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Critique of Critics

Maister

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I have a lot of ambivalence concerning professional critics. They can serve a useful purpose; some I trust implicitly, some I have little regard for, and others I feel perform a disservice to society on the whole. I'm thinking principally about entertainment critics at the moment, but what I say goes for probably any critic.

Harry Potter premiered at midnight last night in lots of theaters across the country. Yeah, I've read the whole series so far and loved them for what they were. Yeah, I've also enjoyed all the movies to date as well. I've looked at a few reviews and looks like they've all been in agreement that Prisoner of Azkaban is at least as good as the other releases. No big surprises there, but reading the reviews brought to my attention some of the big differences one finds depending on where one is reading these reviews from - doesn't matter if its Harry Potter or any other movie, play, restaurant, or book being reviewed.

I like to classify critics into different categories:
1. 'Mr/Ms. Demographic Median' - graduated from Second Tier State U. with a B.A. in communications two years ago. This is the second job since graduation and now writes for 'Pop' Magazine. Safe bet that the great majority of reviews will a)coincide closely with conclusions reached in other mainstream 'Pop' Magazines and b) their collected reviews taken as a whole could be a case study in probabilty and statistics. I'm sure that under scrutiny we would find that the reviews would form a perfect bell curve and if rating on a scale of 1 to 10 the median, the mean and the average would all register at 5.5. The thought of writing what one actually thought of a movie would never occur to Mr./Ms Demographic, after all the review has to pass by the Editor and he signs your paycheck, you know.
2. "Mr./Ms. Toosmarttobetalkingtoyou". Yep s/he's smart and terminally hip, but in an oh so cleverly sardonic way. Takes special delight in writing blistering reviews seemingly competing with him/herself in finding novel ways to say 'it sucked and it was beneath me'. Loves the sound of their own words. Would sooner be accused of pedophilia than be seen enjoying a summer blockbuster movie.
3. "Mr./Ms. Description". Seems to have an aversion to committing to an actual opinion of a movie, but instead provides extremely complete transcripts of what transpires in the plot and who all the characters are. Oftentimes writes for publications that do not offer reviews on a regular basis.
4. "Mr./Ms. Experience" This person has written reviews for decades and has seen it all. Many times over. And over. Sigh. Has seen the same things over and over so many times that this individual experiences orgasm whenever something actually different comes along. Good/bad what difference does it really make? It's differen't. Wouldn't mind watching Mumenshanz perform their interpretation of 'Titanic' using toilet paper rolls for two hours just as long as it's DIFFERENT OR ORIGINAL. Is pathologically driven to the extreme fringes of the aesthetically bizarre for this reason.

Don't get me wrong, there are good critics out there, but tell me its not just me that sees so many critics falling into predictable patterns and because of it their usefulness as a critic is somewhat diminished.
 

Gedunker

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The ones that miff me are the ones that are mouthpieces for their corporate masters and wouldn't dare dream of saying anything that would hurt the bottom line, their 401(k), and their bennies/vacation package.
 

Big Easy King

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I really don't pay attention to what critics have to say. If the book or movie trailer is interesting to me, I'll check the movie out. The best critic for my interests is...me. ;-)
 

Duke Of Dystopia

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I wouldn't go to see this Potter movie if I were you. I have it on good critical advice from the evengelical reviewers that this will make you turn to witchcraft and sourcery, the price will be your imortal soul. Which by your own admission, is in doubt for having read the books.

8-!
 

Maister

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Big Easy King said:
I really don't pay attention to what critics have to say. If the book or movie trailer is interesting to me, I'll check the movie out. The best critic for my interests is...me. ;-)
Now there's a healthy attitude! Kudos to you! But still - when you go to the video store and you look at both the front and back cover to kind of get an idea what a movie might be like don't you ever find yourself sometimes forming impressions of what a movie might be like based on maybe nothing more than the picture and the single sentence snippet quoted from some critic?
For example lets say the movie is titled: "Dude, Where's My Bong III" and has the quote "a laff riot" writes Joe Schlobotnik of the Kenosha Tribune.

