Reactionary Causes

Will There Be Another Roger Ebert? No. Thoughts on Today's Cinephiles and Critics

I want opinions and feelings, not history lessons

My Problem with So Many of Today's Cinephiles and Critics
A scene from Blade Runner
Photo: Warner Bros.

Yes, this article may appear random, but over at Variety, Bob Verini posted an article back in early September I only came to read this weekend headlined "Roger Ebert: The Last Critic Who Mattered?" In his opening 'graph Verini seems to describe what it means to have "mattered" in one sentence, writing, "No other critic ever possessed the international platform of his TV gigs, his visibility or his celebrity."

In this sense it seems "mattered" is matched with "popularity" and this isn't to discount Ebert's effect, I've long believed Ebert actually "mattered" because not only was he great at articulating his opinion he'd been around for such a long time and seen so many films during their first run. For him to compare a movie from the late '60s to one released in 2011 made more sense than it did/does for anyone else. It's one thing to have experienced a film first hand and quite another to see it and respond to it years after its release, with years of opinion, adulation and even pushback creating a mystique around nearly each and every film. This is an issue myself and anyone else that writes about film faces today.

I can only imagine reading Roger Ebert's take on Blue is the Warmest Color had he been alive to experience it. What effect might his opinion have on this year's Oscar race considering he would be one of the (if not only) professional critics still alive that was working back when Midnight Cowboy became the only X-rated film to ever win Best Picture (read his review here). His importance, in this sense, is one of several reasons he'll forever be missed.

This considered, inside Verini's article there was a quote from Chicago Reader critic Jonathan Rosenbaum that stuck out for me when he said, "[T]he cinephiles I meet in their 20s and 30s... know far more about film than I possibly could have at their age." The word "know" really means something to me here. I know Midnight Cowboy is the only X-rated film to ever win Best Picture, but I can't speak with much passion as to how much that actually means because I didn't experience it first hand. I can only tell you how others that lived through it interpret it today.

I feel I'm seeing this every day. Online writers, film fanatics, critics and cinephiles come across as knowing so much about the medium and love to tell us how much the know. However, I can't help but read so much of what these people know and yet feel I never end up actually reading what they think. I always feel like I'm getting a history lesson from someone regurgitating the opinions of others rather than their opinion. It's like it's a competition to be the most knowledgable one in the room rather than to engage a readership.

Almost six years ago I saw Blade Runner for the first time and wrote a piece on my experience, admitting to not particularly enjoying it. Years of build-up and hype had turned the film into something mythic. There was no chance it could be what I expected. I watched and left the theater extremely let down.

Since writing that piece I've grown to love the film, but I found my appreciation on my own terms, not through accepting it as a classic and trying to like it, but simply by watching it again and with a different frame of mind rather than through the lens of history and it being the classic so many deem it to be.

Photo: MGM Home Entertainment

In those terms, almost a year later I wrote an opinion piece on Mike Nichols' The Graduate, a film I didn't particularly enjoy for very specific reasons and was blasted in the comments, one of which I find particularly fascinating:

My absolute favorite movie of all time. I can't believe someone who reviews movies for a living could show such little appreciation for a classic. I think you need to watch it again and take your head out of the entertainment standards for the 21st century. Think of what this movie would be if it were made today for the first time. It would be entirely different, and (in my opinion) probably in a bad way. Definitely a great movie, without question. Rethink your opinion, please, because it doesn't sound like you've put enough thought into it and your only trying to start an angry debate.

Pushing aside the silly, misinformed "entertainment standards for the 21st century" bit, I find this comment interesting because of the suggestion I should show "appreciation for a classic" and "rethink my opinion" because how dare I not share the opinion of others and to do so is to only try and start an "angry debate".

Many claim I simply wasn't looking at the film properly and maybe I was hasty or perhaps even harsh in my opinion, but it was how I felt at the time. Should I stay mum until (or only if) my opinion is the same as the masses?

Some commenters were convinced I wasn't interpreting it through the eyes of those that lived in the '60s. Considering I was born in '77 this makes sense. As one of the more reasonable commenters on the piece wrote, "To know that the movie once spoke strongly to a generation is to understand how deep the generation gap ran during that extraordinary time in the late 1960s." Interestingly enough, the film once spoke to Ebert, who gave it a five star review in 1967. However, he revisited it 30 years later only to give it a three star review, and it would appear his thoughts on Dustin Hoffman's Benjamin were more in line with mine upon my first viewing. Is his opinion wrong now?

