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PostPosted: Wed Dec 15, 2004 9:49 pm 

Joined: Thu Nov 04, 2004 3:27 am
Mr_sausage wrote:
Besides, how many of us have been baffled or put-off by a movie on first viewing--which is solely what a critic must go on--only to come to admire or outright love the film on repeat, often multiple viewings.

Then it's not really a criticism, is it? It's just a gut reaction. So-called film analysts like Roeper, using complete generalizations like "smug" and "irritating", then throwing "self-conscious" in there like it's a naturally negative element. He never even considered that the film was self-conscious to try and create new ways of reading characterization. These guys are not real critics, they are entertainers and people should really stop taking them so seriously. Even more so, people should stop worrying about whether or not they end up agreeing with them.

Their snap judgements are not honest, and never will be. They are paid to entertain their audiences with snappy/witty chats and rants, all the while working off their own personalities and preconcieved notions as popular pseudo-celebrities. Panning a film is always more likely, because it's fun to trash and put yourself above the work and takes less effort. I seriously believe that if you want an honest opinion of a film in this day and age, you have to find someone who has yet to make a living or get constant attention for criticizing films. They are not yet corrupted by the temptations to entertain.

I always look for submitted or posted reviews online, or stick to the opinions of friends. There is so much inconsistency out there from professional critics, especially Ebert, and these guys do not write true criticism. They are not out there for the altruistic goal of progressing film or benefitting the industry. The Entertainment Weekly review for The Life Aquatic starts off with the contributer admitting that he never really liked Anderson's films that much to begin with, then goes acting as if he never even made the statement.

I also believe, especially after seeing the general responses to Ocean's Twelve and The Life Aquatic, that most of them are mentally incapable of dealing with anti-transparent filmmaking in the mainstream without it already being trendy. The desire to believe everything they see onscreen in it's own world has been ingrained in their minds, and they can't be bothered with reflexitivity unless it's in a referentially transparent fashion (Tarantino) or in "rebellious indie" film that they can get behind and was made completely outside the studio system.

In both cases, the critics typically project some kind of perceived smugness or ego onto the characters/actors. Something is going on that is being alluded to, but they are unable to make the leap necessary to get to the next stage of thinking. So what else can they do but condemn it? It's not just hypocrisy, it's blind ignorance.


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PostPosted: Wed Dec 15, 2004 10:42 pm 
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whennothingwas wrote:
He's pretty cute, though. You've gotta admit that.

Yeah, he's a real dreamboat.

Drew is right, most critics truly are entertainers. Most of the flesh out the same old review for films. If a film is too odd or bizarre the film automatically becomes "self-conscious" (something many directors are sometimes called even in their greatest films).

Reviews are idiotic now, half the Entertainment Weekly review for this film is complaining about the title, what kind of bullshit is that? The reviewer complains that is sounds like a poor translation of a Taiwanese film or something (he's a bad comedian too). I don't care if the film is called Ghetto Booty #7, I want to movie review, not the title review.

Talking about critics reminds me of the episode of The Simpsons where Homer becomes a critic, and purposely gives bad reviews for entertainment.


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 16, 2004 3:00 am 
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We're seriously taking reviews from "Ebert & Roeper" and "Entertainment Weekly" as our universal examples of film criticism, and then dismissing the entire notion of present-day film criticism? Why not just start taking the Washington Generals to task for not being a good basketball team and then dismiss the entire sport based on the fact they constantly lose to the Globetrotters? (If we're bringing up Simpsons’ references, this also reminds me of an episode of the Simpsons involving Krusty). Yes, people should stop taking Ebert & Roeper, and Owen & Lisa so seriously, and worrying about their opinions, especially those people who already know these reviewers are not interested in analysis. Why worry so much about what their loyal readers perceive? Most of these people aren't really concerned with film scholarship and aren't really film enthusiasts.

I'm going to be clear here, since this often dissolves into "you're an idiot" type discussions - I find Ebert to be thoroughly bland and don't find very much insight in his writing, and I loathe Roeper as a reviewer since I'm convinced he has an IQ just a few points above navel lint. I also despise film criticism that relies on a recipe, checklist, or formula to generate a review, based solely on individual aspects of filmmaking - such as acting = good, directing = good, cinematography = good... overall = good. I detest film criticism that does not attempt to read a film as its own text, instead of its separate parts. I believe any good film criticism is based largely upon the ideas of film theory/analysis/history/scholarship. Those critics that use these ideas to guide their film criticism are quite often the best.

However, my belief is that though film criticism is related to film scholarship, theory, history, and analysis they are not uniform concepts and are distinctive from one another as well. As it exists today, at least in North America (and I'm not championing this or saying it's a good thing), film criticism is not required to provide its readers with analysis of a film based upon film theory, simply because the vast majority of the audience reading the reviews is not really interested in this aspect of film scholarship. What the majority of readers (which isn't really us) are looking for is a recommendation for what movie to spend their money on, or what is the initial reaction for a film they have been anticipating. In essence, at present, film criticism is a gut reaction by a reviewer, and this is what readers are quite often looking for. Film criticism has been about gut reactions for awhile now. Anybody remember that Kael championed that great cinematic classic known as Slapshot? Though she did sometimes perform some type of analysis in her reviews, many people praised Kael because she always stuck to her gut reactions.

The majority of Ebert's fans (from what I've seen) are those people who just enjoy movies as entertainment and don't really care for film theory. I'd say many of them (and not all) simple want to be "in-the-know" of what is a good film and what has good "buzz" so they can mention it to a friend of co-worker. Ebert understands this and knows his target audience. I would argue that Ebert is somewhat aware that he is making snap judgments of these films, but I would also argue that he is being honest to himself. Ebert is devoted to reviewing films and genuinely loves movies, even if his perspective seems misguided and uninformed at times (he's completely blind to filmmakers such as Kiarostami). However, I might not argue the same for Roeper, considering he does appear to enjoy his status as a "taste-maker" more than he actually enjoys films. Ebert may be inconsistent and hypocritical with his application of reasoning behind his criticism, but he is honest with himself.

And what exactly is true film criticism? Has film criticism ever been universally defined as a discipline? I think it’s rather a hodge-podge of ideas and has been for a very long time. Is film criticism really supposed to have a goal of progressing film or benefiting the industry? I would think most people today just want film critics to tell them what films they believe are worth their money. This might not work for us, as film enthusiasts who seek analysis and careful study, but are we really so arrogant as to believe film critics are only supposed to be writings movie reviews for us (maybe don't answer that, because I'm beginning to fear what the answer is)? As it stands today, film criticism is not attempting to educate the masses on how to recognize a good film, but merely to tell them what film is good. I guess I'm saying that we should understand the audience involved before universally dismissing film critics. Ebert and EW are not really writing their reviews with us in mind, and I doubt the majority of their readers are all that sophisticated when it comes to tastes in film (just surf the EW website for 10 minutes and you will realize this rather quickly). Maybe just find a reviewer that fits your tastes better. God knows there a great deal of them now that the internet is up-and-running. Even if you don't enjoy mainstream film critics such as Dargis, or Hoberman, or Rosenbaum, or Lim, there are so many others. Why not try the guys at Slant and notcoming? Instead of just condemning these practices, you can also try accepting them as a reality of the large, mainstream press with limited space for their writing.

The simple fact is that film criticism and film scholarship differ from one another at present (and I'm not saying this is correct or good), and I think we often assume, or demand, them to the same. Film analysis sometimes doesn't happen immediately, and sometimes takes years, through academic departments or as separate projects by film critics. Is it so important that we get the "correct" interpretation of a film immediately or in the end (and this doesn't even get into whether multiple interpretations are possible)? Also, why don't we ever consider that the critics have recognized what the filmmaker intended to do, but still just didn't like it, instead of just assuming them to be ignorant? The proof of ignorance occurs over time as well, not just immediately. To end off, I’ll restate that while film criticism is often interesting, it isn’t all that vital to our own interpretations, analysis, opinions, and views of a film.

If the mods feel the need to, you can stick this post in the "Manhola Dargis sucks ass" thread, since this is really dissolving into a seperate "Critics Suck" subject.


Last edited by Andre Jurieu on Thu Dec 16, 2004 12:00 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Thu Dec 16, 2004 5:20 am 

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Andre Jurieu wrote:
We're seriously taking reviews from "Ebert & Roeper" and "Entertainment Weekly" as our universal examples of film criticism, and then dismissing the entire notion of present-day film criticism?

Trust me when I say that I'm in agreement with everything you said. My concern is over what the general public *think* is film criticism and how we put too much stock in that kind.

Andre Jurieu wrote:
If the mods feel the need to, you can stick this post in the "Manhola Dargis sucks ass" thread, since this is really dissolving into a seperate "Critics Suck" subject.