Is there a chance you might conclude that the movie might suck?
 

Repo Man

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I agree with your list of critic types. The same can be said for music critics. I read tons of music reviews and you can start to see similar patterns.

There is the "too hip for you" review where the critic name-drops all kinds of obscure names and side-projects as if you are supposed to know all of this before even considering listening to the new CD.

The "their old stuff is better" critic who always compares the new album to that artitsts pervious efforts or previous bands. The new release never measures up.

The "I am sick of the hype for this band so I will rip them to shreds even if I do enjoy their cd" critic. This is pretty self-explanatory. This reviewer will will take something like Radiohead and criticize every note just because they don't want to hype the band any more.

The "I hate the fans of this band, so I will rip them critic. The review will contain 9 paragraphs ragging on fans of the band (and similar artists) and 1 paragraph actually talking about the album.

The "I love everyting because its free" reviewer. This person gets promo cds and is fearful of losing the free stream of CDs so they write great reviews of everything.

Might I recommend a great site for critique of movies, music, dvds, and video games: www.metacritic.com. It compiles a ton of reviews and then creates a score between 1-100. It is a great way to sort through the bs.
 

Dan

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I'm reminded of restaurant reviews in the alternative weekly Westword from when I lived in Denver. About three-quartes of the review would delve into excruiating detail about the owner and all of his or her previous ventures, the cook and all the places he's worked, and the other restaurants that used to occupy the site, in a tone suggesting that you should have known this already. "Regulars at Sacre!, where Chef D'Arcy, a native of Marsielles, worked for three years, have been eagerly awaiting his debut as head chef at L'Merde." Everybody is an insider but you, and you're only getting to know what morsels they'll tell you ... at least that's how I read them.

Maybe one quarter of the review would discuss the food itself.
 
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Maister, you hit the nail right on the head with those critic descriptions. Ditto to Repo Man.

I have to admit that back in the day I trusted the opinions of Siskel and Ebert. They never proved me wrong and they loved to disagree with one another. No one else has been able to capture the chemistry they had "At The Movies."
 

Big Easy King

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Maister said:
Now there's a healthy attitude! Kudos to you! But still - when you go to the video store and you look at both the front and back cover to kind of get an idea what a movie might be like don't you ever find yourself sometimes forming impressions of what a movie might be like based on maybe nothing more than the picture and the single sentence snippet quoted from some critic?
For example lets say the movie is titled: "Dude, Where's My Bong III" and has the quote "a laff riot" writes Joe Schlobotnik of the Kenosha Tribune.

Is there a chance you might conclude that the movie might suck?
I admit that I do base my selections, in part, "on maybe nothing more than the picture and the single sentence snippet quoted from some critic" and conclude that a movie might suck based on that. I'm not 100% critic-free, but I try my best not to let critics influence me on what's entertaining or not. They're certainly as biased as we are.

BTW, you're right on point with your critic descriptions, as well as Repo Man. :-D
 

Seabishop

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Repo Man said:
I agree with your list of critic types. The same can be said for music critics. I read tons of music reviews and you can start to see similar patterns...
There's also the psychological analyst who goes on for 5,000 words about the inner-psyche of the lyricist, still leaving you wondering what the album sounds like. Then you buy the album and you can't hear the lyrics anyway.

I do check up on what critics have to say though, especially for movies, because I don't want to sit through a crap movie for 2 hours.
 

Maister

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Duke Of Dystopia said:
... that this will make you turn to witchcraft and sourcery, the price will be your imortal soul. Which by your own admission, is in doubt for having read the books.

8-!
'Which by your own admission'....don't you mean 'Witch, by your own admission...'

