Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Necessity (and Discernment) of Criticism

I used to think movie critics were just snobs, that they didn't really care about movies, and more specifically those that people loved. When I watched or listened to reviews by Roger Ebert and Richard Roeper in high school, I would either hope their views or opinions on certain movies would go along with my own, or I would boo either critic (or bother) that snubbed a film they hated and I liked, or I would applaud either critic (or both) for a film they (and myself) thought was equally great.

In retrospect (and to paraphrase writer Jeffrey Overstreet), I have come to understand that film critics (and critics in general) actually serve many purposes and levels of significance in our culture and in our world. And although we may not always agree with critics for different or specific reasons, it’s interesting to hear their perspectives and opinions. It is also a good way to practice defending our own views, discerning which views to follow or support, and so forth.

It also recalls the difference between what is “popular” and what is considered, quite appropriately and honestly, “good”. Look at the box office, for instance. What kinds of films make the top of these lists? What does that tell you? Does said list make these films worth seeing?

What about films that are good for many, many appropriate reasons? Look at Pixar, for example. In the last fifteen to twenty years, perhaps no other studio has achieved the kind of success and has maintained and progressed on a legacy that began with the Disney Studio (from with many of the original Pixar animators started out). Looking back at their 80s animated shorts (Luxo Jr., 1986; Tin Toy, 1988), their first feature film (Toy Story, 1995), and more specifically their last four films (2007’s Ratatouille to last year’s record-breaking Toy Story 3), Pixar has sustained a rare quality that has garnered universal appeal and praise from both audiences and critics with great characters and stories that always managed to give them their money’s worth.

Overall, don’t believe everything you hear from critics. On the other hand, you can still learn from them, as well as practice defending or supporting your own views. And remember to be wise and discerning when it comes to such.

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