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The Cynical Optimist – 6/4/10

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”Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfils the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things.” – Winston Churchill

The Film Critique V. The Movie Review

In an ideal world, a would-be critic could take a certification course to obtain a level of expertise in their field of criticism. The predicament is, there are no irrefutable facts when it comes to the evaluation or assessment of an art form.

In the real world, a well-informed opinion is still just an opinion. With that being said, the educated opinion has just as much worth as an uneducated one when it comes to the mass majority – as the mass majority is inexpert in terms of art criticism and study.

This is especially true in terms of film criticism – where art is cleverly hidden behind the facade of the entertainment industry. The process of thoughtfully evaluating and analyzing a film has been reduced to sweeping statements of “thumbs up” or “thumbs down.”

These broad overviews and generalizations give consumers the ability to efficiently select what they will consume. Unfortunately, the majority of consumers couldn’t care less about the art of filmmaking – the people behind the scenes who create these spectacles from scratch.

The modern-day movie review does little to address this issue. Instead of being treated like an exhibition being held for a limited time, a film can be regarded as worthy of skipping – not worthy of the consumer’s time or money.

Is anyone truly qualified to appraise a film in those terms? A film is the product of a collective effort – a labor of love by directors, cinematographers, writers, performers, lighting and sound technicians, visual effects artists and an entire crew of individuals.

To reduce a production’s efforts down to a simple, “This sucks!” or “This is awesome!” is not only doing the passionate film enthusiast a disservice, but the film industry as well.

I’m not qualified to judge someone’s work based solely on the terms of “what’s good” and “what’s bad.” I am, however, more than qualified to write about how a film affects me – and why.

“The filmmaking process is a very personal one to me, I mean it really is a personal kind of communication. It’s not as though it’s a study of fear or any of that stuff.”David Cronenberg

The art of film criticism should be every bit as personal and meaningful as the art of making the film itself.

Great cinema is being completely engaged. it’s about getting through to real human truths and emotions. Just like any great art – just like great literature or great painting. It’s something really profound disguised as ordinary.

Anyone can look at the AFI Top 100 Films or IMDB’s Top 250 and say they know what makes great cinema – but in the end, there is no correct answer. It’s all just opinion, as is this increasingly tedious discourse on opinion.

The problem is, opinion is often considered fact when it’s in the majority. I believe I’m officially finished with film reviews – that’s not to say I’ve lost my interest in film criticism. In fact, it’s quite the contrary. Going forward, I’m more interested in studying themes and certain aspects of films, rather than dissecting them frame-by-frame in search of bad acting, poor writing and shoddy lighting.

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