Is it not possible to change your opinion or should everything only be considered through the lens of those that came before us? Should movies not be interpreted as we see them or should we read the opinions of others, consider a film a classic first and our opinion second? It's one thing to respect and understand an opinion and a completely different thing to have an opinion of your own, how else will a readership learn to trust you?

Over the last several years I've continually watched what are considered classic films, but I have not written much about them. In fact, it's what spawned my Sunday morning articles, "What I Watched, What You Watched". My goal was to learn from that experience with Blade Runner and many other so-called "classics" and only write about them in depth when I had an opinion I felt was "interesting", or the film spoke to me in a personal way or perhaps my thoughts were against the popular opinion. Because what good is it to just regurgitate what has been said over the years without bringing anything new to the table? Oh, so you think Citizen Kane is great do yah? Well, get in line, plenty have already used up the hyperbole quota on that one.

It seems the only way today's cinephiles believe you'll be taken seriously is to repeat what has been said before, or pretend we actually lived through the early film era and experienced these things first hand. Saying, "Here's this thing that's considered great, look how great it is," tells me nothing.

Will there ever be another Roger Ebert? No, there won't be. Film is experienced based on your worldview, limited or not. It's "Choose Your Own Adventure" and your opinion will be shaped by the path you choose to travel. You can't go back in time and relive the classics as they were once interpreted. History has already been written. But that doesn't mean your opinion has to match historical text. It's why it's considered an opinion, there is no fact in this game.

The great thing about today's film criticism is everyone has a unique perspective and we're tapped in and connected to that through an online medium, allowing us to share those perspectives.

I don't need someone to tell me why Blade Runner or The Graduate were considered great or are now considered classics, history has already established their place. I would be interested in reading why someone might consider otherwise as long as they have reason, but I'm also just as interested in reading about movies I've never heard of that may have been overlooked. A sense of history in film is great (let us all praise houses like Criterion, Kino and Masters of Cinema for keeping film history alive), but I'll never understand why so many of today's so-called cinephiles seem to define themselves by their wealth of film knowledge and define their opinions on said knowledge as opposed to authentic feelings and emotion. I'm sure many will say, "But I do feel that way!" Well, then I'm not talking about you, or maybe that's not reflected in your writing and no, I'm not going to name names or point any fingers.

Yes, understanding film history is great and a valuable tool for any critic or film fan to have, but beyond that I'm much more interested in reading new opinions and interpretations on a more personal level than just more people telling me how classic films are classics... because they're classics.

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  • jessied44

    Very well thought out piece. Certainly there are films that I love that meet with less than rousing approval from others or "classics" that I just don't appreciate. Absolutely nothing wrong with a difference of opinion. My pet peeve with many critics today is the "It's all about me" attitude to the point of gather an cohort of other reviewers to bolster that opinion and slamming anyone who disagrees with them. With the old Siskel and Ebert they had the good sense to let the audience decide the issue once their opinion had been given.

  • RagingTaxiDriver

    Great article. I agree whole-heartedly, and admittedly, sometimes it is hard not to think in those terms you discussed. Like when I watched Citizen Kane (after hearing it's the greatest movie of all-time from AFI and Sight and Sound), I agreed. But now, I realize it's just an above average film now...just one that is appreciated for its ground breaking achievements.

  • Adu

    Great article Brad. Come to think of it, I didn't completely appreciate The Godfather until about 3 years ago. It was my thrid viewing of the film and having heard so much prise from critics and films alike I just was not all that impressed with it the first two times.

    Come to think it, even though I love the film, I have an issue with it, and that is the whole wedding part goes on too long at the beginning.

  • Corbin

    Very good piece Brad. Very thoughtful and informative.

  • Hello Kitty

    I think your painting Ebert with too broad a brush. There are critics today I think are comparable to Ebert. Manohla Dargis comes to mind, as well as the mostly unknown James Bernardinelli. Ebert's columns were a joy to read for the most part, but even he could leave me wanting more of the personal reflections.