Well, I would love to talk more about The Life Aquatic, but that's impossible until it actually gets released. Ho hum. :(


Last edited by DrewReiber on Thu Dec 16, 2004 5:56 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Thu Dec 16, 2004 5:38 am 

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What I meant about Ebert was the fact that there have been a lot of films that he has talked about that he didn't like the first time seeing and gave a bad view to, then went back and saw the film again and liked it more. Siskel was infamous sometimes for telling Ebert that he was so wrong about some of the films that he was giving back reviews to and needed to see them again. I remember reading about when they were on some talk show in the late 80's and Blue Velvet came up and Siskel told Ebert that he needed to see the film again because it was worth reviewing again to see if he had changed his mind about it and he said that he wouldn't because of what they had done to Isabella Rossellini in the film. Siskel then went on to say a good point about how sometimes you see a film that you didn't like at first or didn't give it a chance, then going back and rewatching it again you find the greatness in it. As for Ebert as a reviewer I agree with him about 75% of the time. Roper I think is just there to make Ebert look good and never really gets Ebert going like Siskel did. When Ebert will start with all his film knowhow Roper just pretty much sits there and agrees with everything he is saying which Siskel really never did that til latter when he started to get sick. To me Siskel was the one reviewer I've always been able to relate to. I think he truly loved film not only from a reviewers point of view but also that of a fan as well. He knew what made a good film and what made a film something that everyone was going to be able to enjoy. To me Ebert is more worried about how much he can show you he knows about film with his knowage than why a film is good or not. The other thing that I hate sometimes is that it seems that films that are so bad he gives a good view to so he can get some press since it's going to be a blockbuster *IE The Day After Tomorrow*
As for The Life Aquatic, I still can't wait to see it. I've really enjoyed every one of Anderson's films and he really has never let me down. His films seem to be like one person said on here love or hate films.
BTW Does anyone know what happened to Jeff Wells that used to write for Mr. Showbiz and Movie Poop Shoot. I wanted to read what he thought about The Life Aquatic since he loved Rushmore and listed it as the best film of 1998, but I can't seem to find anywhere on Movie Poop Shoot if he's writing for them anymore or not.


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 16, 2004 1:46 pm 
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Then it's not really a criticism, is it? It's just a gut reaction. So-called film analysts like Roeper, using complete generalizations like "smug" and "irritating",

The hell?

I don't remember saying a thing about what's real criticism or not.

My intent was to point out that changing one's opinion on a movie is hardly something to censure another over, and certainly not on the basis that they're a critic (or whatever you want to lable them). That was all.

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My concern is over what the general public *think* is film criticism and how we put too much stock in that kind.

Are you just worried that no one is going to end up seeing the Life Aquatic based on these reviews?

If so, that's half-way admirable. But you cannot (or really should not) wander around worrying over what the general public will think or do. And really, why would you want to?

Wanting to change or eliminate or at the very least get angry at all critics or reviewers who don't meet your standards, or heaven forbid disagree, because there is a chance the public might be swayed into a decision that horrifies you, seems extreme. It's not as though if these people were to suddenly vanish all the great films they've panned or will pan will suddenly become major hits, nor is it that the movies they pan are necessarily going to flop because of what they've said. And even if the mainstream media critics that you've pointed out do go away, there are still local newspapers, and importantly word of mouth, which will affect the outcome. A bunch of ignorant people can see the movie, hate it for ridiculous reasons, and then go around spreading the news that it's an awful film. There's nothing to stop that from happening, and it's a part of how movies work. Perhaps it's better to just be content that you've enjoyed the film, and let the rest of the world be as it may. Desiring to control the reception of the movies you love is in the end a futile cause.


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 16, 2004 2:24 pm 

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The hell?

I don't remember saying a thing about what's real criticism or not.

You said that a "first viewing" is "solely what a critic must go on". I can only assume from these statements in defense of them that you're implying you feel their views hold validity and are therefore worthy of being called "real criticism". If not, then my mistake.

I'm making the argument that they don't really deserve to be called critics, because they are working within a system that admittedly limits their ability to faithfully build criticism. As they only spend enough time speaking or writing to give their audiences/readers a sense of their opinion (which is still just reactionary), then I think it would be better if they stopped passing themselves off as something that takes more effort.
After all, they are there to entertain, not educate.

Mr_sausage wrote:
Are you just worried that no one is going to end up seeing the Life Aquatic based on these reviews?

If so, that's half-way admirable. But you cannot (or really should not) wander around worrying over what the general public will think or do. And really, why would you want to?

I was saying that people who worry about their opinions matching up with those of the critics they follow are setting themselves up to limit their own enjoyment and judgement of movies. I've seen some people make comments to this effect on the board and around me in Florida, and so it's not just The Life Aquatic that stands to suffer, it's any film as well as the people who go to see it. I had to listen to someone I know rant about how Entertainment Weekly said it wasn't good for 5-10 minutes IN THE THEATER just before the movie started. Who cares! Can't he just decide for himself in the next 2 hours?

I really think that critics have created some kind of peer pressure effect, where people walking into films are already preparing themselves to feel or think a certain way before they see the feature based on someone else's negative comments. If the critic thinks it's trash, then what does that mean for the person who enjoys it? Are they automatically wrong? Do their friends hate the movie too? Should they admit they like it, or will that put them at risk? I know these questions sound absurd, but that's really the final destination for putting so much stock into these... well... opinionated performers.

You don't have to agree with me, I'm just saying that there are far better alternatives to seeking film enlightment rather from a guy who co-hosted a show with Harry Knowles. And if we do decide to read up on their opinions, we shouldn't take them so seriously if they don't take it that way themselves.


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 16, 2004 2:41 pm 
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You said that a "first viewing" is "solely what a critic must go on". I can only assume from these statements in defense of them that you're implying you feel their views hold validity and are therefore worthy of being called "real criticism". If not, then my mistake.

You could assume that, but since I deliberately siphoned that statement off from the rest of the sentence with hyphens or ellipses (I'll be damned if I can remember their names), I meant it not as an argument. It was only there as a reminder that these are first viewings.

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I really think that critics have created some kind of peer pressure effect, where people walking into films are already preparing themselves to feel or think a certain way before they see the feature based on someone else's negative comments. If the critic thinks it's trash, then what does that mean for the person who enjoys it?

Which critics? There are so many out there with disparate opinions that eventually someone is going to have to make their own decision somewhere.


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 16, 2004 3:27 pm 
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DrewReiber wrote:
You said that a "first viewing" is "solely what a critic must go on". I can only assume from these statements in defense of them that you're implying you feel their views hold validity and are therefore worthy of being called "real criticism". If not, then my mistake.

I also don't have a clue how this assumption can be made based on Mr_sausage's post.

DrewReiber wrote:
I'm making the argument that they don't really deserve to be called critics, because they are working within a system that admittedly limits their ability to faithfully build criticism.

I think they still deserve to be called film critics, just really poor film critics. They are still critiquing films, just with a restricted voice and a suspect perspective.

DrewReiber wrote:
As they only spend enough time speaking or writing to give their audiences/readers a sense of their opinion (which is still just reactionary), then I think it would be better if they stopped passing themselves off as something that takes more effort.
After all, they are there to entertain, not educate.

Again, where is it stated that the point of film criticism is to educate? Maybe good film criticism does seek to educate, but isn't the basic point of criticism to offer an opinion and back it up somehow. Maybe these critics aren't all that great at backing up their opinions, but most are being honest and putting in some effort to convey their opinions.

DrewReiber wrote:
I had to listen to someone I know rant about how Entertainment Weekly said it wasn't good for 5-10 minutes IN THE THEATER just before the movie started. Who cares! Can't he just decide for himself in the next 2 hours?

That's sad, but who is to say he didn't decide for himself 2 hours later? Perhaps he was just bringing up the review as a topic of conversation, since he thought the person he was talking to may be interested.

DrewReiber wrote:
If the critic thinks it's trash, then what does that mean for the person who enjoys it? Are they automatically wrong? Do their friends hate the movie too? Should they admit they like it, or will that put them at risk?

Who the hell are these feeble-minded, insecure morons, who seriously stress over the logistics of how to form their own opinions so much? I might have been like this once... in grade 7, when I didn't have the cool sneakers. Also, why are you so worried about them? Why not just be content with your own opinion?

Other than those points, I pretty much agree with what you've said.


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 16, 2004 6:17 pm 
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Because film is such a popular medium, people continuously confuse film criticism and film reviewing. Both serve quite different purposes, and neither should be dismissed.

Generally speaking, Roger Ebert does not write film criticism (though many would call him a film critic, but a film critic can write reviews as easily as criticism); he writes film reviews. The distinction between the two should be seen as this: <i>film reviews</i> are primarily intended for people who haven't seen a film to better choose what film to see; <i>film criticism</i>, on the other hand, is primarily intended for people who have seen a film to gain insight into what they have seen. Film criticism will rarely, if ever, contain a synopsis of the work in question. If and when it does, it is written to refresh the memory rather than introduce the premise.

This is not to say that film reviews cannot have critical elements (Ebert's usually contain one per review. In special cases, he will make a few critical points for a single film). People will often write hasty film criticism in the guise of a review (The New York Times often does this, as does The Village Voice. The New Yorker does this with books more than with films), because reviews pay and criticism rarely does. The idea behind that is that while there isn't much interest amongst the general public in reading criticism after watching a film, you can still try to hammer some critical thoughts into their brain before they watch it, and then people who have already seen the film will have a reason to read your article. People rarely read reviews after watching films for insight--it's usually done just to get a barometric reading of the "critical consensus" on a film, to see how well it agrees with one's own reading of it (I do this all the time).

The other distinction is that film criticism, by its very nature, doesn't really belong in the immediate wake of a film's release. It belongs in the reflection on the film that comes 12 months or more afterwards, when one can better examine the context in which the film was made, and when one can more easily ignore the hype surrounding the film.

