Critic critique

Some of my friends are movie buffs. The annoying and condescendingly superior type. I like them. But they are movie snobs. I imagine I come across the same way when I’m talking about coffee or bagging out U2.

Critics are never happy. Well not until everything is 100% correct. This annoys me in every aspect of life except coffee (and when I’m bagging out U2). I find it particularly annoying when it comes to movies and reading movie reviews. Movies, in my mind (and this touches on the recent Wonderland discussion) are about entertainment and appreciation of execution. Both don’t have to be perfect for me to walk out of a movie feeling like I got my moneys worth. When both are perfect – ala the Godfather 1 – it’s a more satisfying experience obviously… but here are two examples of the problem…

An SMH review of Transformers 2
“Michael Bay thinks that movies are a sandbox and, to some extent, they are. The trick is to create something meaningful from the tools in the sandbox. The first film did that; the second is a sandy imitation.”

Here’s the problem with this review – Transformers is a movie based on a series of action figures. It’s made primarily for an audience of males who like having stuff blown up. By all accounts Transformers 2 has bigger, better explosions with bigger and better fights between the alien robots. Reviews that take plot and stuff like that into account are missing the point. Nobody cares. It’s going to make bucket loads of money.

Point Two is just a continuation of my conversation with Ben… he said that Tim Burton should relinquish some control of his movies in order to produce compelling visual spectacles with nice Burtonesque aesthetics.

I like to think of Tim Burton’s movies as a vehicle for his aesthetics – and I’m happy to enjoy them even if the plot makes no sense. Like in Mars Attacks.


‘Critics are never happy. Well not until everything is 100% correct’

Nah, it doesn’t have to be perfect, it just needs to not be a pile of steaming dung.

I think this is just like the whole U2 thing. You being happy to put up with self absorbed mediocracy is your perogative, but it doesn’t mean that the critic is wrong when he tells you the 20 things that are wrong with it. You can like it, but the critic is still right, and obviously knows better.

I still love you though.

Nathan says:

Are you saying that U2 are self absorbed and mediocre? If so I agree… If you’re saying that my musical taste is self absorbed and mediocre… then I think you might be providing a living breathing example of the point of my post…

The critic is not right. Often. Their approach is too holistic. It doesn’t capture the movie watching experience.

I won’t be disappointed if Transformers 2 has no plot – as long as it has cool robot fight scenes. I will appreciate the cool robot fight scenes and I don’t think a coherent plot would enhance what it is that I appreciate about this movie and its genre.

Critics too often fail to take genre into account.

i was saying both U2 and Tim Burton are self absorbed and mediocre.

Both have a lot of talent, and started out doing new, innovative and interesting stuff. But over time they had light-bulb moments of ‘hey, hang on, I am freaking awesome.. i’ll just do any old poo and you must still love me. BECAUSE I. AM. AWESOME.’

Edward Scissorhands was cool. Lots of fresh new ideas brought to Hollywood. He never progressed from there. And U2 started out great. Their first three albums are really good. New, interesting, fresh. Boy, War and October. Their next three albums were still really good, but they started believing their own hype. Rattle and Hum was good, but that was the end of it. From there they became a dull parody of their own music.

The reason I got harsh about Tim Burton is because he is the exact same kettle of fish, and yet you are quick to write off U2, whereas you’ll forgive all Burton’s crap output and take whatever, even if it logically just isn’t very good. Blaming critics is just shooting the messenger.

If you are going to be gung ho about writing off music even though some people will like it no matter what, you need to expect the same with movies. Both are just blind devotion, and both deserve a good serve from a critic if they can back it up.

I am not being chizzy, because I’m basicly the same. I rarely will discuss music, because I will sound completely arrogant, and I don’t like conflict and arguements. But the truth is, I know my music taste is probably better than yours:) And now I realise this is also true with movies:)

I hope my two smiley faces softened the blow, my brother.

Nathan says:

“i was saying both U2 and Tim Burton are self absorbed and mediocre.”

Oh good. Then we agree. I just like Burton’s mediocracy because I like the aesthetic that comes with it. It’s the thing he does best that defines him – and it’s that that I like. So his movies are meandering and devoid of plot… kind of like Thom Yorke’s solo music. I still liked Thom Yorke’s solo music. Because I liked the “view” along the way.

If I liked anything that U2 did around their music I wouldn’t judge them so harshly.

Like I said, we’re all snobby about something. Movies are one area where I purposefully choose not to be because I’d always never be satisfied (just like a critic) if I did not suspend reality and use them as a form of escapism.

You can’t do that with coffee. There’s good, there’s bad, and there’s International Roast. They are absolutes. Movies I’m willing to be more flexible with – though some are absolutely bad. These generally star Rob Schneider. Music falls in between coffee and movies.

“I know my music taste is probably better than yours:) And now I realise this is also true with movies:)”

Smiley faces do not make your argument more credible. I highly doubt it. I think our musical tastes are probably like a Venn diagram with significant overlaps – but the stuff unique to me is likely to be better. I think you’d put your circle on the left – and start with thrash metal at the far left with some of the crap pop stuff you’ve listed in your musical tastes at the top or bottom of the circle… can you picture it in your head? I can.

Leah says:

I like Tim Burton but I haven’t seen much of his stuff. Big Fish was weird but it was entertaining. Charlie & the Chocolate Factory was good too. I have been REALLY looking forward to Alice in Wonderland, but I’ve been left a bit miffed by some of the costumes. (Red Queen & Mad Hatter). I don’t think he’s mediocre. He’s just very different, and not everyone’s favourite flavour of ‘different’. He might be self-absorbed, I wouldn’t know.

I didn’t really like Wanted because it was SO. PREDICTABLE. The thing was, it obviously wasn’t aiming to be just a “run around blow things up” movie like Transformers might be (dunno, haven’t seen it). It was obviously trying to have an interesting, enthralling storyline with twists and turns… that could be seen a mile away. There’s a difference between not bothering with a decent story line and ending up predictable, and trying to have a cool interesting storyline and still ending up predictable.

His ideas and design etc aren’t mediocre. His direction is.

Yeah, I liked Big Fish too.

heh. spiteful!

anyway, let’s agree to agree that I’m right.

Nathan says:

Spiteful… not at all.

To steal a Driscollism – music and movies are an open handed issue.

I’m going to use my closed hand to beat on all the bands and music you like that I don’t though…

At least we agree that U2 are now mediocre (and on many other issues of taste no doubt – your list isn’t that bad)…

Ben McLaughlin says:

I completely don’t mind you beating on my tastes, so long as you know what you are talking about, and don’t write stuff off if you haven’t really heard more than one or two songs.

Anyhow, I think you and I probably would like a lot of similar things so lets put aside these montague/capulet trivialities and foster the bromance.

Andrew says:

Don’t get me started on critics. Oops, too late.

I was chatting to a teacher/director in the pub recently, bemoaning opera critics’ lack of ability to write anything meaningful about singing, and, being the son of a theatre critic, he explained how theatre critics realised decades ago that they were guardians of quality, not purveyors of opinion. I think that’s an approach critics of all mediums should take.

Obviously, the approach to cinema and popular music will inevitably have less baggage than theatre and ‘classical’ music (a misnomer.. let’s call it art music) when it is being reinterpreted.