Monday, December 6, 2010

There's critics and then...

Ever since the internet became the "great equalizer", making the average person as powerful as the select few, I am still out on whether or not it is a good thing. Does a guy in Butte Montana offer a professional film critique as good as a film reviewer from the industry trades, Variety and Hollywood Reporter?

There are now hundreds, maybe thousands of amateur reviewers who offer their opinions of the latest feature films, TV and DVD films and for the most part they really don't know how to review a movie because they don't know how a movie is made and whether it works or not.

Does it matter?

It matters to me. I had a handful of amateur reviews on Town that Christmas Forgot, and it was half and half. Some liked it and some didn't. But they weren't really objective in anyway, rather it was simplistic.

"I thought it was boring and the actors and director were horrible".
"It was a different kind of Christmas story and was refreshing to watch".

There you go, two opposite reviews of my film. Naturally I prefer the 2nd one, but ultimately both of them are simplistic, much more like two friends talking over a beer or burger. The first one is useless, just a mindless comment, the second one actually does hit on one interesting point; my movie was a little "different" from most Hallmark movies, this coming from two other reviews as well as the production company that made it.

Film critics, real ones, need to have a thorough education in movies, they need to know how films are made, why they are made and who made them. Directors and actors have patterns, as do writers and critics often take this into consideration.

Also they are knowledgable in the history of films, going back, yes, to the silent movies. The pros aren't always right, but they can write 1200 words in detail describing what elements of the movie are good and which aren't.

Does it really matter?

All that matters from the audience point of view is that they like it or hate it. If someone not in the business tells me they liked a movie, or didn't like it, I'll go with that. Very simple. But if they start telling me the editing was bad or the actors weren't very good, then we have a more difficult communication.

It's kind of like a Boeing 747 jet liner (and forgive me for this comparison), most people can tell you how an airplane flies, but only pilots and designers who how it actually flies. What I can do is to tell in detail why a movie works and sometimes doesn't work.

And even this is difficult, because I can be wrong in some ways also, but I can be amazingly objective, even on a film I didn't like. And I'll be right in describing the problems with the movie, I have learned something after 41 years in the business, not including my childhood when I realized that certain directors made better movies than others.

I have a friend who works in sales who sees herself as both a brilliant photographer and an expert in movie criticism. Truth is she is neither; digital cameras have made it easy for the average person to take pictures, but that's all they are.

And for her knowledge of films, it's limited to those entertainment TV shows and magazines. But she's constantly telling me soundbytes she's heard or read, which makes her even more of an expert.

There's an old saying about that and it goes like this: 

"Did you ever make a movie?"

"Well then f...k off." 

Okay, that's a little hardline. But sometimes you have to redeem your value. Incidentally that saying comes from a friend of mine when he was critical of a 40 yr film veteran.

What's amazing is that while people profess to know about movies, thanks to Entertainment Tonight, which in the 80's began giving week-end box office reports to the TV audience, they always insist that if I start talking about their work, I don't know anything about that.

I learned early on about opinions on the Internet and while I generally don't get involved in arguments, sometimes I do and realize that there's no real way to win an argument with anyone because it's not face to face.

I started way back in 1990, with Compuserve, the original IPS, even before AOL, and got hooked on forums. I saw how easily one could get drawn into arguments with people who really didn't even deserve a minute of my time.

Even the WGA Writers Action website, accessible only to WGA members gets into arguments, and these are all professionals. One such dispute went so far that one party was so devastated she was considering leaving the forum forever.

But like it or not, we are living in the world of people who know everything but as another saying goes;

The good news is that everyone can make a film.
The bad news is... that everyone can make a film.

And then there's also the legitimacy of a review. To that I offer the legendary Earl Dittman. Earl made a name for himself because he would call almost every new movie a great one. He'd say "Fast moving", "A fun ride", an "Instant Classic" and of course, "One of the best this year".

And of course, we started seeing his quotes on bad movies to which the studio was only too happy to include.  After a few years of this, his reviews became a joke in the industry.

And to that, I am preparing for the reading of Casualties of Love on Friday, we have a theater and actors and I'm looking forward to that. 

(Thurs: Final preparation for the reading)