    • Kessler

      100% agree on James Berardinelli. He's a great critic and I always love reading his reviews and ReelThoughts (although they've been dormant as of lately). He certainly deserves more recognition.

      • Reindeer

        While reading this I was in fact thinking of James Berardinelli as well. Although sometimes his reviews are a bit long for the usual internet-readers, his opinion and especially the way he expresses himself is great. As with Ebert, even if I do not agree with him I do find his views very interesting. Oh, and Brad Brevet, of course... :-)

  • Matt Taylor

    Very well written article. I mostly agree with what you're saying and can certainly agree with your points about today's cinephiles and their thoughts on classic films. There seems to be a sense of elitism amongst many of these people which bothers me quite a bit- especially since, as you mentioned, many of these people weren't around when these films were released and are simply repeating what they've been told about the movie's historical impact.

    I'd also add that there will never be "another Roger Ebert" because the world of film journalism has changed quite a bit. With many of today's prominent film critics writing for blogs instead of papers, there reviews tend to feel more personal and there is more interaction between the readers and the critic. While Ebert took advantage of blogging near the end of his career, I certainly notice a difference between his writing style and the style of many critics writing today.

    • TheLastEquivocationofBrist

      Yeah, speaking of elitism...I can't help it, anytime someone writes about something being a contribution to "the cinema" I groan and stop reading the article.

  • andyluvsfilms

    I'm wasn't impressed with Citizen Kane, Vertigo or Rear Window but there are many other classics like Casablanca and The Grapes Of Wrath that i thought we're brilliant. I'm not sure i would admit to that if i was a film critic due their weight and their importance in film history.
    Film critics for me are more useful for bringing lesser known works to my attention rather than helping me decide what to see.

  • Elijah

    This was a really nice read Brad, I'll admit Ebert's passing hit me really hard because he's the reason I began looking at film critically. I remember watching his annual "Worst of 2002" special and he named Death to Smoochy the worst film of the year, which I thought was absolutely hilarious (although I was 12 so that's not saying much). College was a real eye opener for me, I went through a phase where all I'd do was watch Ebert & Roeper/Siskel reviews. There was a certain glee in hearing the conviction of their opinions and it helped me find my own filmic personality through my disagreements.

    Experiencing the pretentiousness of some film classes taught me both how useful the "best films of all time" are and how I don't have to pigeonhole myself into admitting when some classic films were dreadful. Films like Easy Rider, Birth of a Nation and The Only Son were torture to watch and I found my dislike for them was a liberating experience. I also don't know if I would've enjoyed M, The Passion of Joan of Ark, or Madchen in Uniform in school as much without Ebert as an educational force in my life.

  • Winchester

    I was never really a big reader of other critics or critics in general for most of my life. I figure I know when I want to see a film or not and how badly, but sometimes afterwards I find reviews interesting to get a sense of what the rough appreciation for a film is. I certainly don't always agree with general consensus though.

    'Classics' I guess pose a slight problem because of their age though and I agree with some of the article but I also don't think educating yourself about film history is a problem either.

    Since Citizen Kane and Blade Runner are being used (I confess I have never seen further past The Graduate than about twenty minutes or so), the first time I watched Kane I was in my early teens. Maybe younger. I didn't get it. Or the fuss. I already knew it was supposed to be the Greatest Film Ever made. I had no idea why. I didn't get Rear Window or Vertigo either when I first watched them around that age and I forgot them promptly for many years afterwards. Likewise, I tried to watch Blade Runner.................lost count of how many times, and never could get past about a third of it. Nothing was happening, it just seemed odd and I shut it off.

    But eventually I figured I should give them a shot again because I knew they came up in various Greatest Ever listings and I wanted to know why. So, one way or another I got them and tried again. I also listened to commentaries, watched documentaries about the films by film historians, read magazine articles for various perspectives to find out who could put into context some of the reasons WHY the films had become so regarded over their lives - information and insights I could never possibly have found out about all about on my own. And with that information I started rewatching these films with that floating about in my head.