One last comment is that film criticism is not often about how good a film is.

There is one example of film criticism reaching a certain level of popularity: commentary tracks. Though the criticism is usually of a fairly dilute and unfocussed sort (for obvious reasons, it's hard and kind of pointless to focus on the big picture when doing a scene-specific commentary), commentary tracks are usually all about criticizing a film--examing symbolism, providing context, pointing out technical details, etc. This is film criticism for the masses (of film enthusiasts without a strong academic background).


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 16, 2004 8:58 pm 
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Because film is such a popular medium, people continuously confuse film criticism and film reviewing. Both serve quite different purposes, and neither should be dismissed.

And they have a right to be confused as its all a greyzone, as criticism is such an integrated element of reviewing.

A reviewer does critic by evaluating, by examinating, but does so only briefly in order to explain why a film deserves the grade by which the readers then can determine whether or not the film is a film they would like to go see. A reviewer is also, in my opinion, restrained by his readers and editorial directions, for instance amount of words.

Just because a critic doesn't write long academic analysis, examinating motifs vs. other films by the director or other directors, and so forth, doesn't imply that he is a bad critic or reviewer or whatever. I agree with Andre when he says,

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And what exactly is true film criticism? Has film criticism ever been universally defined as a discipline? I think it�s rather a hodge-podge of ideas and has been for a very long time. Is film criticism really supposed to have a goal of progressing film or benefiting the industry? I would think most people today just want film critics to tell them what films they believe are worth their money.

The biggest misconception is however, in my opinion, that some readers expect "their critics" to speak to them, to have their taste and their opinions, so that they can fell secure about their own taste, so that they can get their opinions validated. Those who do are good, those who don't are bad. Those who are good are worshipped, those who are bad have their credibility attacked by any means. It takes away the attention from the film.

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Their snap judgements are not honest, and never will be. They are paid to entertain their audiences with snappy/witty chats and rants, all the while working off their own personalities and preconcieved notions as popular pseudo-celebrities.


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PostPosted: Fri Dec 17, 2004 12:42 am 

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Andre Jurieu wrote:
Again, where is it stated that the point of film criticism is to educate?

Well, seeing as how most them talk about how the filmmakers need to do better, wouldn't constructive criticism be the only way to promote that? If not, then why even bother mentioning the filmmakers by name or bringing up the continuity in their body of work? Clearly, the mainstream "film critic" at least *thinks* they're adding some kind of statement that might be learned from. I'm saying that the appearance of what they're trying to say and what they're actually doing in their criticism is not honest, because it doesn't actually go anywhere useful.

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That's sad, but who is to say he didn't decide for himself 2 hours later? Perhaps he was just bringing up the review as a topic of conversation, since he thought the person he was talking to may be interested.

No, the whole conversation boiled down to how he felt he needed to read Entertainment Weekly and their opinions because it was representative of what the mainstream is thinking. I tried my best to explain to him that the publication of the magazine's reviews usually preceeds mainstream audience opinion and is therefore more of a promotional piece, but he just looked at me blankly and then started to repeat how important the reviewers are in making a point of what is liked or not for the rest of humanity. It was quite a horrible experience, but a new one.

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Who the hell are these feeble-minded, insecure morons, who seriously stress over the logistics of how to form their own opinions so much?

Most Americans, I would venture to guess. Look at politics.

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Also, why are you so worried about them? Why not just be content with your own opinion?

Like I said, it appeared that the conversation on this message board was going down a similiar route, and seeing as how I have a much higher opinion of the people here than I do of most other places, I felt like making a point out of my observations.


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PostPosted: Fri Dec 17, 2004 12:54 am 

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The biggest misconception is however, in my opinion, that some readers expect "their critics" to speak to them, to have their taste and their opinions, so that they can fell secure about their own taste, so that they can get their opinions validated. Those who do are good, those who don't are bad. Those who are good are worshipped, those who are bad have their credibility attacked by any means. It takes away the attention from the film.

I think in most cases, because of the sheer amount of films that are released every year, they are really looking for validation to ignore and lambast a film they have never even seen. I'm sure Gigli was no bargain, but most of the people I knew at the time had not seen it yet they talked about to a length at which you thought they had. People love to hate, especially celebrities.

The more annoying consequence to Ocean's Twelve and The Life Aquatic's self-conscious style of filmmaking is that it seems to be particularly engaging for that aspect of mainstream critics' need for building up and bringing down known figures. Their subsequent rants have little to do with the films and more to do with their own personal tastes/distastes for the cast and crew involved. Instead of looking at the film objectively, which is the point of the non-transparent style, they instead lose themselves completely to their knowledge of Hollywood.

As a result of these repetitive rants and obsessions on part of people like Ebert or Entertainment Weekly, the folks at home who were weighing whether or not to see the film are now engrossed by this concept of obnoxious celebrities and are no longer capable of seeing the film for itself. Again, I've seen this process occur to several people in both cases (or films) where they come back to me after the viewing and just repeat what they read in a magazine or saw on television. They had nothing to say about the movie. Hell, my parents were repeating this stuff off of The Today Show or something when I called them to recommend them a few movies.

It's pretty much a disease of our popculture that is ruining the film going experience, in my opinion. The "critics" are being taken waaaaay too seriously for gauging movies more on their feelings at the time than what the movie is actually about.


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PostPosted: Fri Dec 17, 2004 3:02 am 
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the better film critiques smuggled out as reviews often try to place a work within the director's oeurve (I had to look it up-->I know nothing of French thanks to american education). Based on a single viewing the critic will trace motifs that extend beyond the one film.

I gotta add, though, that when I first started getting into cinema I was pissed off to find that "respectable" cinema magazines (think Cineaste, Film Comment, et al) had "reviews" months after the film was gone. I wouldn't read the things b/c I had already seen the film, or more likely, would never get a chance to see it in theatre (how things have changed). But the criticism in quarterly journals are often fantastic as they introduce diverse films that I otherwise wouldn't care about.

But the reviews for mass audiences are of concern as they are the FOX NEWS Channel of the film world. Despite how we may or may not feel about it, they have an impact that is undeniable (not that anyone here is necessarily denying it). And box office tickets also have an impact because if movie x by director y makes as much or more money than production company z expected, director y will get more money to make her/his next movie (which invariably will be a bad adaptation of a cherished book). Positive mainstream reviews, mainly because they are used in advertising of films, effect the box office. (except Robert ROdriguez... I wanna $20 mil check from Miramax to play with).


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PostPosted: Fri Dec 17, 2004 2:04 pm 
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Jun-Dai wrote:
Because film is such a popular medium, people continuously confuse film criticism and film reviewing. Both serve quite different purposes, and neither should be dismissed.

In fact, while writing my previous post, I did start to question the relationship between film reviewing and film criticism, my own interpretations of these terms, and whether the two are closely related or distinct activities. I actually agree that the definitions that Jun-Dai is using should be used when discussing the two terms, especially the point that film criticism is often not concerned with how good a film is. I think it's often far more interesting to examine and explore a film you detest more closely that one you love. However, I disagree that these are the ways these two terms are currently used in everyday discourse on the subject. Perhaps, the "distinction between the two should be seen" in the manner in which Jun-Dai describes the two terms, but I doubt this distinction is actually made at present. The general understanding, sadly, is that film reviews are film criticism. Both activities have been mixed up so much and so often that the distinction between the two has been lost in the common understanding. If we asked someone what film criticism is, they would probably refer to a movie review by Ebert, rather than the latest book by Robin Wood or Peter Wollen. That's not exactly correct, but it's a prevailing reality. As both Jun-Dai and Henrik have mentioned, the two activities are related to one another and even integrated to a large degree. I'd agree with Henrik's idea that it has become a grey zone and that reviews do contain small amounts of criticism in order to justify opinion.

As well, for the purposes of this discussion so far, what we have been talking about is film reviews that do not offer insight, but rather spout opinion. Based of Jun-Dai's definitions, Drew is essentially saying he wishes film reviews would present more film criticism, rather than merely offer quick opinions. I'd agree with that point. However, when discussing Ebert & Roeper and EW's critics, we are talking about writers whose primary emphasis is the review, and not very much energy or effort is dedicated to a critique of the films in question. My point is that we really shouldn't be expecting these "movie critics" who write "movie reviews" to place a large degree of critical thought in their writing because their material is directed towards an audience that doesn't place a high degree of emphasis upon such areas of critical thought. Again, that's sad from my perspective, but it's not really the "critic's" fault they have gained such notoriety from the masses simply for presently their opinion honestly, which I still believe most do (I'm willing to exclude Roeper - he seems to love the idea that people will listen to his "thoughts").

Jun-Dai wrote:
The other distinction is that film criticism, by its very nature, doesn't really belong in the immediate wake of a film's release. It belongs in the reflection on the film that comes 12 months or more afterwards, when one can better examine the context in which the film was made, and when one can more easily ignore the hype surrounding the film.

You don't really think it has to be 12 months, right? It may require a significant length of time in order to distance the perspective from hype, but we cannot actually say for certain what this period of time must be for this clarity of perspective to occur.

DrewReiber wrote:
Well, seeing as how most them talk about how the filmmakers need to do better, wouldn't constructive criticism be the only way to promote that?

