Film Critics


(John Welles) #1

I know film critics are generally despised around here on the SWDB forum as when Spaghetti Westerns first came out, they were critically slated. But I think they do have an important purpose, apart from recommending movies: there revaluation of films. For example, Alfred Hitchcock’s 1955 black comedy The Trouble with Harry was a box-office flop in America and was dismissed as one of the Master’s lesser works. However, in recent years, critics have come to this film again and revaluated it from being a failure to a hilarious comedy ahead of its time. Because of this sudden exosphere to the limelight, I was interested enough to buy it on DVD and found it to be great; if they hadn’t made such a fuss over this “forgotten” picture, I would never have bought it and consequently lost out on seeing this fun movie.

Also, they help keep motion pictures alive. For instance, at the moment, it seems that it’s unfashionable to like director Peter Bogdanovich, but there are a few critics out there who treasure his work and keep his movies alive and him and his motion pictures drifting into obscurity.

From reading film guides like Halliwell’s, I became aware of directors like Billy Wilder and Joseph L. Mankiewicz for the first time. Through books like this and others like the Time Out Movie Guide I learnt most of what I know about films today.

Of course, critics can be unfair and dismiss good pictures like many Spaghetti Westerns or look down there nose at Stanley Kramer movies, but I think when they put their skills to good use, they can be of enormous help.


(Stanton) #2

Hey, what’s wrong with shitting on Stanley Kramer movies? :wink:


(John Welles) #3

I haven’t seen many films of him, but I’m sure in say 10 years time, they will be much better thought of.


(Phil H) #4

If they are despised around here (and I don’t think they actually are to be honest) it would only be because we are all critics ourselves and prefer it when others agree with us. ;D

In all seriousness though, critics are just people who get paid to share their opinions and it is natural then that each individual will agree or disagree based on their own position. I personally thoroughly enjoy some critic’s work and, like you, have learned some interesting stuff from them. But sometimes they do get stuck in their own inflexible view of what is ‘worthy’ and what is not. They then paint themselves into a corner when being overly critical of something and find it impossible to extract themselves from their position without losing face. Something your average critic doesn’t tend to like too much.

On the whole though I don’t mind a critic with opposing views to mine just so long as he (or she) is entertaining. Anthony Lane and Mark Kermode both fit that bill quite well for me.


(Stanton) #5

I hope not. We need a few constants in our live.

Kramer’s films are generally to talky and overblown in their “seriousness”, and they are too much “message” films . But at least The Oklahoma Crude was different. Good western.


(ENNIOO) #6

Film critics used to annoy me when I was younger, but mellowed in my old age so do not mind them these days as much.


(El Topo) #7

Most of the time they are frustrated directors, although some directors started as film critics (Truffaud, Rohmer ), when I was younger critics were of importance to me, I would not decide the movies I would see (most of the time were my girlfriends who did that for me ;D ), but I would like to see some films just to compare my view wwith the ones from the critics. A few times cause I could not understand them, remember being somehow upset cause I didn’t like a movie and the majority of critics were all drooling about it, or some other times the other way around.
With time I learn to distinguish the critics, and now I know if some particular critic does not like the movie most probably I will like it or vice-versa.
The main complain I have with some of the Portuguese fiml critics, it’s a few of them write their critics in such a hermetic language, that sometimes no one can understand if they liked the film or not (only by the classification, we can have some clue), this is even worst with music critics.
But I think critics are important of course, and some films are easy to be judged in critics terms, the most difficult to analyse are alwayas those that divide the critics, but at least in Portuggal I never knew a film that was of liking, consensus to all the critics, there was always one bad or at least not so good as they critic


(Bad Lieutenant) #8

Anybody can be a critic. It doesn’t mean shit. They are not important whatsoever. I’m a critic myself and I know this. The most pathetic critics are the ones who think that their opinion matters more than that of the average Joe. Furthermore, bitching and moaning about a film is much easier and way less effort than making even the shittiest of films. In that regard I have more respect for Gianni Crea than for any film critic.


(El Topo) #9

Yeah true, the average joe does not care about the critics, fuck they don’t even read the newspapers (only the sport ones), so they don’t choose the movies they will see, by reading the critics, and in this internet times I think IMDB it’s where the most important and influential critics are being made, not counting the several cinema blogs etc.
So what are critics for in this days, well maybe to the intelectual elite, or to average joes like me that like cinema and discuss about it (even bought the cahiers du cinema for some time), or for directors to say they hate the critics.
I remember once advicing an old navy friend who of course liked war movies, to see The Thin red line, that it was a great film, he hate it, he said too long, couldn’t understand the story, boring, no decent action. The guy was giving a fuck to who was Terrence Malick, or what was his message in the films, so in the end I have to admit that I understand why he didn’t like the film, and reading the critics was not changing his mind about it


(Phil H) #10

Bogdanovich was another case of a director who started out as a critic of course. There have been a surprisingly large number of these and probably backs up El Topo’s statement that most critics are just frustrated directors at heart. They often make a decent fist of it though when they get the chance. Perhaps because they tend to have a strong understanding and love of the medium. For the record, I am one who is still a fan of Bogdanovich’s films. The Last Picture Show and Paper Moon being my favourites.