    As it happens, in the case of those four films, it helped me to see the films in a way that finally made me enjoy them much more than originally. Because I wasn't knowledgeable enough to see all their merits when I was younger. There isn't a lot left that people can write about Kane now that's either think it deserves to be in the mix or you don't but I don't see trying to find out information to try and understand possible reasons why some films like it are regarded the way they are is something to hide.

    And if it helps you with other films later on then surely that's a bonus.

    Does that make me a pretentious cinephile? I don't know because personally I've never liked the term cinephile and would aim never to use it about me. Plus I like the Transformers films so surely I would be Persona non Grata at the entrance exam. But trying to have a bit of knowledge about film history in the hope it might help you understand a little about it is no bad thing.

    There are a lot of older films I've done this with and while I don't end up liking them all, I do find it fascinating to learn something sometimes about them.

    • Brad Brevet

      I don't think we're talking about the same thing, which makes it hard to reply to your comments. As I stated, no, I don't think learning about film history and exploring reasons why others consider a film is good or a "classic" is a bad thing, but at the same time, I don't need to read another article, review or defense of a classic film from the perspective of someone else.

      Too often I find historical opinion on films is often regarded as fact rather than an opinion. I think love of film is a very personal thing and if I only started liking movies because of how other people interpreted them I don't think my opinion would be all that interesting to read. Commentaries, essays, etc. on classic films definitely add to the appreciation, but do you suddenly adopt those opinions or does it merely offer a way to understand why a film was adored by others?

      What you describe seems to be a way of saying, "I didn't really understand why Blade Runner was considered a classic until I explored the thoughts of others and now I understand why it's a classic, but for me, while I can now find more enjoyment in a film I wouldn't necessarily call it a 'classic'." You might take some of what others considered great and push back a little, while another connection speaks to you more, but knowing your comments I wouldn't expect you to say, "So-and-so said this, I agree, now I love Blade Runner." After reading your comments for a long time I get the impression you're a bigger thinker than that. Or am I interpreting what you've written wrong?

      What people have said and written about movies in the past is important, but in my opinion it's important only in that it helps us find our own insight into a film rather than something to simply claim as our own or regurgitate without advancing the conversation.

      • Winchester

        Blast...............I had written a whole reply there and then my Browser tanked on me before it all posted and I lost it.

        To try and cut things short, I tend to agree with your last paragraph, and I wouldn't normally go down the route of 'So and so said, so now I love..........' and would go with the former but what I would absolutely say is sometimes it takes exploring someone else's contextualising of an older film to push it from being something I just liked to being something I could appreciate more deeply.

        I could have dismissed Blade Runner after seven (at least) failed attempts to watch it as a rubbish film and spent years with that opinion, but perseverance and curiosity paid off and it's now a favourite. It's the opposite to Ebert's relationship with The Graduate. But I never would have bothered or persevered without reading how other's felt about it and expanded my frame of reference.

        And I think that showed up sometimes even in the likes of Movie Club when some selections of older films didn't really generate much discussion at all because there was no apparent frame of reference for some people (myself included) for some of them.

        That's all I'm saying :)

        • Winchester

          And yes, I'm probably still off on a tangent..............................

        • Brad Brevet

          "I would absolutely say is sometimes it takes exploring someone else's contextualising of an older film to push it from being something I just liked to being something I could appreciate more deeply."

          Certainly, but at that point your appreciation is yours, I would assume, because something has been unlocked, someone just merely needed to give you a key. You returned to it, most likely, for a reason, you just weren't sure what it was yet.

          Either way, thanks for contributing to the conversation.

        • TheLastEquivocationofBrist

          I readily admit I often use Brad's reviews to help decide whether or not to see a movie, but my opinions of a movie don't tend to change after the fact once I've seen it. Movies souring over time certainly happens, but I can't really think of an example of the reverse for me.

          I did happen to love Blade Runner, Citizen Kane, Rear Window, and Vertigo on first viewing, and enjoyed The Graduate as well...but for a counter-example, I know The Big Sleep is in the IMDb top 250. I watched it once, hated it, and I never intend to watch it again. I think reading articles about why it's a great/important movie would just cause cognitive dissonance and irritate me. Maybe that means I'm closed-minded, I don't know.

          In the case of Blade Runner Winchester, did reading those other opinions help clarify things you didn't understand? Or did they just convince you to keep trying until it grew on you?

