EXCESS HOLLYWOOD: A CRITIC FIGHTS BACK

When people find out I review films for Film Threat, they often tell me how much they dislike critics because they slam movies like Kangaroo Jack. Case in point: While talking about I Stand Alone, a friend informed me that it couldn’t be a good film because it was in French and he didn’t want to have to “read” a movie. When I asked him what he thought I would enjoy, he recommended “Agent Cody Banks” because it was “fun” and had “cool” special effects. This man was well over twenty years old, and his recommendation freaked me out. It also pointed out a very important gap between critics and the general film audience.

Judging from what’s big at the box office, explosions and simplistic stories are the main draw for audiences. These are the kind of movies people tend to love, but critics often pan for many different reasons. What then happens is that the general audience thinks critics are off-base and often insulting.

I say we aren’t insulting enough.

If someone likes a movie because of “cool” special effects, isn’t it conceivable that a studio could do a ninety-minute film of unrelated explosions, car chases and gun fights and have it be a hit? Forget plot. Forget characters. Just a hodgepodge of special effects. Look! A space ship! Look! Karate! It’d be the best movie ever for these morons. “Now that should win an Oscar.”

I understand why some people would feel that critics are insulting their taste in movies. When they love certain types of films that critics continually call a waste of time, it tends to wear them down. They start to feel like their favorites might not be so good after all. Maybe they feel a little, well, dumb for enjoying “Marci X.” They should. The movies they like suck.

Some people just like to entertained. I have no problem with that. When that’s all you like, however, it starts to say something about you. You can’t handle things that make you think. Movies that are too deep confuse you. If there isn’t a car chase or gun fight every fifteen minutes, your attention starts to wander. Subtitles? Forget it. If you wanted to read, you’d pick up People. When the only reason you go to the movies is to get a few chuckles and see someone jumping off a building, that says you are happy just being entertained. Children who have suffered severe head trauma are much the same way.

Don’t think I don’t know your type. I can paint a character description without even trying. Sitcoms just aren’t funny if they don’t have laugh tracks. You don’t really get most of the references in “The Simpsons.” You buy a lot of stuff at Wal-Mart. Foreign films and art films are never any good because they are foreign films and art films. That said, you can watch a Japanese film if there is martial arts involved. You judge an actor by looks, not ability. You love sequels, especially if they are just like the first film. Movies based on old television shows are actually kind of appealing. You can’t wait for another movie as funny as “American Pie.” If someone near you starts talking about the symbolism in The Matrix, a movie you really like because “the fighting is awesome,” you start thinking about the awesome fight scenes.

Hitting a little too close to home yet?

It’s not the critics who have it wrong. Granted, opinion is opinion, but think about it for a second. Ten years from now will you still be talking about the plot intricacies of The Fast and the Furious? Doubtful. If you saw something like Hacks or Irreversible, however, I guarantee those would stick with you long after the sugar high of the latest James Bond movie wears off. So why do the critics have it right and the audiences have it wrong?

Critics get their jobs because they know the subject matter. When it comes to film critics, they have watched thousands of films. They’ve dissected them. They know film history. They know what makes for a successful movie experience (even if that experience is supposed to be nothing more than pure entertainment). They witness a mind-blowing array of films in a year. Most people, however, just fill their minds with crap. When that happens, it gets hard to pick out the gems. If you keep watching movies based around pyrotechnics, that’s how you start to judge all movies. Critics, however, use a different criteria. They have to know what works because it’s their job. You may not always agree with them, but they can at least defend their views beyond the standard, “It has cool special effects.”

Don’t blame the critics for your stupidity. And don’t blame directors for not dumbing down movies to your level (though far too many are happy to do that very thing). Don’t blame either group for things you can’t comprehend. It’s your fault, not ours. You did this to yourself.

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Posted on December 8, 2003 in Features by
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