(Starblack) #11

Certain critics have, of course, done much to further the cause and/or understanding of SWs: Andrew Sarris and Raymond Durgnat being famous examples, and, in Italy, Dario Argento, before he turned director (though I have no idea how influential or respected his criticisms were at the time).

I like it when a critics’s opinion concurs with my own (as others have said, it used to matter more when I was younger, and I didn’t know my own mind), but at the end of the day it’s only an opinion. And we all know the analogy between opinions and assholes…


(John Welles) #12

Of course, some critics can be very, very pretentious and can dismiss certain movies (mainly American) like Westerns and Musicals on the grounds that it isn’t “Art”. I’ve seen less than ten films that I think could qualify to be Art and I think sometimes critics forget that motion pictures should be entertaining as well as thought-provoking. I have a lot of books on film and I can see two types of “film criticism”. The first is the oldest, where B-moves were ignored and most of their concentration was on directors like Bergman, Antonioni, Dreyer, Chaplin, etc, etc. The second, which was no doubt inspired by people like Godard, Rohmer and Truffaud, was to idolise directors who worked within the studio system, like Hitchcock, Hawks and Ford. Younger American critics picked up on this and in turn wrote books glorifying these filmmakers. Now these “young” critics are middle-aged and you sort of have a balance between the two.


(davidf) #13

I agree with most of what BL said. everyone’s a critic but in the end i take note of one critic, me. the times all the critics have said " this film is brilliant" give them 5 stars and say " this is a classic" i see it, and think " that was average" or worse, sometimes i agree but not that much. And vice versa the critics say " this film is rubbish" " Don’t waste your time". i see it and think it’s good. i’m a long way from perfect but i know what i like. critics to me are like sheep, some i’m sure don’t even watch the film. one writes a "film classic " review the others follow suit, and in the same way one writes a scathing review for a film and others follow.it’s opinons nothing more and everyone’s entitled to them, but i stick with mine.


(Col. Douglas Mortimer) #14

I’ve always considered the opinions of “the audience” more important than the opinions of critics. When GBU came out critics didn’t like it but the audiences did. In the end it turned out that the audiences were right.

In that way I actually consider imdb ratings (yes I know they are flawed) to be a better method of film evaluation than critics opinions because it gives a better impression of the “general opinion”.

Having said that however, I still value critics reviews because they can be entertaining, informative, or thought provoking and well written, even if you don’t exactly agree with the assessment. Just bear in mind that it is just ONE PERSON’s opinion and should never be taken as the be all end all of whether a film is good or not.


(John Welles) #15

[quote=“Col. Douglas Mortimer, post:14, topic:2319”]In that way I actually consider imdb ratings (yes I know they are flawed) to be a better method of film evaluation than critics opinions because it gives a better impression of the “general opinion”.

Having said that however, I still value critics reviews because they can be entertaining, informative, or thought provoking and well written, even if you don’t exactly agree with the assessment. Just bear in mind that it is just ONE PERSON’s opinion and should never be taken as the be all end all of whether a film is good or not.[/quote]
IMDb ratings for recent films (this doesn’t apply for movies like The Good, the Bad and the Ugly) like The Dark Knight get extreamly high ratings by the a group of fanboys so it gets a higher rating than what it deserves and thus devalues the system.

I agree with what you have to say about critics: it’s only one person’s opinion on a film, and no opinion about a movie is WRONG.


(Novecento) #16

Sad, but seemingly so so true :frowning:


(Novecento) #17

I don’t think I have ever seen a Bogdanovich film - I wonder if he gets to write his own reviews ;D

Having said that, I do know that he had a bit of a disagreement with a certain Mr Leone: Two Beeg Green Eyeshttp://books.google.com/books?id=yeYCAAAAMBAJ&printsec=frontcover#PPA78,M1


(scherpschutter) #18

I never thought of myself as a film critic, more as a person who writes about movies from his own perspective. As such, I have never followed any trends or hypes (most film critics do), and have always thought that information is as important as evaluation. And both are essential to a good article on cinema.


(John Welles) #19

But didn’t he produce the classic Marlon Brando film The Wild One and direct It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World?


(Stanton) #20

He produced also High Noon, and a lot more films.

It’s a Mad x4 World is of course also different. I liked it as a child, but later I thought it was also overblown and much too long. And it wasn’t funny anymore. It only tried to be funny. But I haven’t seen it for a long, long time. Maybe I would see it now again different.

Kramer wasn’t a visual director. Here’s quote from a critic, which seems to describe his films very good imo:

“The films he directed are sluggish dinosaurs stuffed with wishy-washy liberal sentiments, tackling huge themes with impotent means. His heart is in the right place, but his camera isn’t.”

And this guy thinks that the big themes in his films like religion, greed, racism, nazism and others “are all sunk by Kramer’s big guns”.

And QT insulted Oliver Stone by calling Natural Born Killers a Stanley Kramer like film, only much better directed.

Well, at least Kramer does inspire the people who don’t like his films.