          I do agree with your last point re: Movie Club that lack of context can make it hard to generate discussion...there are definitely some movies I see and enjoy, but can't think of much to say about. That's one thing I admire about film critics, going out and writing so many reviews whether the movie is easy to write about or not.

          • Winchester

            In the case of Blade Runner it was more like encouragement to keep plugging at it.

            I'm not going to say any more after this post because I really think last night I came at the article from the wrong direction but I wanted to answer the question, or try to. So prepare for another bad analogy..............

            Some films like Blade Runner are like Math sometimes. I always struggled with math and couldn't get it sometimes. And I had different teachers along the way. Eventually, I found a teacher who presented the subject in a way my brain could follow and make sense out of and I could see the solutions and do the math myself from then on.

            Blade Runner just needed me to find the right combination of historical opinion and context to 'see' it from an angle I could finally then get it from A to B in my head. I've also done that for a lot of other films that are older.

            I don't like all old movies or 'Classic' films, but I think I don't experience any conflict therein. Sometimes I watch an older film, read a bit about if afterwards or go through some extras to try and get a sense of the 'why' on it and I still don't like it much (I don't like 'Gone With The Wind' does nothing for me at all)

            • TheLastEquivocationofBrist

              Thanks for responding again Winchester. The "school subject" analogy helps me understand where you're coming from a bit better. I'm not sure if it's happened that way for a movie with me, but here's a book example: The Sound and the Fury by Faulkner. I now think it's one of the best books I've ever read, but if I hadn't been forced to stick with it and discuss it for high school English class I probably would've given up after a few pages.

      • Reindeer

        In reply to your third paragraph, Brad: I have to disagree there. Especially when it comes to technical details of a film it really can help me to enjoy a film. A lot. These days I am able to enjoy a film on just the technical level (mainly the photography). And that's a result of me understanding - and therefore really seeing - another kind of greatness. I think a film could be considered a classic on just a technical level.

        I watched Citizen Kane after I learned a lot about it. From mentioned essays, articles, etc. Therefore I was constantly impressed with how Welles was handling his film. I think the average moviegoer could miss the long opening take of Touch of Evil as being one long take. He or she will simply not see it. And I also think that after learning about it, really notice it, the same person could enjoy (and admire) it a lot more. After noticing those things, I think people could change their opinion on a film towards it being "a classic".

        For me a lot of those essays (Ebert's Great Movies come to mind) made me revisit classics and I liked some of them more than before. Not because I had to or Ebert told me to, but because I saw really impressive things I missed the first time I saw the film. And sometimes these changes were so big, films became classics and I "suddenly" loved them.

        My question: can you argue that Citizen Kane is a classic? I mean, it may not do something for you, you may find it boring, but it changed how films have looked ever since. No matter what your opinion is about the film in general. Can you really say: Citizen Kane, to me, is not a classic? Same for Birth of a Nation (a film that is easily loathed, but can you argue it's a classic?). Are we really talk of opinion when it comes to most of the films mentioned in article and comments here? What defines "classic"? Or am I only talking terminology now?

        • Brad Brevet

          "[C]an you argue that Citizen Kane is a classic?"

          I would probably reword the question to say "Can you argue Citizen Kane is not a classic?" and I would say, "No, you can't."

          Citizen Kane's place in history is determined largely by the techniques Welles used and the fact he wore so many hats and did so at such a young age. It had a profound effect on cinema that cannot be denied.

          Narratively you could argue it is lacking, but I think most people reference it in terms of its forwarding of cinema in general more than for the story being told. After all, you can obviously take the film to task for its most popular line, "Rosebud," which no one actually heard and yet the entire film focuses on its meaning.

          You also bring up a lot of other good points, many I wouldn't argue against. Technically speaking, Citizen Kane has some great dissolves I've always loved and his use of deep focus is legendary. I love Jean-Luc Godard's use of jump cuts in Breathless and I've covered some of Charlie Chaplin's fantastic in-camera techniques in the past. However, for me these are flourishes on the final project in most cases, not all, but most.

          Personally, I tend to focus much more on character and story, though there are obviously times a film's style wins me over just as much, though I do believe that if it was entirely lacking from a narrative standpoint I wouldn't find it nearly as rewarding.

