #11 of 24 (89 views)
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"what will always elude the test of objective truth will at least become a kind of art: the art of illumination, persuasion, and good thinking and writing." [In reply to] Can't Post

I like the idea that criticism of art is itself an art.

As many people argue on this board, we may wish that critics would just agree with us, or tell us how a movie fits in with what we already know. But Simon points out, rightly I think, that real critics (as opposed to workaday reviewers) are answerable only to themselves, because they too are artists.



squire online:
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Lights! Action! Discuss on the Movie board!: 'A Journey in the Dark'. and 'Designing The Two Towers'.
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N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Dec 5 2012, 8:03pm

Post #12 of 24 (89 views)
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Yes, many critics are bad, just as many films are bad. [In reply to] Can't Post

In both cases, the problem is usually incompetence rather than malice.

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N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Dec 5 2012, 8:10pm

Post #13 of 24 (90 views)
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The best criticism helps us better understand the work being considered. [In reply to] Can't Post

Think of W.H. Auden writing about The Lord of the Rings, or J.R.R. Tolkien writing about Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Your friends and family may not have such expertise.

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Ardamírë
Valinor


Dec 5 2012, 8:14pm

Post #14 of 24 (107 views)
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I should have prefaced... [In reply to] Can't Post

That I read books or watch films for entertainment's sake, not for understanding about themes or what the author is saying in the subtext. If I pick up on those things, great, but if not, it doesn't matter to me.

That's why I put more stock in friends and family over a stranger whose opinion I may or may not agree with.

"...and his first memory of Middle-earth was the green stone above her breast as she sang above his cradle while Gondolin was still in flower." -Unfinished Tales


Radagast-Aiwendil
Gondor


Dec 5 2012, 9:54pm

Post #15 of 24 (81 views)
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Yes I agree with you on the whole [In reply to] Can't Post

But some critics are going too far and they know it. I read a very vicious review claiming that "Tolkien could not write a good plot at gunpoint" or a very similar phrase. Now that is malice

"Radagast is, of course, a worthy wizard, a master of shapes and changes of hue, and he has much lore of herbs and beasts, and birds are especially his friends."-Gandalf, The Lord of the Rings.


Magpie
Immortal


Dec 5 2012, 9:59pm

Post #16 of 24 (103 views)
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That's what I'm looking for [In reply to] Can't Post

I don't really want to know much about a movie - either much of what it's about or how it's told or what people think other than - from people who's opinion I often agree with that comment that "I liked it and you might, too"

But often, if the movie has impacted me in some deeper way than mere entertainment (which I'm not knocking), then I often want to read and/or discuss on a more critical level (with the definition of 'critical' not equated with 'negative', which I fear is the overwhelming sense of this word now).

I'm having a hard time finding it on the web. For example, I really wanted to see what people were saying about Beasts of the Southern Wild in a more thoughtful, analytical way than just assessing whether someone found it good or bad. Especially since many of these sorts of reviews are meant to be read before seeing the movie so there's an avoidance of spoilers. I want the sort of conversation one has when everyone 'in the room' has seen the movie.


LOTR soundtrack website ~ magpie avatar gallery
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Kelly of Water's Edge
Lorien

Dec 6 2012, 1:43am

Post #17 of 24 (89 views)
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I believe in Critic Shopping. [In reply to] Can't Post

Critics are human and have personal tastes just like anyone else, so I think a critic who doesn't usually agree with you isn't going to be of much help to you. The trick is to find a critic who shares your tastes, and then follow their advice if you're so inclined.

Either that, or follow the general critical consensus at Rotten Tomatoes.


Escapist
Gondor


Dec 6 2012, 10:50pm

Post #18 of 24 (108 views)
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Rotten Tomatoes has no consensus about The Hobbit. [In reply to] Can't Post

Among all critics it has a 70% rating right now.
Among top critics it only has a 20% rating!
So that means that the rating from non-top critics is 82%.
95% out of almost 145,563 people can't wait to see it.

