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Sunday, March 4, 2012

Critics vs. movie-goers

Saw The Artist last night. It won Best Picture and four other Oscars, and starred Berenice Bejo, so I was curious. It was good; I certainly don't regret seeing it. But I also didn't think it quite as good as advertised. The movie highlights the difference between the way the critics -- or Academy voters -- see a movie, and the way the average movie-goer does.

Critics tend to like anything that's different, like recreating a silent black and white film. Audiences figure, hey, there's a reason they shifted to talkies, and to color.

Critics like movies about movies. And a movie -- like The Artist, which actually shows movie review headlines -- makes them feel important. This sort of incestuousness doesn't interest audiences, who only want to know about filmmakers if it's juicy gossip.

Critics like stylized movies. Audiences just want entertainment.

Critics like good acting. Audiences like good-looking stars; if they can act, that's a plus.

Audiences don't mind having their desires aroused; critics feel only intellectualized lust.

Male audiences like a manly hero to identify with. Critics consider too much testosterone an affront to their sensibilities.

Audiences look at Arnold Schwarzenegger and expect excitement. Critics look up at the screen and think, why is my job forcing to watch that moron again?

Critics care mostly about execution, and message. Audiences like cool, and funny, and inspirational.

Audiences like excitement, and big plots; to critics, "blockbuster" is a dirty word.

Audiences don't mind being emotionally manipulated. Critics resent it.

Audiences like impact; critics prefer subtlety. (Which do you prefer: a mocha grande or some precious European coffee served in a demitasse?)

Critics adore foreign films featuring unknown actors; audiences find subtitles annoying.

The average movie-goers isn't overly concerned with how his choice of movies reflects on him. Reading between the lines, it's fairly obvious most critics would hate to be thought unsophisticated in any way.

Movie-goers like emotionally satisfying endings, with all the loose ends neatly tied up and everybody getting their just desserts. Critics don't mind uncertainty; ambiguity seems to satisfy their sense of perversity.

Audiences are mostly well adjusted; critics favor neurosis.

All that said, The Artist was still an enjoyable film. It's just that it would have been better in color, with spoken dialogue, and maybe a car chase scene or two.


Brian Fradet said...

Hi John,

Funny you should mention about the differences between critics and lay people because due to the critics movie elitism they have become unreliable as a gage of quality. I always go by the movie goers, not the critics. Thanks, Brian

John Craig said...

Brian --
Good point, and as a result of the dichotomy you mention, both rotten and have separate listings for both what the professional critics think and what audiences think. Read what the critics say if you want to be amused, look at the audiences' raitngs if you want to know if the movie is worth seeing.

Jason Hardy said...

well done John, you've summed up very neatly what I've always thought about movie reviews, both from critics and us uninformed folks.

ps. yes i regularly look at RT, and some of the critics are starting to dumb-down their sound bites in favour (i assume) of actually connecting with their audience (ie us)

John Craig said...

Thank you Jason.

I find that generally when both the critics and the audiences like stuff on Rotten Tomatoes you've got a movie you'll probably enjoy.

And yes, I've enticed the same things too: the critics no longer automatically sneer at action movies the way they use to. Even they realize that their sneering was getting boring in its predictability.