Everyone’s A Critic

22 Sep

A few months ago the movie website Rotten Tomatoes had to shut down the comments section of the page for The Dark Knight Rises (Christopher Nolan, 2012) because of the torrent of angry film lovers who disagreed with critics’ opinions of the film. For those of you unfamiliar with the site, Rotten Tomatoes, unlike say IMDB, is formally concerned with critical reviews of films and each film gets a rating based on the percentage of positive reviews it receives. It goes almost without saying that TDKR was an eagerly anticipated film and some fans didn’t take kindly to certain reviewers not feeling the same way as they did.

To pick this apart we first need to recognise that, like with most things, there are different types of critics and different types of reviews. Academic critics, for instance, are writing for journals or other educational publications and investigating the meaning behind the film often in relation to a historical, sociological or stylistic context.  A professional critic may be writing for a magazine or newspaper and is usually concerned with whether the film is any ‘good’ or not (there is not enough space here to go into what makes a ‘good’ film or even what ‘good’ even means) and whether it is worth seeing. Then you have enthusiastic amateurs (I count myself as one of these) writing for a blog or similar platform, well informed, maybe even a student of film, but probably not paid, simply using the review to give their opinion on a film. Then there is everyone else.

The overwhelming response to this is “but everyone is entitled to their own opinion” and of course this is what the making and consuming of art rests on, that what is good is ultimately subjective and there is something for everyone.

So where do we draw the line in validating the opinions of people who right about such subjective material? To a certain extent these people are working with fairly deep background knowledge of the medium but there are plenty of examples of films that were originally critically panned but later became undisputed classics. That’s not even taking into account panned films that smashed box office records.  Either way there is no easy answer, everyone likes to be an expert or at least feel as if their opinion carries weight but when it comes to art people will be disagreeing for as long as people are making art.

About the writer: Sarah is a filmmaker and writer with an obsession for luscious visuals and a distain for tomatoes (they are a sneaky and untrustworthy foodstuff). If she’s not blogging, she’ll be watching films or running around with her video camera.

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