Well, yes. However, I don't think the reviewers (still going by Jun-Dai's definitions here to make things clear) in question are actually writing their reviews with the filmmaker in mind, but rather the audience and readers of their publications. They are often telling audiences why they believe the filmmaker succeeds or fails in crafting the film, but they aren't really intending to attempt to tell a filmmaker how to make his film better. It may be a result of their writing, and the filmmaker is definitely part of the audience, but it's not specifically directed or addressed to the filmmaker.

DrewReiber wrote:
Clearly, the mainstream "film critic" at least *thinks* they're adding some kind of statement that might be learned from.

I don't think it's clear at all. I think they are merely offering their own opinion of the film, which may contain certain useful information, but I don't think they purposely set out to educate their readers or provide information that should be learned from.

DrewReiber wrote:
People love to hate, especially celebrities

But I'd argue that just as many absolutely love celebrities. It’s no different here on this forum. How many members pre-judge a film based on casting or which director (which function as our types of celebrities) is involved?

DrewReiber wrote:
The more annoying consequence to Ocean's Twelve and The Life Aquatic's self-conscious style of filmmaking is that it seems to be particularly engaging for that aspect of mainstream critics' need for building up and bringing down known figures. Their subsequent rants have little to do with the films and more to do with their own personal tastes/distastes for the cast and crew involved.

Ok, but with a film such as Ocean's Twelve, that specifically draws attention to the public personas of its cast (most notably Roberts, Clooney, Willis, and Damon) don't the critics in question have a right to critique this aspect of the film itself and to voice their opinion on the use of this technique.

DrewReiber wrote:
Instead of looking at the film objectively, which is the point of the non-transparent style...

Ok, are you certain these reviewers claim to be looking at these films objectively? I know for a fact, Ebert always admits he reviews films subjectively. Again, I'll say that I don't believe the rules of film criticism have been defined and entrenched so firmly. Some may feel it must remain objective, but I doubt there is very much agreement on this in film critic/reviewer circles.

DrewReiber wrote:
As a result of these repetitive rants and obsessions on part of people like Ebert or Entertainment Weekly, the folks at home who were weighing whether or not to see the film are now engrossed by this concept of obnoxious celebrities and are no longer capable of seeing the film for itself.

I'm sure there are some that are swayed and persuaded, but there are just as many, if not more, that completely dismiss everything we've been discussing so far (film critics/reviewers, film criticism, film analysis, film scholarship, film history, etc) as frivolous and unnecessary. Most people just seek to be entertained for 2 hours and don't really respect or concern themselves with film reviews.

DrewReiber wrote:
It's pretty much a disease of our popculture that is ruining the film going experience, in my opinion.

Well, it's just effecting the perceptions held by other people, so why is it really ruining your own personal film going experience? You don't really have to worry about mass opinion so much that it causes your own experience to be stressful.

Good to hear you attempted to convince an EW reader of his limited perspective, but that might be a futile endeavor.


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Quote:
You don't really think it has to be 12 months, right?

No, of course not. Though it's hard to think of serious film criticism about a film that has been released less than a year before. I simply don't know any. Anyways, I merely picked an amount of time that would be sufficient for a good amount of the hubbub over a film's release to subside, as well as the need to champion films that are still showing but no one is watching.

As for the distinction between film criticism and film reviewing, as far as the public is concerned, I think there is some perception of it, but it isn't very clearly defined, mostly because film criticism as I've defined it is mostly an academic category, and because so many film reviewers write small doses of criticism into their reviews to set them apart from other reviewers.

Anyways, I don't think there's much point in wishing that film reviews contained more criticism, since film reviews have a particular function to fulfil, which is certainly valuable (we need some means to choose between the thousands of films sent our way every year, yes?). Better that we should wish that the mainstream or near-mainstream publications would allot some space for criticism. At the very least, magazines like Sight and Sound ought to be dedicated towards film criticism rather than trying to fulfil both functions simultaneously and doing a great job of neither.

Anyways, for another example of mainstream film criticism, we have the BFI books and their ilk (there seem to be a number of book series that have taken off based on the same approach).

Lastly, I find that a film I know well enough to write about I no longer think of in terms of liking or disliking. I no longer dislike Death in Venice, for example, simply because I spent 3 months writing an essay on it for school. You develop a much stronger relationship to the film, in a space where liking and disliking are no longer part of the equation.


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Andre Jurieu wrote:
However, when discussing Ebert & Roeper and EW's critics, we are talking about writers whose primary emphasis is the review, and not very much energy or effort is dedicated to a critique of the films in question. My point is that we really shouldn't be expecting these "movie critics" who write "movie reviews" to place a large degree of critical thought in their writing because their material is directed towards an audience that doesn't place a high degree of emphasis upon such areas of critical thought. Again, that's sad from my perspective, but it's not really the "critic's" fault they have gained such notoriety from the masses simply for presently their opinion honestly, which I still believe most do (I'm willing to exclude Roeper - he seems to love the idea that people will listen to his "thoughts").

And I believe the critics are aware of their influence, but do nothing with it. They only use it to build up what they like and tear it down when they tire of it, something I find manipulative and destructive. It is in this that I feel they are guilty of waste.

Quote:
It may be a result of their writing, and the filmmaker is definitely part of the audience, but it's not specifically directed or addressed to the filmmaker.

You and I both know that most critics do address the filmmakers in their reviews. The ultimate hypocrisy is that they do nothing other than say "so and so hasn't done what they need to do" or "so and so is getting repetitive" or "so and so is being too weird". If they have no interest in addressing the filmmakers, why do they invoke their names so often. Just go to Rottontomatos.com and take a look. For the most part, it's just a bunch of generalized blather where they go on and on about how they don't like something the filmmaker did without actually specifying what it is they are talking about.

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I don't think it's clear at all. I think they are merely offering their own opinion of the film, which may contain certain useful information, but I don't think they purposely set out to educate their readers or provide information that should be learned from.

Then I guess we'll just have to disagree. I don't know how critics can choose to bring a sense of continuity to their discussions on a filmmaker and his body of work when they are supposedly only trying to reach their mainstream audiences... ones who for the most part don't care about what came before or what the director was thinking. Why are they going halfway on trying to construct an idea of what's happening in the context of a filmmakers progression (or regression) if they don't think they are.

Quote:
But I'd argue that just as many absolutely love celebrities. It�s no different here on this forum.

Yes, but our job isn't to discuss the merits of a film. The problem is that the American obsession over celebrities comes with love and hate. If these critics choose not make the distinction between their own personal taste/distaste for onscreen personalities and what the filmmaker is actually doing, then they're not doing their job. They're talking about who is hot and who is not.

I bring the case back to Gigli. If we were to go back to the reviews for that film, I wonder what percentage of each review was actually about the film and how much just rants about Ben Affleck's market saturation, "smugness" or whatever. I'm willing to bet most of them lean towards ranting.

Quote:
The more annoying consequence to Ocean's Twelve and The Life Aquatic's self-conscious style of filmmaking is that it seems to be particularly engaging for that aspect of mainstream critics' need for building up and bringing down known figures. Their subsequent rants have little to do with the films and more to do with their own personal tastes/distastes for the cast and crew involved.

Ok, but with a film such as Ocean's Twelve, that specifically draws attention to the public personas of its cast (most notably Roberts, Clooney, Willis, and Damon) don't the critics in question have a right to critique this aspect of the film itself and to voice their opinion on the use of this technique.[/quote]
But that's just it, they're not criticizing that aspect. They're criticizing the stars. I just saw a review today that almost spent it's entirety ranting about how Bill Murray looked bored. You know what? I read that same statement about George Clooney. And Brad Pitt. And probably other actors in these two films. What the heck does that have to do with technique? And if it's not boredom, it's how annoying they are.

They don't say "the self-conscious style of the film creeps into pretentiousness as they lose sight of what it is they are trying to say". Instead, they just lump the word self-conscious into a list of other elements that bother them as if the concept itself is a negative. Why bring it up at all unless they are willing to explain to us why it's bad?

Again, they still put up enough effort to seem like they noticed something was going on but they don't want to have to think about it. So why bother at all? Why not just say "it was bad"? I think it's because they want tear into something without any of the responsibility of having to answer why. It's easy, it's fun and if they can make it at least *look* like they put thoughts into their statements. That is the dishonesty.

Quote:
I know for a fact, Ebert always admits he reviews films subjectively.

Always? Ok, so if I pull out a review where he doesn't once stop to say something like, "I'm not looking at this objectively, so these comments are preference only", you will be surprised? C'mon. Siskel used to take him to task for how blanket his comments were. His Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake review degenerated into a rant about how Hollywood is trying to crush him where he sat with mediocrity or some such nonsense, as if he was writing a fantasy fable.

Why does he spend so much time talking about his experience and how he feels about Hollywood when he could just review the movie? Because he knows people read his reviews for entertainment, not because he's actually doing his job. A friend of mine sent me the review thinking I would be amused at how Ebert "tore the movie apart". After reading the article, I asked my friend where the review was and to stop sending me anything written by him.

Quote:
Most people just seek to be entertained for 2 hours and don't really respect or concern themselves with film reviews.


