MFR's State of The Art: A Critique on Critics

– by LRM

It's been a while since I've posted an editorial, but I have some time today while the movers excavate my apartment and take all my stuff to the new place, so I figured I'd expand on my twitter rant from Friday.

Critics suck.

Yes, I realize that's a strange thing for me to say, considering I'm one of the resident critics for Latino-Review, but lately I've just had a hard time dealing with my peers. See, just the other day I was looking at the reviews for The Interview, and so many of the negative comments I saw from my fellow critics seemed to miss the mark in a very fundamental way.

Listen, each movie needs to be treated as if it is its own thing; As if it exists on an island by myself.

When you review a movie, you need to do so based on its own merits. You have to ask yourself, "Did it succeed at what it was trying to do?"

Let's take The Interview:

What was this movie supposed to be? How do we deduce this? Let's take a look at the trailers:

What do we get from this and other promotional materials? The clear message is that this will be a buddy comedy, capitalizing on Franco and Rogen's chemistry, pitting them in an absurd situation, and letting Rogen's schlub try to rein in Franco's buffoon. The humor is lewd, sophomoric, and in keeping with the sort of tone we've grown accustomed to from their previous work like Pineapple Express and This Is The End.

Where is this movie coming from?

"FROM THE GUYS WHO BROUGHT YOU THIS IS THE END and NEIGHBORS"

That's how this thing was sold. It's supposed to be the latest in a line of dumb "bro" comedies.

Yet I looked at the reviews and I saw comments that rip the film for the following:

  • It wasn't "dangerous" enough
  • It wasn't satirical enough
  • It wasn't worth all the uproar
  • It was "toothless"

And yet, the film was never meant to be any of those things. It didn't sell itself as the next Dr. Strangelove. It wasn't trying to be Chaplin's The Great Dictator. It never pretended to be the new Team America. And- here's the biggie- it's not the film's fault that North Korea couldn't take a joke from a couple of over-gown stoner frat boys.

So these folks went in there, bringing with them all of these outside factors and unrealistic expectations, to critique a film for everything that it was never meant to be.

This just struck me as the latest, most glaring example of how many of the folks who do what I do don't get how to do it. Not all of them, mind you. There are a great many critics who I respect a ton. I just have no patience for the folks that would rather critique the film they were expecting to see, rather than the actual film.

Personally, I'd give The Interview a B-. In short, I thought it could've been funnier. It didn't take full advantage of its premise, and it felt too long.

Now, despite my feelings about some critics, this isn't to say that I discount the overall consensus and ignore what's said. Over the years, I've refined a careful strategy for dealing with a film's scores when determining whether or not to go see it.

  1. Check an aggregate site like Rotten Tomatoes
  2. A score of 80% and up means I should see the film, assuming I was interested in it anyway, and make it a priority
  3. A score below 40% means pass on it
  4. A score between 40% - 60% means it's essentially a crap shoot. Nearly half the critics liked it, nearly half didn't, so it'll really come down to your own personal take on the material, and your expectations. In other words: PROCEED AT YOUR OWN RISK
  5. Between 60% and 80% means this thing may be okay, so consider checking it out if you've got nothing better to do

I've used those 5 parameters for years, and I must say: It's hardly ever steered me wrong. I find it's better than taking any one critic's word as gospel, since reviews are really so subjective. Aggregate scores have a way of filtering out the distractions and really getting at what kinds of expectations you should have going into the theater.

Give it a try. Let me know if the system works for you.

But that's enough out of me. Hope you're all having a great holiday season, and I'll be back later this week with a wrap-up of the Top Films of 2014.

~ MFR


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