  • Roger Judd

    Small thought: I find many younger movie viewers like myself (28 yrs old) are at a disadvantage right off the bat when it comes to watching older "classics". The expectations are already high to enjoy a movie so highly thought of by many people, often times I find myself underwhelmed after watching certain classic movies because of all the hype that came with it before seeing the first frame. I think this is a factor as to why many people who don't understand why you don't love a movie the same way they do.

    Guys like Ebert got to experience these movies when it came out, a much different viewing experience. It's cool to see something like Star Wars or The Godfather or Citizen Kane before the hype that now goes along with titles like those.

    • andyluvsfilms

      When it comes to older films you just need to find those that you think you might be interested in rather than their place in history or the director. I personally haven't liked any Hitchcock film that i've seen but give me a film like The Devils from 1971 that deals with history and religion then i'm in.

  • brace

    great article. I also wasn't so impressed with The Graduate, and many other classics,but I respect their status despite my personal opinion. Actually I respect all movies that have their passionate fans, even if I didn't like them. and I expect others to respect my opinion and taste. Ebert once said something about how every person has different favorite movies and you can't find two people with identical favorites. something like that. and I agree with that - I prefer diversity rather than consensus.

  • jinjuriki187

    this was a really good article, and i agree with everything you are saying. I've only seen blade runner once and i wasn't the biggest fan either, but i do plan on re watching it someday to see if mu opinion differs. I'm also don't think citizen Kane is that good of a movie either, maybe for the time it was but for me, its just an ok movie. all it is is opinions, should i be criticized for not liking what is considered by the masses to be one of the greatest films of all time? i don't think so but thats the problem is that people will tell you otherwise. anyway great article brad

  • Mikey

    Awesome article Brad. I totally agree. People who defend their love of a film simply because "it's a classic" are almost as annoying as those who say "How can you not like this? It was nominated for Best Picture!" People should back their opinions (whether they be in the majority or the minority) with reasons, not by citing the opinions of others. Having an actual opinion is something I find you do very well. Which is why even when I disagree with you on a film, I keep coming back and reading your reviews.

  • John W. Creasy

    More than hearing people defend classics, I love to read movie lovers admitting and properly defending their favorites, especially if those movies are unpopular (or unpopularly TOO popular).

  • topyxyz

    There are two old films that come to mind: 2001: A Space Odyssey and Blade Runner - 2 films I gave a C+ because of extremely high expectations set by loads of people that wasn't met when I saw the two. Since then though, I've compared these two films with recent ones because of their influence. I could definitely see how movies can grow on you, but right now I haven't had the urge to revisit them. But you're right though, I probably should've expressed me honest opinion the first time I saw them, no sugarcoating and all.

    • andyluvsfilms

      Aside from scene where the man is fiddling with Hal's memory i really didn't like 2001 at all, if it wasn't a Kubrick film im convinced a lot more people would like it less.

      • topyxyz

        The two were kind of just too slow for me. Though I do remember loving some parts, just couldn't say the same for their entirety.

      • TheLastEquivocationofBrist

        Yeah it's been years since I've seen it, but from what I remember I found Full Metal Jacket and Dr. Strangelove to be better than 2001.

        • andyluvsfilms

          I haven't seen Eyes Wide Shut or Dr Strangelove but the only Kubrick film I really like is A Clockwork Orange which apparently he didn't like and the film was only to be released on DVD after he died. I'm not sure how true that is.

          By pure coincidence Blade Runner has turned up today so i'll hopefully watch that one later today.

  • SammyJ

    The sole reason why onliners, critics and cinefiles always "love" older films (preferably european films) is nothing but status and legitimizing. I bet my nutsack that at least half of the people who has ever said they loved 8½ never actually saw it.

    Even worse than the dishonest approach to older films and "art films" is the current; independent films equals art, Blockbusters is mcdonalds for the dumb masses. This is the limited mindset of so many bloggers and even some filmmakes (like Soderbergh, who has made 95% of his films for studios - hypocrisy at it's finest)

    • Reindeer

      The sole reason...? You make it sound it's a crime to say you love those films. 8½ is a particularly bad example, since most people I know really like that film (non-cinephiles, and I watched it with them). The same people admit to me they do not enjoy Citizen Kane a single bit, so they do not say the 8½-thing just to impress.

