A FEW THOUGHTS ON CRITICISM
By Rory Campbell on April 21, 2015
wrote this article to expand on some thoughts on criticism (specifically, of film) which I discussed on the podcast.
1. The Star System
Reviews on this site are not accompanied by a star rating of any kind. There are a lot of good reasons for that. For one thing, star ratings standardize critics who write for the same organization. Audiences complain that "movie 1 got 4.5 stars yet movie 2, which was clearly superior, only received 3.5 stars". What defines a 3.5/5 for me maybe completely different than what defines that same score for another critic. Yet, audiences assume that we are working with the same criteria. The star system standardizes films as well, which is equally problematic.
Secondly, the star system draws your attention away from what we have to say. We, hopefully, put time and thought into our our review, and a rating doesn't always serve as a good summary of our opinion.
Lastly, I have, more than once, regretted the score I gave to a film. If I stick to just a written review, I can always write an updated opinion on the film, once I've had more time for consideration. However, if I give a film a rating, that has a certain permanence which doesn't reflect how I feel.
2. I'm not a buyer's guide
I don't care what you spend your money on. Ultimately, I will recommend or not recommend a given film, but I encourage you to see everything you have any interest in.
3. I'm not the only voice
When I look up reviews for a film, I expect there to be a diversity of opinion about it. That's actually part of the fun. Even if I completely disagree with a critic, I won't attack their legitimacy. People view films in a host of different ways. Let's say Zack Snyder makes a new movie. I'm intrigued to hear opinions from people who have seen all his work, people who are completely unfamiliar with his work, and all levels of experience in between. For me, this is about having a conversation about something which lots of us have a passion for.
4. I want all movies to be good
Maybe thanks to our title, people might feel that critics thrive on negativity. Admittedly, sometimes we can fall into that trap. However, as a movie-goer, a bad movie is of limited benefit to me.
5. I'm not trying to be different
At least, not in the way you think I am. I don't formulate a certain opinion about a movie just to be unique. But, in a some way, it is about being different. It's about adding my own personal voice to the discussion about film.
6. We write to an audience
Often, movies are targetted at a specific audience. Crticism can be the same way. Perhpas a critic has performing experience, and writes to an audience with a particular focus on acting. Or, maybe, they see themselves as an accurate representative of the general movie-going audience, and they write for everyone.
7. I appreciate feedback
A clear point, up until now, has been that critics are undeserving of the charges some readers choose to use against them. But, like I said, critics are adding to a discussion. Discussion is a two-way street. It's not that you shouldn't challenge critics to look at films in different ways. I would actually encourage it. It's just that you should consider each critic individually.