It's almost as if the top critics saw a different movie than the rest of them ... or maybe all the trailers and tv spots used bits of film that aren't in the actual movie Tongue.


Morthoron
Gondor


Dec 9 2012, 3:16pm

Post #19 of 24 (100 views)
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Statistics as a barometer for success... [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
95% out of almost 145,563 people can't wait to see it.


I believe the movie The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2 has set all kinds of box office sales numbers. It has a 47% rating on Rotten Tomato, which is probably a more than generous rating. Just because a movie is bad (or in the case of Twilight, where both the series of books and the movies are genuinely awful) does not mean people are not unwilling to see it, or are not excited to see it.

Lady Ga-Ga can wrap herself in a meat dress and sell millions of albums. There is no accounting for taste when it comes to the general public.

Please visit my blog...The Dark Elf File...a slighty skewed journal of music and literary comment, fan-fiction and interminable essays.



Asy
The Shire


Dec 9 2012, 7:01pm

Post #20 of 24 (44 views)
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Blargh! Critics! [In reply to] Can't Post

The only opinion that matters is my own when it comes to watching a movie. The movies that critics deem "awful" happen to be some of my favourite films Unimpressed If i like a movie, i will like it; no matter what critics say Wink

When it comes to critics reviews of films, I never bother reading them. I make my own judgement based on the trailers and clips that are brought out and go into the cinema open minded. Once i've seen the film, I then go and read the reviews to see what everyone else thought of it. Smile

All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.


Escapist
Gondor


Dec 9 2012, 7:11pm

Post #21 of 24 (38 views)
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82% out of roughly 500,000 people say they liked Twilight: Breaking Dawn [In reply to] Can't Post

Who is to say that they are all "wrong"? They liked it.

If the goal of the movie was to tell a story that entertains an audience then it was a successful movie.

If a different movie draws only 5,000 fans to say they all liked it and gets a full 100% critic rating then it was a successful movie in a different way.


Annael
Half-elven


Dec 9 2012, 7:12pm

Post #22 of 24 (73 views)
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really [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm sure most of the people who actually paid to see that movie expected & wanted to like it.

The way we imagine our lives is the way we are going to go on living our lives.

- James Hillman, Healing Fiction

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NARF and member of Deplorable Cultus since 1967


Annael
Half-elven


Dec 10 2012, 3:14pm

Post #23 of 24 (31 views)
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oh, I like that [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
I've never wanted to just watch movies for the sake of the form, I want to watch stories in movie format. It seems to me that most people who become professional critics love the art form for itself and want to watch films, all kinds, and look for the ones which most nearly approach their ideals.


I'm a story-lover too, and that's exactly what I want from a movie. I do appreciate understanding something about the art of film-making, just as I appreciate understanding something about architecture when I'm in a city like Chicago or Portland, Oregon - it enhances my enjoyment. And I love to watch good acting. But if the narrative doesn't make sense, it doesn't matter how great the acting or the camera work or the editing might be.

I've been teaching a class on the use of archetypes and myth in film, and my students tell me that once they learn about an archetype like the Trickster, it's fun for them when they recognize that archetype in other films. They're also getting why some movies fail and some succeed because of their use or misuse of these elements.

My favorite critic is Mary Ann Johanson. I don't always agree with her - our tastes in film are not the same - but if she says a film stinks I'm not likely to go see it.

The way we imagine our lives is the way we are going to go on living our lives.

- James Hillman, Healing Fiction

* * * * * * * * * *

NARF and member of Deplorable Cultus since 1967

(This post was edited by Annael on Dec 10 2012, 3:17pm)


Magpie
Immortal


Dec 10 2012, 3:25pm

Post #24 of 24 (155 views)
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One way I think critical analysis is very helpful... [In reply to] Can't Post

is in understanding why we like or dislike a film (or any form of art) - why it seems to succeed or not succeed for us.

And on a larger scale, I'm very interested in why certain forms of movies (or art) tend to be popular at different times - either for us as individuals - or more globally as a society.


LOTR soundtrack website ~ magpie avatar gallery
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