      And I am not sure which critics you read, but most of them enjoy a good Bergman as much as Spider-Man 2...

      • SammyJ

        obviously it's a generalization and over exaggeration. I don't think most non-cinephiles love, or will ever watch, 8½.

        "And I am not sure which critics you read, but most of them enjoy a good Bergman as much as Spider-Man 2..." Okay, thanks..

  • marlonwallace

    I almost feel like this article is an argument against reading film reviews or critiques, or essentially we should go into all movies as ignorant as possible to the opinions of others. We should almost be child-like in our wonder.

    I wish Brad would name names because I feel like I was little confused about what he defined as "film knowledge." Does film knowledge simply mean citing the opinions of others in an argument for or against a movie? Or, does film knowledge simply mean knowing outside statistics like how many awards said movie has won? I probably don't read as many reviews or critiques as Brad, but I feel like I've never encountered that. Critics who I've read have mostly been critics introduced to me through Roger Ebert or his show, critics like Richard Roeper, A.O. Scott, Michael Phillips, Christy Lemire and Ben Mankiewicz. I also enjoy Joe Morgenstern, Wesley Morris, Clay Cane, Katey Rich and David Ehrlich. I don't feel like any of them do too much, if any of that.

    I think I'm also at a loss about the definition of "authentic feelings and emotion." Because an authentic feeling might be that I don't like vegetables, but that doesn't mean that vegetables aren't in fact good, healthy and nutritious things. When it comes to film criticism or art criticism, is it possible to have vegetables that people don't like. Yes, but does a person not liking it make that vegetable bad? For that individual, the answer might be yes, but objectively the answer might be no. We can hate things that are good and we can rationalize are hate for it any way that we want to something as simple was it didn't feel right to my senses.

    I've always opposed critics like Armond White that argue standards or rules that artists must abide in order to be considered "good" art because even if said artist does abide by those rules, I can still NOT like it, which is the problem with having these discussions. The truth might be that there are no standards and there are no rules, which if that's the case, then what really is the point of having the discussion at all?

    Brad points out correctly that there are only unique perspectives. There is no right or wrong answer. I guess, it's only what you like and what you don't like. Brad's article here seems to suggest that that's fine, but he prefers that the reason that you like or dislike something be a reason that is not influenced by others, which is very difficult, unless you stop reading movie sites all together, and you never talk to anyone who has, or you willingly become a contrarian. I don't know.

    • Brad Brevet

      "The truth might be that there are no standards and there are no rules, which if that's the case, then what really is the point of having the discussion at all?"

      The point of the discussion is how it affects us and why it effects us. It doesn't effect us because others say something is good, it affects us because we believe it to be good, the point is digging into the why -- negative or positive.

      I'm also curious why you would need to stop reading movie sites to have a unique perspective. Your perspective isn't based on what you know about a film's production, what camera it was shot on or what your favorite critics or history has said about a film is it? Yes, that may play a role and help you flesh out your feelings, but in the end it's not the opinion of others you rely on for the basis of your opinion is it?

      • marlonwallace

        It's not about relying on others' opinions. I was merely echoing a point that Laremy has made on the podcast repeatedly. If you read someone else's opinion or you read all the behind-the-scenes info, that CAN influence your thoughts about that movie. I think if you're mature, obviously you can put that stuff aside, but to say that it would not influence you at all, even in the slightest, is a difficult argument to make. But, if you stop reading the sites, the reviews and the behind-the-scenes stuff, you go into the movie with a blank slate and a purer mind, which I think goes to your point of getting at a more authentic experience while watching a movie. Both you and Laremy have talked about not watching trailers before going to see a film. It's the same principle when avoiding reviews and movie sites that report on behind-the-scenes stuff. It's the same principle to me anyway.

        But, I think that because someone tells you something is good can affect your thoughts about the movie, either positively or negatively, and again you guys have talked about this on the podcast. If there's a lot of hype and so-called Oscar buzz going into a person's viewing of a film, that can have an affect. Whether or not that affect is lasting is, I think, the question at hand. But, in the end, it's all about how a person articulates their reason for liking a movie.