Dan said:
I'm reminded of restaurant reviews in the alternative weekly Westword from when I lived in Denver. About three-quartes of the review would delve into excruiating detail about the owner and all of his or her previous ventures, the cook and all the places he's worked, and the other restaurants that used to occupy the site, in a tone suggesting that you should have known this already. "Regulars at Sacre!, where Chef D'Arcy, a native of Marsielles, worked for three years, have been eagerly awaiting his debut as head chef at L'Merde." Everybody is an insider but you, and you're only getting to know what morsels they'll tell you ... at least that's how I read them.

Maybe one quarter of the review would discuss the food itself.
Don't even get me started on restaurant reviews. My home town rag regularly features advertisements, I mean, reviews of local restaurants. They never actually say anything, you know, derogatory about a local restaurant. They're just trying to make it in the world, after all. If you said something bad, well, people might not go eat there............that's in a community of 70,000. When you get into bigger cities you start to run into the restaurant reviews you're talking about - those bombastic, self-important, stilted, insider acounts where they either gush about a particular wine selection ("the Maison Merde ala Shingle 1988 burgundy was fruity yet not obtrusive, having an altogether piquant ensemblature, culminating in an impartial nose....") or rip on the decor using their very own special nonsense language. ('it would be a phenomenon if not for the simple jejeune-ness of the environment which the lobby exudes. The table settings themselves were lacking a certain ontological salience overburdened only by the verbosity of the napkin designs'). Yeah, restaurant reviewers make other critics look like amateurs in the snobbery department.
 
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otterpop

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Our local movie reviewer a few weeks back did a review of "The Alamo." One of the comments he made lamented what he saw as a stereotypical depiction of Santa Anna, as he put it, as "Hitler on a horse." He wrote that he regretted the stereotypic depiction of Santa Anna as a sadistic beast and asked why not humanize Santa Anna as well?

I had to respond in a letter to the editor to point out that Santa Anna was indeed "Hitler on a horse." That it was his practice to execute his prisoners - at the Alamo, at Goliad and afterwards. In fact, Santa Anna's men marched a group of prisoners to Mexico City and kept a tally of the dead by cutting off the ears of the dead and stringing them on a rawhide thong. And on another ocassion, he punished those prisoners who tried to escape by executing one of every ten men. I asked how exactly did he think the filmmakers should have "humanized" him?"

The fellow is a film school graduate who teaches at the local college. Often he and his daughter review the movie together. She is a lot less pretentious.

When I was the feature editor of The Student Printz (USM's school paper). I did movie reviews. I enjoyed it. I kept it pretty simple. Basically my take on the movie review was whether it was worth the price of admission. This was before the video store. So I might say the movie wasn't worth the money, was worth full price or was worth matinee price.

I reviewed "Life of Brian," which was the only movie review I can recall I got flak on (from the Bible thumpers). The movie never made it to Hattiesburg. I had to see it in New Orleans. The distributing company sent me a press packet that had pictures and interviews. It was so cool. I still have the stills and some of the interviews.
 

boiker

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I love the critic quotes that tv movie ads have.

Jeff Smith of the Centerville Times gave it "7 thumbs up!"
Bill McSmith said: "I laughed till I stopped!"

or you get the paraphrased critique... ".....exciting....."
Could the critic have said: "There is absolutely nothing exciting about this drivel."
 

Duke Of Dystopia

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Maister said:
'Which by your own admission'....don't you mean 'Witch, by your own admission...'
YEAH! :-D

Just having fun with that I hope you know.

I read all the reviews that pretty much should have trashed the "Day After Tommorow". I went to see the movie and I liked it very much. All one had to do was account for the need for a much time compressed series of disasters.

The Iceberg they mentioned in the movie the size of road island? Happened a few years back.

Numerous tornadoes in LA? A fun poke at hollywood, but we get multiple twisters touching down all the time in the midwest, what would we get with a 10 to 15% increase in storm power or frequency. last weekend saw 80 tornadoes touching down in the midwest?

