My problem with film criticism
I never understood why I dislike film criticism. Even when it's mostly positive, I just don't like it.
I never read Roger Ebert. I only look at Rotten Tomatoes to get a quick gauge of "Should I wait and rent this instead of spending $20 at the theater?"
Yesterday, I started putting the pieces together. It began with this comment from my friend Kelly Li in his thoughts on Man of Steel:
We each have our own very specific ideas and even, special relationship, about what makes up this hero of all heroes. Unless it’s the specific one in each of our minds, it won’t be completely fulfilling. It’s because Supes means too much to us.
For me, I don’t believe I’ll ever be fully satisfied with any Superman film unless it’s one that is born out of my vision.
That's it. A large part of my issue with film criticism is that it's framed through the reviewer's point of view. That's the point, right? A film can be technically good, and even have a good story, but if they don't like it, that's their perspective. There's nothing objective about it.
Another part of my problem with critics is that statements are often presented as fact. "There was too much going on. The movie sucked. 2 out of 5 stars." Their job is to critique after all, but it seems like many do whatever they can to point out flaws. A choice they may not agree with is presented as a negative. They look for the imperfection, even at the expense of missing the achievement.
I'm not a subscriber to the theory that you need to be able to do something (such as make your own movie) to be able to critique others. I do believe you can study and learn a great deal without actually practicing in that field. Everyone's entitled to not like a genre, story, or actor. Maybe the director kicked your dog that morning, of course you're not going to like his movie.
Yes, movies can be objectively bad, but criticisms are often personal. A director isn't going to make the exact movie in your head, or the version of the story you remember from childhood, or a "perfect" movie, period. There will always be detractors and flaws for them to highlight.
Even Inception, a film that was critically acclaimed and well received by audiences, has detractors. It seems like a lot of the criticism today revolves around people hoping to gain cool points on the internet. They must point out that The Prestige is by far the best, and their favorite, Christopher Nolan film. But I can even recall, in 2010 when the film was released, people saying that they didn't like it because it left specific plot points to interpretation or certain things were "unrealistic." They didn't like that they were supposed to think and talk about the film. Does that mean everyone has to like it? No, of course not!
But Kelly Vance thinks no one could like it:
One way to salvage some fun with this blunderbuss would be to fall asleep while watching and dream up a better movie yourself. Try it. You’ll avoid a headache.
Roger Ebert this person is not, but many still feel that's a valid form of critcism.
I may be the last person to realize that film criticism is more like film opinion, but for the longest time, I couldn't figure out why I hated it. For as much as I love movies, and for as many as I watch (usually one a day, sometimes three), I couldn't understand why I never wanted to write about movies. Now I know.
Everyone is entitled to an opinion. You know what they say about opinions, don't you?