Then I'm just going to have to disagree with you again. I also believe that most of the industry would disagree with you as well. Word of mouth is one of the most powerful tools of the industry, for better or worse. If it wasn't, studios wouldn't decide to release a film without critic screenings. Miramax wouldn't have decided to release The Aviator a week early in 17 cities. And everyone I know wouldn't be panicking over the early negative reviews for The Life Aquatic.

Critics may not be the end all be all of how audiences make their decisions, but I'm willing to bet you that when a film has poor or even mixed reviews, people are going to be much more likely to see another film that evening. In a world when most weekends open 3 or more new features and the first two weeks of box office is where all the domestic theatrical release makes it's profit, these so-called critics can hold the life and death of a new film in their hands. That's why I'm so disgusted, because they would rather play with people's work than actually give it the respect they feign to carry for the art.

DrewReiber wrote:
Good to hear you attempted to convince an EW reader of his limited perspective, but that might be a futile endeavor.

Sadly, it was. I admit though, I do have a tendency to throw myself at hopeless situations. But I'm not one to remain silent if I think there is even a glimmer of hope that one person will stop turning to Time Warner's weekly PR magazine to tell them what is popular to do or think. Or from sharing my feelings on a message board with other intelligent people. :wink:


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DrewReiber wrote:
And I believe the critics are aware of their influence, but do nothing with it.

I agree with this, but again, I don't feel they believe it is their duty to use their influence for the purposes of education. It may be a waste given that it's an opportunity wasted to examine filmmaking more thoroughly, but it still serves a purpose - although it is a different purpose.

DrewReiber wrote:
They only use it to build up what they like and tear it down when they tire of it...

Yeah, but isn't this the nature of giving someone your honest opinion about a film? If the intention is to review and recommend, then this seems like a normal way to deliver your immediate reaction.

DrewReiber wrote:
You and I both know that most critics do address the filmmakers in their reviews.... If they have no interest in addressing the filmmakers, why do they invoke their names so often.

Actually, I don't know that. I do know that film critics address their readers, and that filmmakers often read reviews by film critics. I know film critics discuss filmmaking, but most do so in shallow terms. I do know that in current film culture we have used the auteur theory to have the director take responsibility of the final product. I do know film critics often attach responsibility, through the auteur theory, to the director, in the form of praise or condemnation, and hence "invoke their names" in order to place emphasis on who they believe has creative control. Thus, I know film critics often discuss the creative decisions made by a director, or other filmmakers. However, I do not think that they direct their comments specifically towards the director. They usually don't say "Steven, you are a hack!", but do often say "Clint has continued his recent trend and made yet another mediocre film" (and I'm just placing names here, not making statements regarding my own opinions). They aren't personally addressing the filmmakers, but commenting on the final product. There is a level of disconnect through the film itself, which should make it less personal.

DrewReiber wrote:
Just go to Rottontomatos.com and take a look. For the most part, it's just a bunch of generalized blather where they go on and on about how they don't like something the filmmaker did without actually specifying what it is they are talking about.

Well, Rottentomatoes isn't they best way to judge film critics. They only offer a quick reference of one-liners and zingers and most of the critics referenced are not very qualified, given that they are on-line critics without any real responsibility since information on the internet isn't regulated. The internet allows one to voice their opinion without qualification and that's what the majority of these film critics are doing. As well, the entire point of Rottentomatoes is to find those spiteful zingers. Their name (Rottentomatoes) even emphasizes the fact that reviews about how bad a film is are the ones that offer readers the most "fun" - so you can take pleasure in that fact that vegetable produce is being hurled at bad filmmakers, much like most of the fun of going to the theatre, back in the day, was to hurl tomatoes at the performers. To properly judge the critic you have to actually read the linked reviews (which I'm sure you do). It becomes quite clear from reading the reviews that some critics (often very few) are much better, and honest, than others and have provided some thought in their review rather than merely gut reaction. Personally, if we are talking about on-line websites to provide an overall picture of critical reception to films, I'd go with metacritic, even if they favor larger corporate publications.

Your comment on critics not specifying what they are talking about is valid for the most part, but this brings up the fact that reviewers are only given a limited amount of space to discuss the film, as Henrik (and Jun-Dai?) brought up previously. That limited space only allows them to discuss a few aspects, and doesn't allow them to explore the decisions and techniques thoroughly. As well, the majority of their audience of readers doesn’t really want to spend the time and effort necessary to read exactly why the techniques and decisions were misguided or in fact correct. Thus, the reputation and qualifications of reviewers are also often established in their side projects, such as books of criticism they have written.

DrewReiber wrote:
I don't know how critics can choose to bring a sense of continuity to their discussions on a filmmaker and his body of work when they are supposedly only trying to reach their mainstream audiences... ones who for the most part don't care about what came before or what the director was thinking. Why are they going halfway on trying to construct an idea of what's happening in the context of a filmmakers progression (or regression) if they don't think they are.

I kind of lost you on the last part of your statement - who are the parties involved that are referred to as "they" and "they don't think they are" what exactly?

As for the "going halfway" part, again I'd have to point out the constraints of space and time to write. They don't have enough space to construct an essay for a national news publication which has a daily deadline. The reviews they write for a magazine or newspaper are not allowed the same liberty or length as a review in a film criticism publication, such as Film Quarterly or Film Comment. Many of these critics do write essays for these film criticism publications (and others) afterwards, when they have more time to defend their initial opinions. Many critics also write longer pieces of criticism in their own books. This is probably, and usually, where a higher quality of film criticism occurs from these reviewers, and where a reputation is established (at least today). That's where you can distinguish between an Ebert and a Rosenbaum. However, the constraints of the newspaper/magazine columns must be taken into account when judging a film review and film reviewer that only goes "halfway". It's a skill to write in a concise manner that conveys a sense of knowledge and offers prompt analysis - a skill I lack completely.

As far as offering this "halfway" criticism to the general mainstream public, I'd say that it's an attempt to justify their initial reaction, without going into greater detail. If I say I didn't like a film, you would probably ask why, and I'd need to provide a reason, and I would thus say I didn't enjoy the use of technique A. You can then ask why I didn't like that technique and continue to get deeper into a discussion, but sooner or later we've alienated the rest of the audience around us, and it becomes a one-on-one discussion where everyone else is no longer interested. Thus, for a national publication, the review is often general to engage the audience but not to limit the entire discussion.

DrewReiber wrote:
Yes, but our job isn't to discuss the merits of a film. The problem is that the American obsession over celebrities comes with love and hate. If these critics choose not make the distinction between their own personal taste/distaste for onscreen personalities and what the filmmaker is actually doing, then they're not doing their job. They're talking about who is hot and who is not.

Yes, I hate Access Hollywood, Entertainment Tonight, US Weekly, and People Magazine (though I'm compelled to buy their 50 Most Beautiful People issue, since it's a superficial magazine focusing on the most superficial topic), as well, but you have to admit that, for better or for worse, the public persona of the celebrity often effects our interpretation of the performance within the film. If star personalities didn't effect our interpretations of films, then director's wouldn't play around with it in casting or call attention to it as much. Ben Affleck's "smugness" often comes off during his performances. There are often times during his films, where his performance descends into ben affleck being BEN AFFLECK and no longer conveying anything genuine regarding the character he is playing. How many films are made in order to make someone a star, or garner acclaim, and thus the performance of the star/actor is question no longer feels genuine, or in service of the greater picture, but rather a showcase where the performance serves as distraction? What happens when a director is called in specifically to make an actor a star? What if the point of the directors work on a film is to create a star (most of Lindsay Lohan's films so far)? Shouldn't a critic be able to comment on this and call it into question? Many critics have commented on how Hollywood is force-feeding us Colin Farrell, placing him in anything in order to elevate him into box-office star with failing results. Why can't they do so, when it is obvious the intent of the film was to do so? Many critics do admit their bias right away - many admit they cannot stand Julia Roberts any more and Glen Kenny of Premiere states clearly that he doesn't care for Tom Cruise. Part of watching movies is enjoying actors and stars performing, not just a director's ability to exercise his control over a project. Thus, we must critique and actors ability to convey his/her character effectively. If a reviewer believes that an actor's personality, or previous screen persona, is a hindrance to the larger objective of a film, the reviewer should acknowledge this fact honestly (and I'll admit some reviewers do not).

Take a look at Road to Perdition, a film where Tom Hanks is cast against type as a mob hitman. The film is drawing attention to Hanks's previous on-screen persona, but I would argue it did not go far enough in shattering our previously held beliefs of Hanks and his personality, no matter how hard Mendes, Hall, and Hanks, et al tried. Why can't I comment on this aspect that I feel is a negative? Hanks plays every scene as if he's forced to kill against his will, and that these are simply the circumstances of his life and his actions are required in order to provide for his family. Unfortunately, I disagree with Mendes attempt to make Hanks's character sympathetic. He is a cold-blooded killer, and there are points where we shouldn't be feeling sorry for his circumstances, but genuinely being shocked at his actions. Yet Mendes never clearly shows Hanks killing anyone. It's only suggested and hinted at through off-screen events, or reactions. If you don't actually show the complete continuous shot of Hanks killing someone, you never create a scenario where the audience must deal with the brutality of his actions, and hence Hanks's persona and character remain somewhat unscathed, when they are in fact vicious killers in this instance. Now, imagine Clint Eastwood in the role of the father. This casting changes the dynamics considerably, in that Eastwood's previous persona implies a hard-living, cynical, cold-blooded, and detached killer. Instead of a good man, forced to do bad, it becomes about understanding why a remorseful bad man is acting in such a fashion, which in my mind would have made the father-son dynamic more interesting, because the moral choice of the son would have been actually been a dilemma. I remember thinking this while watching the film, but then I read a review somewhere that mentioned the same casting choice. The reviewer did not go into as much detail, but he did question the casting of Hanks. That in my mind was a justified question to bring up and the reviewer has every right to do so.