        But, Brad, going back to my point about standards and rules when it comes to film making and subsequently film criticism, yes, a movie will affect different people differently, so isn't it true that there is no such thing as a good movie or a bad movie? Isn't it merely the case that there are movies that some people like and other people dislike? can there be something that's objectively a "good film", regardless of any negative argument against it, no matter how well-articulated and reasonable that argument is?

        • Brad Brevet

          "Isn't it merely the case that there are movies that some people like and other people dislike?"

          Yup, which is why I'm interested in the reasons why and why the behind-the-scenes and technical stuff doesn't interest me as much. For example, does it matter a movie was shot on film or digital or does it matter how it looked and only afterward does the method in how it was made become relevant?

          If you watch a movie without knowing it won Best Picture or is considered an all-time classic does your opinion change afterward if you suddenly learn such? Perhaps you can find deeper meaning in the analysis of others and rewatch it later on, but I still believe most of the journey is done within ourselves.

          This doesn't take away from conversation and discussion, in fact I think it heightens it. Discussing film is much more interesting, to me, when it's discussed on a personal level, not when we merely repeat what others have said before without context.

  • Ron Oneal Fresh

    I agree it really difficult to interpret certain films through the perspective of the time it was made, it's not impossible but rather difficult for certain films that were lauded for their revolutionary techniques or forward thinking narratives. Sometimes I'm left disappointed (Breathless, La Dolce Vita, Lawrence of Arabia) other times the hype lives up (Chinatown, 2001 A Space Odyssey).

    I think cinephiles want people to love the same movies they do, for some reason. Disliking films that they regard as classic or a favorite surmounts to an attack on THEIR tastes. I don't think that phenomena is exclusive to film enthusiasts but also television watchers and music nerds.

    It OK not to like a 'classic' films as long as you DO have reasons, but I and as well pretty sure everyone else finds it difficult sometimes — many times, to accept reasons for not liking a historically labeled 'classic' film or current film of time b/c the reasons weren't specific or valid in our estimations.

    I think it's impossible for someone to not to have had that reaction from one time or another.

  • Ron Oneal Fresh

    Dissenting opinions on films are a one-way street. Sure you are going to be attacked for not liking a 'classic film' the nature of the hype you are surely not going to be alone in sentiment of being lukewarm or disliking a film flat-out

    But god forbid you love the Transformers films or Pacific Rim you're an idiot who likes 'junk' and someone needs to purge these cinematic travesties for you b/c you don't know any better. So there's pretentious GROUPTHINK on both sides.

    • Ron Oneal Fresh

      Point is, don't get too worked up on what other people think of your opinions.

  • TheLastEquivocationofBrist

    This is a good article and dovetails with my general preference on reviews. When I'm reading a review, I don't want to know which demographics it will supposedly play to, I don't want to know how much it will make at box office, I don't want to know that it's "not as good as you hoped but not as bad as you expected" or some such nonsense, and I don't want to know whether it's one of the best "two or three best contributions to the cinema on this topic."

    I just want to know whether the critic actually liked it or not, and why.

    • TheLastEquivocationofBrist

      I should've said "most important contributions to the cinema" instead of "best." That word "best" would actually imply an opinion :P

  • Josh McLaughlin

    I get how you feel. Sometimes I've seen "classic" movies that were made to have a certain audience from another time appreciate them, but I just didn't "get" them when I saw them (like "Breakfast at Tiffany's" or "The Birds."). They may have been interesting films in their own rights, but I couldn't see how they could be so well-beloved because of their quality (I sort of felt like "whatever...").

  • Vince Smetana

    Roger Ebert was a critic who leaned towards more populist tastes and, along with Gene Siskel, became the most well known movie aficionados post-Kael. They filled a vacuum, and Ebert reinvented himself and retained notoriety after Siskel's death in an era that still allowed an untouchable level of fame. The internet was still fresh and pretty new, but, we live in a time now with the mass dispersement of information through an endless supply of channels that one singular voice in film criticism for the masses is unlikely. Additionally, Ebert's popularity up until his death was also elevated by his vocal opinions outside of the realm of cinema through social media with an assortment of politically-tinged comments.

    This is part of the answer to the question asked in the title of this article.