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The Critic: Have We Forgotten How To Accept Film?

sherman

Who here remembers the brilliantly written cartoon TV show, ‘The Critic’? What was great about this show, was that it always knew how to make you laugh and poke fun at celebrities, and their movies.  It was so well written because it really understood movies, celebrities, Hollywood and humour.  If you weren’t a movie buff, you probably couldn’t appreciate it or enjoy it. But if you were, you understood the references and saw the effort the writers and animators put in, to recapture the movies you grew up loving and remembering…but they did it with clever humour that wouldn’t offend you. But the best element of this show was that Jay Sherman would review films honestly. And even though he loved classic cinema and original story telling, he would still be honest and say he didn’t like it. It’s just a shame real life critics and reviewers cannot do the same. 

The character of Jay Sherman(Jon Lovitz), is at times egotistical, vulnerable, is strong willed most of the time, and appreciates cinema, regardless of how bad a certain might be. He does tend to favour the classics, but at times you can see he has a tiny bit of love for the ‘shlocky’ kind of films. It’s shows like ‘The Critic’, that always remind me of why I love movies, and why one day I want to be a movie journalist and critic. Jay Sherman does lose his way sometimes but he does have a lot of integrity, and will review a film the way he wants, and unfortunately that is what is lacking today in a lot of reviewers and critics. A lot of them, tag everything together and compare Foreign and Action movies, and in my opinion that way of reviewing just doesn’t work. I understand why a lot of people are not totally honest about what they saw, especially if they are getting paid and have strong ties with movie companies. However, even if you did not like the film entirely, I am sure there is at least one redeeming feature about it. Give it a fair balance.  9 times out of 10, I can find something I liked about a movie. And if it is something I own on DVD and I really didn’t like it, I will revisit it, to make sure my mind has not changed or maybe there was something I missed in the first viewing. 

I think viewers as a whole need to stop expecting so much of a film, and just investing too much time, into thinking about what it is going to be like, just go with it. There is nothing wrong with liking something that is Z grade, because often you will find a lot of the time that those kind of films do have great story premises, but they don’t have the money to actually execute it the way they want to. And so when these kind of films get released they either get scatched by critics and reviewers OR they just get completely forgotten about. And a lot of those kind of films are just found by pure accident. I read reviews daily, because I love to see peoples opinion and point of view. I love to see if someone out there has the exact same opinion as me, and  if they understood and felt the same emotions I did. I feel at times I watch movies completely differently to everyone else, and I believe I write about them differently too. While writing your standard review is all well and good, I think you can connect with the reader more if you go into depth on how it made you feel, and how certain elements struck a chord with you or how these elements annoyed you. Too many people criticise movies because of just purely what they see on screen. They don’t see what a film was trying to do. Obviously films can get so lost in themselves and forget to a point across that originally intended to, but if you can see what journey they were trying to convey, then at least you can see something which just isn’t face value. 

I really do not like when people review a film, and just outright hate it and do not give a valid reason. Because reviews have to be kept at a minimum, especially if you are writing for someone, you cannot get your whole opinion across. But if you just hate on something for face value and nothing beneath the surface, then I really feel sorry for your journey into watching and experiencing movies. Best way to explain that is this way; don’t crap on a film just because it’s another sequel, or an action film, or a genre of film you don’t understand ie; Horror or Exploitation. Take it for what it is. I have found that is the best way to enjoy a film, because you have no expectations and a lot of the time it can surprise you. A film I did not want to see was ‘Silver Linings Playbook’, I thought the trailer just sold it as another chick flick…How wrong I was! It surprised me so much, that it rekindled something inside me and just made me want to explore films even more openly. 

Hype is another factor which can either be a great tool for a films box office and critical success, or it can go in the other direction. It happened recently with ‘A Good Day to Die Hard’, I think it has a very low percentage on Rotten Tomatoes. I won’t lie, it is in no way as good as the first 3 ‘Die Hard’ movies, and at times it was slow, however I just wanted to see shit explode and that is what I go. The dialogue wasn’t as clever as the original movies, but it didn’t totally suck. I just think people wanted another ‘Die Hard’ movie so damn much they were happy to make it, but just lost sight of their journey in making it. Hype is something that critics and an audience can get lost in. They believe the hype so much that they actually don’t take the time to really understand the film and take it all in. Don’t ever let a film with all that glossiness and pretty packaging take away what the film is really doing. Don’t let all the outer layers distract you from the films core. When a film is so universally loved, and a lot of the time it has to do with the marketing and hype, you don’t have to like it you know? Just because everyone tells you are wrong for not liking something, it doesn’t make them right. Everything is based on opinion, but people get so caught up in what they are spoon fed, they lose touch of the bigger picture and only focus on certain elements. 

Learn to separate genres, my god when will people learn? I find the best way to review an action film is to relate it to other films which are along the same wavelength that people can enjoy and identify with.If you don’t understand the horror genre and it’s many sub-genres, don’t review it with a hateful and ignorant manner, do some damn research on the film and genre, because it may open a whole new section in your brain and may leave you a little more open minded. All genres are different, and all genres should be appreciated for the films they produce. Sure the make some great films and terrible films, but you get the good with the bad. It shouldn’t be Indie films VS Giallo film or Foreign film VS Creature Feature Films. Don’t put them against each other, instead compare them to what you think the viewer may have seen before and how it can be right up their alley.

People seem to think that every film that get’s made is all trying to do the same thing, which is win awards. And that just isn’t true. It seems in the last 10-15 years, the film industry has changed, and in some cases it isn’t about entertaining the viewers, it’s about ramming it down our throats with marketing, merchandise, and it’s also about how a film is more worthier than others if it win’s an Academy Award. I used to think that if you won, one of those awards, you were the shit, and you were untouchable. But you know what, it really isn’t true. Stallone won an Oscar for Rocky, and while that film was honest and beautifully made, people to this day see him as a joke, because of career choices. People at times forget how influential that man ACTUALLY is. 

It all starts with a script, and the script might be entirely different to the finished product, and sometimes it pays to go away from the source material and other times it doesn’t. ‘Jaws’ is a great example of when a film goes wrong in the right direction. So many things changed on that set because they were dealing with nature, so the tides were either too low, too high, other boats would be in their shots, the shark wouldn’t work, and every day of shooting you are losing money with investors and movie companies breathing down your neck. Incidents happened on the set of ‘Jaws’ where they would have great material that was shot, but it didn’t fit into the script, so they would change a chunk of the film to make it fit. A lot of comes down to a great creative team, scheduling and of course money, and if you can work around these things and create something as spectacular as ‘Jaws’, then more power to you. And even though ‘Jaws’ is known as a classic, it is still seen as a joke, because of what pop culture over time has done to it. But a film like ‘Jaws’ is so influential, that only did it kick-start people’s film careers, break box office records, but also it did something world wide…it made people afraid of the water. If a film like that can tap that deep into your psyche and affect many generations from doing something as simple as swimming in the ocean, I’d say the film has done it’s fair share. 

Obviously we all have our personal tastes, of what we love and hate. There is nothing wrong with having our own opinions, because that is what shapes our personalities. But don’t stick to one genre, ever! Because you will become a boring, hateful and ignorant film viewer which will never know the joy of what is really out there. Some films will be seen in the classics at your local video store, some may be in the recommended section, and some may be tossed aside in the bargain bin, either way, you will find a gem in each one, which will lead you on to an enjoyable  and eventful film journey. 

About the author

Jade Lindley

All you need to know is this; movies are everything to me and I try to see joy in every piece of film that I get to experience.