DrewReiber wrote:
But that's just it, they're not criticizing that aspect. They're criticizing the stars. I just saw a review today that almost spent it's entirety ranting about how Bill Murray looked bored. You know what? I read that same statement about George Clooney. And Brad Pitt. And probably other actors in these two films. What the heck does that have to do with technique? And if it's not boredom, it's how annoying they are.

But, that should be fair game for a reviewer. Why is it so wrong to call attention to the fact that actors do not seem to be engaged or appear to be engaging? Sure, these reviewers may not understand the technique involved, and may not know the intensions of the directors, but they can still offer their opinion of the performances?

DrewReiber wrote:
They don't say "the self-conscious style of the film creeps into pretentiousness as they lose sight of what it is they are trying to say". Instead, they just lump the word self-conscious into a list of other elements that bother them as if the concept itself is a negative. Why bring it up at all unless they are willing to explain to us why it's bad?

Yes, that is a negative aspect of the process of reviewing and I wish they would offer more insight, but again the review is not the best place to dive into these aspects of filmmaking. I'd also like to point out that there are some reviewers who probably do discuss the negative aspects of the self-conscious technique being used.

I'd also like to ask why, if we do demand that reviewers justify their criticisms of particular aspects of a film, we don't require them to justify their praise of a film and its positive aspects. We so often allow someone to say "I love this film" without justification and then applaud them for their sophisticated taste that mirrors our own, but we never ask them why. Sometimes the justification for enjoying a film is just as shallow as those reasons for hating a film, yet we don't attack those who love a film we love for not providing a rational argument behind their opinion.

DrewReiber wrote:
Andre Jurieu wrote:
I know for a fact, Ebert always admits he reviews films subjectively.

Always? Ok, so if I pull out a review where he doesn't once stop to say something like, "I'm not looking at this objectively, so these comments are preference only", you will be surprised? C'mon. Siskel used to take him to task for how blanket his comments were.

Ok, well here are his AnswerMan replies to questions by viewers regarding the subjective vs. objective argument (from www.rogerebert.com - this was the most amount of time I've ever spent on the site, and I'm now convinced the similar NY Times column with Manhola Dargis is much better)

Quote:
Roger Ebert / May 28, 1995
Q. Do you think that because you've reviewed so many movies, your opinions may not reflect that of the public? If you say the storyline has been overused, does it mean it isn't a good movie to other people who haven't seen as many movies as you? Others may think it's an original storyline and enjoy the movie. Is it possible to be an objective movie critic? (Andy Chin, San Diego)

A. I have no interest in being objective or in reflecting the public's opinion. A critic should not be a ventriloquist's dummy, sitting on the knee of the public and letting it put words into his mouth. The only critics of any use or worth are those who express their OWN opinions, which the readers are then free to use or ignore. Anyone who believes a critic must reflect the views of the public has not thought much about the purpose of criticism.

Roger Ebert / May 4, 2003
Q. I am a student at Queen's University in Canada and have recently begun reviewing theatre productions for the campus newspaper. I feel I have a good sense as a reviewer. I am critical, but fair. I am certainly not afraid (as I find some are) to give praise when praise is due. I have been criticized for my subjectivity. I'll be the first to admit that I do discuss my personal reaction to a piece. What are your thoughts on the subjective/objective responsibilities of a reviewer? (Graham Kosakoski, Kamloops BC)

A. Subjectivity is the only possible approach to reviewing. What is a review but an opinion? Those who call for you to be objective are revealing that they have not given the matter a moment's serious thought. Most times, those calling for objectivity are essentially saying they wish you had written a review that reflected their subjective opinion.

BY ROGER EBERT / July 11, 2004
Q. I read your review of "Fahrenheit 9/11" and I was very disappointed that at NO POINT did you question Moore's political agenda and the reality of all of the film's claims. This seems to be promoting Moore's agenda rather than providing an objective review of the film. I personally hate films that are obviously motivated by a political agenda; it causes me to question how much is reality and how much is exaggerated or fabricated. I don't have the time to review every fact and determine which is real and which is a lie or exaggeration. Moore is obviously a brilliant filmmaker, but I wish he could just do a documentary that focuses on an event, rather than taking an event to promote his political opinions.

Bill Meyers, White Lake, Mich.

A. Moore's film comes labeled as partisan and subjective. Were you equally inspired to ask "how much is reality and how much is exaggerated or fabricated" when the Bush administration presented Saddam's WMDs as a fact? I declared my own political opinion in the review and made it clear I was writing from that viewpoint. It's opinion. I have mine, you have yours, and the theory is that we toss them both into the open marketplace of ideas


DrewReiber wrote:
Why does he spend so much time talking about his experience and how he feels about Hollywood when he could just review the movie? Because he knows people read his reviews for entertainment, not because he's actually doing his job.

But if he knows people read his reviewers for entertainment and delivers this in his writing, how is he not doing his job as a newspaper reviewer? His responsibility is towards his readers, the publication that employs him, and himself. If he himself is comfortable with not taking responsibility for the "greater good" of film/cinema/motion pictures and progression of film criticism, then that's something he has to live with.

DrewReiber wrote:
Then I'm just going to have to disagree with you again. I also believe that most of the industry would disagree with you as well. Word of mouth is one of the most powerful tools of the industry, for better or worse. If it wasn't, studios wouldn't decide to release a film without critic screenings. Miramax wouldn't have decided to release The Aviator a week early in 17 cities.

I'm not saying film reviews have no influence, but I guarantee you that word-of-mouth from a friend is much more powerful than word-of-mouth from a film critic's review. That’s one of the first rules of marketing. I have worked in Hollywood at 2 major studios and reviews matter only in specific scenarios. The only specific reviewers that were of concern were Ebert, NY Times staff, LA Times staff, the staff at Time, occasionally Newsweek, and of course Variety and Hollywood reporter, but the last two were only really internal industry publications for Hollywood. The decision to not screen a film for critics is only when the studio knows that the film's PR is poor and believes critical reception will be awful. Not mixed (like 48% on Rottentomatoes), but awful (like 10% on Rottentomatoes). Critical reception also matters when they have a film that needs PR to build up for awards, which is another way to garner publicity for more box-office. This only matters when box-office is a concern. However, these types of films (The Aviator and Life Aquatic) are for a very specific audience, who do concern themselves with film reviews. The majority of the film going public today remains adolescents who are not concerned with critical reception. If critical reception really had a significant influence then would we see National Treasure and Bruckheimer films do so well? Film reviews are merely a piece of the puzzle and really only have influence at this time of year when the Oscar Race begins, or for highlighting an art film. Otherwise they are a small slice of the PR pie.

DrewReiber wrote:
And everyone I know wouldn't be panicking over the early negative reviews for The Life Aquatic.

Well, the reviews may hurt the box-office, which may hinder Anderson's creative control and financing on future projects, but I doubt he won't be able to create. He may have to change his perspective to a smaller scale, but that isn't always a bad thing for a filmmaker.

DrewReiber wrote:
In a world when most weekends open 3 or more new features and the first two weeks of box office is where all the domestic theatrical release makes it's profit, these so-called critics can hold the life and death of a new film in their hands. That's why I'm so disgusted, because they would rather play with people's work than actually give it the respect they feign to carry for the art.

But the word-of-mouth system often still works without the critics, simply based on the viewers themselves. Film history is littered with stories of films that had poor critical receptions, but became successful afterwards, and at present the system is much faster in response due to video/DVD. Recently, films such as The Usual Suspects and Austin Powers failed in both critical reception and box-office, but were still successful in video based on word-of-mouth. So it's not entirely life and death.

DrewReiber wrote:
But I'm not one to remain silent if I think there is even a glimmer of hope that one person will stop turning to Time Warner's weekly PR magazine to tell them what is popular to do or think.

I think Ebert would say the same thing about his rant against Hollywood filmmaking in his Texas Chainsaw Massacre review.


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Andre Jurieu wrote:
I agree with this, but again, I don't feel they believe it is their duty to use their influence for the purposes of education. It may be a waste given that it's an opportunity wasted to examine filmmaking more thoroughly, but it still serves a purpose - although it is a different purpose.

Then we differ on our views to the point where our agreement through perception is not entirely possible. Thus a final middle ground might not be met on this discussion. You've put a lot of work and respect into your replies, so I'm going to respond to most of this as I think will benefit us both... but I think it might be best if we end it soon or at least try to make the responses somewhat shorter. I think we're beginning to cover too much of the same ground. Thanks so much for the discussion thus far, though, it's very much appreciated. Also, you may not see much from me for a week as I'm going on a cruise. On we go....

Andre Jurieu wrote:
Yeah, but isn't this the nature of giving someone your honest opinion about a film? If the intention is to review and recommend, then this seems like a normal way to deliver your immediate reaction.