I have no knowledge of predicted freeze dry storms, but I wonder if they have been theorized.

My point is the same as others. Use the movies for what they were intended for, your own amusement and gratification. :-D
 

boiker

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Duke Of Dystopia said:
YEAH! :-D

Just having fun with that I hope you know.

I read all the reviews that pretty much should have trashed the "Day After Tommorow". I went to see the movie and I liked it very much. All one had to do was account for the need for a much time compressed series of disasters.

The Iceberg they mentioned in the movie the size of road island? Happened a few years back.

Numerous tornadoes in LA? A fun poke at hollywood, but we get multiple twisters touching down all the time in the midwest, what would we get with a 10 to 15% increase in storm power or frequency. last weekend saw 80 tornadoes touching down in the midwest?

I have no knowledge of predicted freeze dry storms, but I wonder if they have been theorized.

My point is the same as others. Use the movies for what they were intended for, your own amusement and gratification. :-D
But lets remember...all catastrophe movies are not equal. I never could stand and still can't stand Armageddon. Awful movie. Bad Bad Bad! Deep Impact, the long lost twin of Armageddon. was slightly better with the rating of "1 Bad"
 

Duke Of Dystopia

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boiker said:
But lets remember...all catastrophe movies are not equal. I never could stand and still can't stand Armageddon. Awful movie. Bad Bad Bad! Deep Impact, the long lost twin of Armageddon. was slightly better with the rating of "1 Bad"
I agree completly. Usually they annoy me also, but "Day After Tomorow" didn't for some reason.

I also like the crapy horror movies that really suck, they are the best comedy! :-D

Tv and movies are strictly for the prurient interests of :

SEX, VIOLENCE, LANGUAGE, AND NUDITY! :-D

go buffy! go buffy! go buffy! go buffy! go buffy! go buffy! go buffy! go buffy! go buffy!

Intelligent entertainment should be left to good books, beer, music, discussion, and advanced learning. :-}
 

Dan

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Maister said:
The table settings themselves were lacking a certain ontological salience overburdened only by the verbosity of the napkin designs'). Yeah, restaurant reviewers make other critics look like amateurs in the snobbery department.
I declare this to be the Post of the Week. It truly captured the essence of a real Westword restaurant review.

Anything is better than the restaurant reviews in the Buffalo News, whose reviewer just can't seem to get enough comfort food off meat-and-three-based menus at exurban turn-of-the-last-century stage hotel taverns. "I revisited the Roycroft Inn/Eagle House/Glen Iris Inn for the sixth time this year, and ... "
 

Zoning Goddess

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Who needs critics? I just go to any movie that my 11-year old decides to drag me to. I have actually sat through every single one of the Pokemon movies in the theater.

I do read the re-reviews when movies are coming out on DVD. I am actually permitted to watch movies of my choosing at home, after the young 'uns bedtime, of course. ;-)
 

BiteMeElmo

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boiker said:
I love the critic quotes that tv movie ads have.

Jeff Smith of the Centerville Times gave it "7 thumbs up!"
Bill McSmith said: "I laughed till I stopped!"

or you get the paraphrased critique... ".....exciting....."
Could the critic have said: "There is absolutely nothing exciting about this drivel."

Exactly! They can use bad reviews, cut the right words out and make good ones.

"I loved...this...movie" could be clipped from "Although most theater popcorn is soft and stale, I loved the serving I got at this particular movie"
 

SkeLeton

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Critics can be usefull sometimes, yet other times they're completly useless and extremely biased, for example one movie critic here gave Dogville 1 out of 5 stars mainly because he difered about the POLITICAL ideas of the director and the ideas shown in the movie. Of course, that had to put another review of that movie (as usual with Lars Von Trier) and another critic gave it 4 stars (I personally give it 5)

Of course, you need a review and not just X amount of stars so you can judge the quality of the critic and the likeliness of you having the same tastes as the critic.
 
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