Many thanks to Kitty Holman, who contributes today's guest post on Film Criticism! If you'd like to write a post for this blog, let me know on Bang2writeATaolDOTcom... Now, over to you Kitty!
For those of us who are in the business of either producing or consuming films, movie reviews and criticism have always played an important role in our evaluation of film as art, for some more than others. Since the astronomic rise of Internet media in the past five or ten years, however, traditional film critics have become veritable dinosaurs they're influence (if ever such an influence existed) has been drowned out in a sea of movie bloggers. Of course, we can argue all day whether the rise of amateur movie reviewing on the Internet is a bad thing or a good thing, but this takes out nuance from the equation. And nuance is a characteristic of argument that is all too often cast aside in the vitriol that comprises so much of cultural criticism in the first place.
So the questions that many of us are asking are quite simple: Is the democratization of film criticism making the art or criticism worse, better, or does it have little impact at all? Are traditional print and televised critics losing their relevance? Can anyone "do criticism"? While looking for answers to some of these questions is important, it would behoove us to perhaps take a slightly different approach. For one, there's no denying that we are in an age in which "everyone is a critic," but some forget that everyone's has been a critic for centuries, much to "professional" cultural critics' dismay. The only difference now is that the Internet provides a platform in which more people can disseminate their views to more people.
That isn't to say, however, that traditional critics matter more or less than they ever have. Before the Internet, bad movies were still blockbuster hits despite bad reviews, and well-made, "artful" fare has always had a more modest following. So in a way, reviews have never "mattered" in terms of changing popular opinion one way or another. If anything, I'd say film review readers read reviews to confirm their tastes, previously through the authority of a print critic, now through the authority of anyone who cares to purvey an opinion. Of course, there's a lot of crap amateur stuff to wade through, but there is a lot of wonderfully incisive film criticism in the blogosphere, too.
For those who write screenplays or are otherwise involved in the production of film, next to watching a ton of films and reading a ton of screenplays, reading film criticism is perhaps the best way to inform your craft. Why is that? Simply because good film criticism, whether in print or on the Web, makes you think. An incisive review isn't one that presents a simplistic thumbs-up-or-down dichotomy, nor one that gives a short summary of the plot followed by a few remarks on its plausibility or the chemistry between its leads. A good review rather gives the whole picture it leverages an understanding of film history and film production in order to help readers grasp what the film does (successfully or unsuccessfully) in the context of wider artistic, social, and even political issues. For screenwriters, good film criticism expands the way we think about our art.
And that, perhaps, is the critic's foremost value, and you don't have to have a degree or any other credentials to present that value. So instead of lamenting or celebrating the supposed death of criticism, we should instead ask what constitutes good film criticism, no matter what the medium is or who the reviewer is. We should ask also what we can learn from it that will enable filmgoers and filmmakers alike to advance the development of film as an artistic whole.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: This guest post is contributed by Kitty Holman, who regularly writes for Nursing Colleges. She welcomes your comments at her email Id: kitty.holman20ATgmailDOTcom.