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Film Metacriticism

The problem with most film reviews is that we never see a response. A critic might legitimately love (or hate) a film without the reader having the chance to see alternate reviews. Richard Corliss is my god, and he is never wrong, but truthfully, I’d like to see people who do disagree violently with his witty assessments of film.

That’s why I enjoyed Filmbrain’s mocking a BBC film review of a disaster film:

First off, his buzz and enthusiasm is based on having seen “23 minutes of FX and music-free footage” (which is probably all that’s left after the special effects). He talks about how the film is “down to earth and immediate” and that there are moments that “could almost be documentary.” (But of what? The last NYC ice age?) After that bit of smooching, King dives in for the full rim job…Nobody loves a bit of America bashing more than he (i.e., filmbrain), but this is ludicrous. Fine, King has caught us out — Americans are intolerant of radioactive lizards. Shame on us. Good work Roland! Yours is certainly the greatest socio-political film voice since Godard!

Ok, admittedly filmbrain is just having fun with the review, and we’ll stipulate the point that thumbs up and thumbs down is a crude way to evaluate films (see why). But we need rebuttals about why films work or don’t work from very passionate people. Quite frankly, an individual can find a film or book boring, but another person can provide a way to find value/pleasure from it in a way the individual might not have expected. Take for example some films I feel have been misunderstood/misrepresented. Last Action Hero, Connie and Carla, Mission to Mars, Zardoz, Before Sunrise, Battlefield Earth. About the last film, this L. Ron Hubbard sci fi vehicle was unexpectedly delightful, if only for its campiness. Connie and Carla was ravaged by the critics (see my post comparing it to Kill Bill 2 ), but actually in the audience I sat in, we were laughing ourselves into a tizzy. More often that not, film reviews can be divided into the Big Hollwood vs. all the other films, and critics apply a different standard for the Big Hollywood films (a lower standard, or one more sympathetic towards Hollywood’s box office obsessions). After all, Corliss and Ebert and Maslin are under great pressure to cover popular films and not dismiss them too glibly. It’s not that these mainstream critics are wrong; it’s that their opinions (and perspectives) are a bit too uniform. Have you ever read reviews of someone who just loves Slasher films (for example)? Their way of talking about a film is going to be substantially different from someone who can barely tolerate the genre (like me, for example).

Weblogs/IMDB and newsgroups are a way to juxtapose the mainstream critic with the crazed fan. And that really is a good thing.

{ 2 comments… add one }
  • Filmbrain 6/4/2004, 6:43 pm

    First off, thanks for the link to my post.

    I wholeheartedly agree with what you say here. There was a time when professional critics actually knew something about the medium they reviewed. That is sadly not the case anymore with many critics, especially film critics. I find more honest criticism in film blogs than I do many newspapers and magazines. As bloggers, we’re obviously not answering to any editor, nor do we have to conform to any ‘policy’. Obviously the piece you linked to from my site was just a bit of silliness — I found the BBC piece so unlike them, it really seemed like a paid bit of advertising.

    I agree with you about “Mission to Mars” and “Zardoz” — both misunderstood.

    Glad to have found your site — looking forward to reading more.

  • drew 6/4/2004, 7:34 pm

    And we bloggers are so much more accessible! I call Ebert all hours of the night and for some reason, he never returns my phone calls…

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