I have recently made trolling CHUD.com a consistent chore in search of Devin Faraci’s latest rants. There have been plenty of late and they are all highly entertaining and well written, and most often I agree with what he is saying. A couple days ago he posted an editorial on a new feature at Rotten Tomatoes where users are now able to critique the critics, something he seems to be upset with and asks, “why not us then critique the critique of the critique?” While I think he is a little too concerned with the senseless comments that come out of the RT feature, I think he raises a more interesting question: Why do reviews piss people off?
This is something I never thought would bother me, but it has hit me this year thanks to four films: Superman Returns, Marie Antoinette, The Fountain and Apocalypto. Three of these for reasons that I disagreed with the reviews and with The Fountain it was just more of a fact that the reviews seemed to be neglecting what the film was trying to do, whether you bought into it or not. Calling a film pretentious does not give audiences any idea what they are in for.
Let’s begin by digging into the “disagreeing with reviews” portion, which pertains to Superman Returns, Marie Antoinette and Apocalypto. I thought Superman Returns was a bad film and that Apocalypto was one of the worst films of the year. Then I go on to read several glowing reviews for the films. In Apocalypto‘s case the reviews seemed to argue against everything I disliked. Jeff Shannon for the Seattle Times writes, “Gibson has delivered an impeccably crafted action-adventure that starts fast and never lets up.” I can’t disagree with this more. I thought Apocalypto was boring from beginning to end, but why does it make me so mad that Jeff disagrees?
In all honesty, I know it is in my nature to be pissed off at little things, but putting that aside it seems that lately I have made an attempt to try and get more involved in the critical community, not from a standpoint where I demand my opinion be heard, but simply from a perspective of trying to pay more attention to what others think. I hold no ill will toward Jeff, I just disagree with his opinion, but lately it seems opposing opinions have upset me more when they are so flattering and I am so against what they are praising. I guess it doesn’t help with Apocalypto considering the majority of the negative reviews can’t seem to get passed Mel Gibson’s personal antics and don’t seem to give any reasonable opinion of the film itself. I had no opinions to connect with; I didn’t like the movie, not because of Mel Gibson hating Jews, but because it was boring. In the case of Marie Antoinette it consistently seemed to me that people did not actually “get” the film. With Superman Returns it seemed people were on Bryan Singer’s jock just because X2 was so good.
Devin wonders why this bothers people. In my case I think it is having a critical mind and loving to argue my point, to me that is fun. However, he also points out cases of pure stupidity, such as one user referring to Village Voice veteran J Hoberman as an “amateur” and a “Terrible critic.” Obviously this person is not very well researched and just trying to stir the pot. This is a person not hoping to have his opinion respected as much as he is just looking for an online fight. I don’t have time for those people or their blog that is read by two people. They should be ignored and typically are. There are times, though, when critiquing the critic is justified.
Devin points out his love for Darren Aronofskyâ€™s The Fountain and his endless amount of articles talking about the film. In one of them he called out Leslie Felperin at Variety for writing a bad review. He was actually kind in this case as Felperin was not the only major critic to write a completely ignorant review of The Fountain, a movie I didn’t particularly connect with at first, but have engaged in several compelling conversations since seeing it. Even worse than Felperin’s review was Ray Bennett’s review at The Hollywood Reporter as he hardly explored the true nature of the film in any way, something that is inexcusable when writing for a major publication.
Devin offers up a good idea as to why anyone would get so upset at movie reviews by saying, “people hate ‘snobby’ film critics but also want to feel validated in their opinions.” Both reasons are valid and contradictory at the same time, which is why I think Devin is so baffled by the idea. Personally I do tend to have negative opinions toward high and mighty critics with the idea that they have to fill their reviews with flattering adjectives and adverbs placing the reader below them, be it intentional or unintentional, it is annoying.
If I had to really drill down to it I would say my frustration usually stems from conversations more than the actual reading of reviews. I get most frustrated when I give my opinion and I am told I am wrong, flat out wrong. In my discussions on movies this happens. I don’t mind a differing opinion; actually I invite it, but don’t tell me I am wrong, especially if you want me to listen to your opinion with any kind of open mind. The greatest thing about movies is that they bring out this passion. I love my job, it’s when I run into ignorance that I get upset.
I think Superman Returns was a bad movie, don’t tell me it isn’t and give me a bunch of words like “brilliant,” “terrific” or “awe inspiring.” Words like that tell me just as much about your opinion as does calling The Fountain pretentious. Oh, and if you are going to try calling me out on calling Apocalypto boring earlier without giving my opinion, you can get that right here.
In the meantime, if you aren’t browsing RopeofSilicon, be sure to check out more from Devin and the boys over at CHUD.com.