See, I don't think it's honest at all. Again, they are not reviewing the film, they are reviewing the filmography of the person involved. If there were any case for holding a subject off for a longer piece, I would argue this kind of tangent should be the first to go on the backburner. These reviews become focused on the personal issues the writer has prior to the watching of the movie. Bringing up the issue you make later in your post about Affleck, I must point out that some actors play their true to life personalities on screen because that is who they are.

Some of the most popular personality actors - Charlton Heston, Jack Nicholson, George Clooney - inevitably alienate some audience members because they don't deviate much from their performance styles. It doesn't serve much purpose to repeat the fact that they do it over and over again, that's hardly a review of the film being discussed. It would be a lot more poignant to talk about a performance when it is otherwise unique as an experience or distinctive for the performer.

Again, even for reviewers, I find these people to be very poor at their job... whatever you feel it may be.

Andre Jurieu wrote:
Actually, I don't know that.

Well, you just backed my comment up in your next point.

Andre Jurieu wrote:
I do know that in current film culture we have used the auteur theory to have the director take responsibility of the final product.

But who knows what auteur theory is, or thinks they know, or for that matter have even heard about it? People who prescribe to the notion that they have some knowledge of filmmaking that they wish to impart to others, and invoke the names of the filmmakers in an attempt to issue blame and thus make an impact. An impact would be change.

Andre Jurieu wrote:
However, I do not think that they direct their comments specifically towards the director. They usually don't say "Steven, you are a hack!", but do often say "Clint has continued his recent trend and made yet another mediocre film" (and I'm just placing names here, not making statements regarding my own opinions). They aren't personally addressing the filmmakers, but commenting on the final product. There is a level of disconnect through the film itself, which should make it less personal.

Well, I find that silly. Of course they make it personal, as they make little-to-no attempt to add a criticism to the work at hand that is transparent of their own personal issues with the knowledge or bias they hold for that filmmaker prior to reviewing the film. And quite often they make very childish comments or attacks on the filmmakers in question that add zero constructive criticism, in a half-hearted attempt to be funny or witty. Ebert, or any other major televised reviewer for that matter, specialize in this behavior.

Andre Jurieu wrote:
However, the constraints of the newspaper/magazine columns must be taken into account when judging a film review and film reviewer that only goes "halfway". It's a skill to write in a concise manner that conveys a sense of knowledge and offers prompt analysis - a skill I lack completely.

Yet you don't lack the skill to make your point without senseless repetition. I could edit the majority of the Ebert reviews I've seen to a paragraph over the sheer amount of off-topic tangents, needless over-emphasis and generalization. As I keep saying, it's not just that I find them irresponsible, they're just generally poorly written.

Andre Jurieu wrote:
As far as offering this "halfway" criticism to the general mainstream public, I'd say that it's an attempt to justify their initial reaction, without going into greater detail.

Yet they bring up these techniques as if we understand what they are talking about already, when in reality they make zero sense without further explanation. Halfway criticism is like listening to one side of a two-way phone conversation. It's poor thinking, innaccesible and somewhat elitist.

Andre Jurieu wrote:
But, that should be fair game for a reviewer. Why is it so wrong to call attention to the fact that actors do not seem to be engaged or appear to be engaging? Sure, these reviewers may not understand the technique involved, and may not know the intensions of the directors, but they can still offer their opinion of the performances?

Because they are not offering an opinion, they are giving a lazy response or becoming totally obsessed. As I tried pointing out, I don't feel like I've read a shred of true criticism about the performances in these films so much as pages of rants, repetitive generalizations or short, useless comments like "they look tired". If you have an issue with an actor's performance, explain (expound upon or give example) or leave it alone. Rather, most of these comments appear to be poor extensions of their distaste for each film's choice in aesthetics, which if they have a problem with, they also fail to relate entirely.

Andre Jurieu wrote:
I'd also like to point out that there are some reviewers who probably do discuss the negative aspects of the self-conscious technique being used.

Then why mention it at all? Dropping words like "self-conscious" could mean *anything* to someone reading the review if they haven't seen the film yet, which is the entire point of it's existence. Again, I must point out that I feel these so-called reviews are just TERRIBLE even for what they are supposed to be.

Andre Jurieu wrote:
I'd also like to ask why, if we do demand that reviewers justify their criticisms of particular aspects of a film, we don't require them to justify their praise of a film and its positive aspects.

I completely agree to this point, but I've always argued that the answer to that question is that it is nowhere near as entertaining in our culture. We live in a country where it is more fun to promote the popular notion that Orson Welles made Citizen Kane and then his career died for his sins (much like Jesus) so that we can make an even bigger deal out of the film than it really is. We feed off of it, which is why it's so much easier for these so-called reviewers to just degenerate into performers.

Andre Jurieu wrote:
But if he knows people read his reviewers for entertainment and delivers this in his writing, how is he not doing his job as a newspaper reviewer? His responsibility is towards his readers, the publication that employs him, and himself. If he himself is comfortable with not taking responsibility for the "greater good" of film/cinema/motion pictures and progression of film criticism, then that's something he has to live with.

No, his responsibility is to review films. If he was truly comfortable about not taking responsibility, you wouldn't need an interview to find his feelings about subjectivity and objectivity... it would be a disclaimer in every episode and column. But his popularity is based off the conceit that he's actually reviewing films and not an entertainer, and as it's likely that most people can't make this distinction, why should he make it apparent to them, thus taking their entertainment away? Again, I feel it's totally dishonest.

Andre Jurieu wrote:
Well, the reviews may hurt the box-office, which may hinder Anderson's creative control and financing on future projects, but I doubt he won't be able to create. He may have to change his perspective to a smaller scale, but that isn't always a bad thing for a filmmaker.

His ability to create is directly related to his control and financing. And the performance of the previous film for a filmmaker, regardless of size, could have a crippling impact on someone of his stature. He's not a Stone or even a Sommers, so I think that kind of statement is a bit premature.

Andre Jurieu wrote:
Film history is littered with stories of films that had poor critical receptions, but became successful afterwards, and at present the system is much faster in response due to video/DVD.

Yet your examples are based upon if upon if. Initial box office still has a monumental impact upon the DVD, from date of release, to price tag, to marketing, to distribution. The examples you're giving me is like telling someone not to worry about walking through a minefield, as history is littered with people who survived without keeping 100% of their lower extremities. Damage is damage.

Andre Jurieu wrote:
But the word-of-mouth system often still works without the critics, simply based on the viewers themselves. Recently, films such as The Usual Suspects and Austin Powers failed in both critical reception and box-office, but were still successful in video based on word-of-mouth.

The Usual Suspects made nearly 4 times it's budget in domestic release alone. Austin Powers was a low-brow comedy (with a star who recently changed pop culture with Wayne's World) and Jerry Bruckheimer films are marketed as such to people who already know to leave their brains at the door. These are horrible examples.


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PostPosted: Fri Dec 24, 2004 9:57 am 
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Dear Drew,

You start out a discussing, based on taking what Justin said somewhat out of context and to say, that film criticism isn't based on a single viewing, and while others have given their point of view towards the difference between criticism and review, you have not.

In 7 long posts, you just argue, contradict and question what others say, not once stating what you believe the difference is, not once making a point. Either you simply don't have a clue, or have forgotten why you made this thread to begin with in your eagerness to argue.

Therefor I ask you directly now:

- What is your definition of film criticism?
- What is your definition of film review?
- How does your two definitions differ from what what we have said?
- What specific do you feel is missing from (A) reviews and (B) criticism?

Furthermore...

- Do you oppose to the states oppinions, that reviews are limited by editorial guidelines? If not, explain why
- In what way does the editorial policy of LA Weekly, NY Times and for instance Positif or CdC differ towards their type of reviews?
- Do you oppose to the opinion, that the readersegment limites the critics abilities to critic / review?
- JunDai suggested that criticism demands reflection over time, if so why should a review contain criticism?

Thanks in Advance


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PostPosted: Fri Dec 24, 2004 1:15 pm 

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dvdane wrote:
Either you simply don't have a clue, or have forgotten why you made this thread to begin with in your eagerness to argue.

Or perhaps I took the original post as a chance to vent some frustrations that extend outside the forum, which I've explained at lease once. Perhaps my focus has changed as I've tried to see Andre's point of view, trying to change my perceptions and learn from his argument.

And perhaps I've had one or two chances to call you a hypocrite as I've perceived you to be on other discussions, Dane, but restrained myself out of my desire to avoid being rude. And you know, if you really find my posts that long and tedious, you can simply avoid them. I won't mind.

dvdane wrote:
What is your definition of film criticism?


A constructive analysis of what works and does not, focusing on the film in question, and how the possible intentions of the work as represented in the work relates to that view. And when making point of an element, including an explanation of what the reference is made to.

dvdane wrote:
What is your definition of film review?

Taking Andre's points about entertaining your audience and the limitations of the format, I would have to say what I said above but with the reservation that it's probably best not to get too complicated in discussing specific film elements as an explanation may not be possible.

dvdane wrote:
How does your two definitions differ from what what we have said?

Honestly, I haven't put all that much thought into what you said. As for Andre's comments, I don't really think our opinions of what *serious* film criticism is differs. But I have happened to use the term "film criticism" in the same way we've been using "film reviewer", so I might have accidently made some confusing remarks.

I would personally like to see film reviews closer to *serious* criticism, but as I don't feel that I'm even getting decent reviews from these critics, I've tried moving my concerns towards a more plausible request. In doing so, I think Andre's concept of what film reviewers do and what I typically see are different in that he has a higher opinion of their output and honesty than I do.

I don't want to put words in his mouth, so I have to be careful here... but I think he's saying he feels we are not being misled as they are honest about what kind of criticism they put forth. He's also saying that what the standard in reviews is what most people expect, while I disagree and feel that reviewers for the most part avoid giving substance or specifics to their opinions, don't hold to their arguments very well and promote the idea that they are more constructive or intelligent in their reviews than I think they are.

Again, these are my perceptions, not necessarily representative of the facts.

dvdane wrote:
What specific do you feel is missing from (A) reviews and (B) criticism?

As I said above, A) a consistent and clear argument/explanation that relates to the material as presented by the critic about a film on it's own merits using the limitations to their fullest extent and B) didn't really think about it.

dvdane wrote:
Do you oppose to the states oppinions, that reviews are limited by editorial guidelines? If not, explain why


Yes, I do. I think too much time is spent on jokes, jabs, summaries, quoting of lines, personal attacks, pop culture obsession, personal bias (a very subjective term in this thread, I know) and other possibly unrelated material in their reviews that add almost zero substance. I find that a lot of the time these comments are actually repeated in their other reviews to a point where a good percentage of the article could have been written for any number of other films. I would say that tighter editorial guidelines might be better.

dvdane wrote:
In what way does the editorial policy of LA Weekly, NY Times and for instance Positif or CdC differ towards their type of reviews?

Ok, now that's just a ridiculous question.

dvdane wrote:
Do you oppose to the opinion, that the readersegment limites the critics abilities to critic / review?


I think you need to make the question clearer.

dvdane wrote:
JunDai suggested that criticism demands reflection over time, if so why should a review contain criticism?

Actually, I wish I spent more time on that comment of his. He's absolutely right that today's standard in *mainstream* film criticism or reviewing demands reflection. In my opinion, too much of it is empty and reactionary without applied thought, so only the critical distance that appears for them in time can give us a true insight into what they really *think* about the work.

Again, I have to point out that we're arguing about the merits of film reviewers who re-review the same films at a later time. Can we at least agree that there could be something wrong with a review system where immediacy is valued more highly over deeper thought, so that it may necessitate a complete reworking?

Yes, I agree and understand that these reviews must be punched up in time for release, but I also know that a thinking human being can attempt to be more objective if they choose to. As Andre pointed out, Ebert has admitted that he has "no interest in being objective", but he is also one of those who goes back to reflect. To add to my accusations of dishonesty, why does it bother him enough to go back on what he has said if he's not at all interested in objectivity?

He permits himself to believe his subjective views are thoughtful enough to stand the tests of time (as I'm willing to bet most critics do). Yet they do not and he finds himself impacted by public opinion (that he also claims to have no interest in), enough to go back and review his own thoughts for more popular works.

I would have no problem altering my view of Ebert and/or accepting that I have jumped to conclusions if you can find just one of his redone reviews where it's a film that hasn't gained some form of significance or cult value in mainstream popular culture or *serious* film criticism over time. Otherwise, I have no idea how to react to something like his The Good, the Bad & the Ugly comments as anything other than obvious hypocrisy and a prime example of what is wrong with the mainstream review system we have as whole.

dvdane wrote:
Thanks in Advance

You're welcome. :roll:


Last edited by DrewReiber on Fri Dec 24, 2004 1:39 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Fri Dec 24, 2004 1:34 pm 
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Quote:
I would have no problem altering my view of Ebert and/or accepting that I have jumped to conclusions if you can find just one of his redone reviews where it's a film that hasn't gained some form of significance or cult value in mainstream popular culture or *serious* film criticism over time. Otherwise, I have no idea how to react to something like his The Good, the Bad & the Ugly comments as anything other than obvious hypocrisy and a prime example of what is wrong with the mainstream review system we have as whole.



So when "serious" film criticism or a cult fanbase changes or adopts different views over time, that's great. But when Ebert does it, he's a hypocrite? And that's the only way you can react?

Sounds like a ridiculous double standard.


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PostPosted: Fri Dec 24, 2004 1:38 pm 

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Mr_sausage wrote:
So when "serious" film criticism or a cult fanbase changes or adopts different views over time, that's great. But when Ebert does it, he's a hypocrite? And that's the only way you can react?

Sounds like a ridiculous double standards.


And you completely misread what I said. You can't claim a double standard when I'm only pointing out how he contradicts his own statements. That doesn't even make sense.

How much more obvious do I need to make it? He says "this" to do something I don't like, then he says "that" to deliver what I wanted originally. I say he's dishonest in his reviews, and I point out an example of where he is. What do you want?

And I said give me examples where popular film opinion "gained", not "changed". My whole point was that the only changes I've seen from Ebert are adopted due to the amassing of a dissenting opinion. For a guy who says he only puts stock in his own views, he doesn't actually back that up in the longterm.

Andre pointed out the quotes in question when I said that I don't believe that Ebert is upfront about his subjectivity. Well, if he's not really all that subjective in practice due to outside influence, what does it matter if he's said it at all? To me, it feels like he uses something like that to explain away his attitude when it suits him (i.e. when he's called on it, not during actual shows as I've said earlier), then turns around and does something contradictory when he feels pressured to re-evaluate a previous statement. He doesn't even seem to know who he is.

Where am I being unfair or even unclear?


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PostPosted: Fri Dec 24, 2004 4:37 pm 
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You're being polemical over something that seems pretty irrelevant.

And I don't think I misread you:

Quote:
just one of his redone reviews where it's a film that hasn't gained some form of significance or cult value in mainstream popular culture or *serious* film criticism over time.


You essentially make a distinction between 'serious' film criticism and Ebert, and then judge their re-evaluations on different standards, and do so using one review--The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly--which doesn't support your claim. Ebert gave that movie in his initial review three stars and a very good write up. He's apparently a hypocrite now because the film has grown on him in the past thirty-five years to where he now considers it a great film worthy of one more star? That re-appraisal in print also coincided with the movie's re-release. Coincidence? Or did Ebert just get a chance to write up his new found love. And besides, you seem so concerned with critics or reviewers being 'altruistic' and doing good in the film community that his championing of a great movie should be a relief.

Out of limited or non-existent research you choose to deride Ebert for something you admit other critics, and 'serious' ones, also do. And what of Ebert's refusal to re-appraise Kiarostami and Taste of Cherry? That film seems to have gained quite a good reputation with 'serious' critics, and significance among the cult community, yet Ebert stands by his original view. If we can see his refusal to champion a movie he originally disliked despite its cult or critical popularity, I don't understand how your censure applies. And since it calls into question your assertion that Ebert is untruthful because he only follows the barometer of others, then we're left with a double standard: 'serious' critics can change their minds, Ebert cannot.


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PostPosted: Sat Dec 25, 2004 1:00 am 

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Mr_sausage wrote:
then we're left with a double standard: 'serious' critics can change their minds, Ebert cannot.


Great, well, my browser just *ate* my entire respond to your post. I will try to summarize as best as I can.

I have made it clear that when I mentioned opposing views that impacted Ebert, popular opinion or serious criticism, that it was "gained" notoriety "over time". You have continued to project your "double standard over change" issue onto my statements, and refuse to accept my words for what they are on this thread.

I do not wish to get into a war over this, as the entire topic is degenerating into whether or not you guys choose to even agree on what my posts actually say. If you or DVD Dane wish to continue this further, I ask that you send it to me in private message. Otherwise, I'm not going to continue fueling this tangent that has nothing to do with the subject we've been discussing.

You guys may not like my opinions, which is perfectly fine, but you're going to have to accept that some people just don't see it your way, and maybe never will. Sometimes our perceptions of what something is, or what it means differs, which is why we have debate to begin with. But tossing implications into my statements which are simply not there, asking me to deliver on information that we all know none of us have, and making personal attacks is just a waste of time.

Nobody here is going to walk away going, "Geez, Mr. Great Post had a good point. I've been an idiot!" We are just sharing our opinions, and arguing the validity of them as long as there is something to gain... information, entertainment or whatever. If this is going to get heated and ugly, then I have no further interest in continuing it. As I don't plan on running either, as you have all put a lot of work into responding, why don't you just personally message me if it's going to get that nasty? There is no reason to drag it out over this board.

Contrary to how I may sound, I respect you guys and this board a lot. It's the only reason I spend time here talking, because it's full of the smartest film fanatics I've seen on the Internet. And for that, I'm not going to have Matt or someone else have to come in here and split us up. So if you really believe in what you have to say, just send me a message. And Andre, you have nothing but my highest respect. You have given every post of mine 150% and if you choose to continue on topic, I will be here to respond. However, if you are also concerned, feel free to message me too.

Otherwise, I'm no longer going to respond if we're discussing each other or what we're saying. There is plenty of information here and elsewhere to continue a discussion, but if you don't understand my issues at this point, they may never come across (my fault or yours). So let's just have ourselves a merry Christmas, or whatever, and a happy New Year. Also, I'm going on a weeklong cruise within 24 hours, so my postings and message responses will understably disappear for 7 days. I promise to reply when I get back, though. Thanks and goodnight, for this topic anyway.


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