How do you decide whether or not to see a particular movie? Maybe you’re like me and you check out critics’ reviews. How’s that working for you? It’s not working for me. I submit that it’s not working for anyone, including the movies themselves. In fact, I’ll go further and suggest that movie critics (and possibly all contemporary critics) are of virtually no use at all.
That’s a fairly radical statement, I realize. Take a look at a typical listing of various critics reactions to any given movie. They’re typically all over the map. Siskel and Ebert made a fortune disagreeing on whether a movie is good.
So who’s right, Siskel or Ebert? Is there a right or wrong? The critics would have you believe there is. Does it matter? Movie critics are simply basing their opinions on a combination of their (limited) knowledge of film and storytelling, personal baggage/biases (I’ve heard a renowned, credible critic who liked a movie because he thought the star was hot), and the capriciousness of their mood at the time (otherwise, why do some critics sometimes change their evaluations over time?).
The truth is that a review reflects one person’s arbitrary opinion. Granted, some movies are wonderful (e.g. “Princess Bride” and “Back to the Future”) while others just plain stink (think “When in Rome” or “MI:2”) but most others are up for grabs.
When it comes to movies, just like in life, there’s a lot more gray than we think. The best we can hope for is to find a critic – or better yet, a friend – whose tastes align with ours. Talk it out, compare notes. Chances are that you’ll have a very good idea whether a movie is worth seeing by spending some time in discussion. You might also enjoy that shared time.
I’ve been tempted to put some reviews of my own in this blog, but I haven’t got the chuzpah. (I overcame that hesitance a few times, and may yet again. For examples, look at the posts in the category of “film”.)
If you really want to know my opinion on any movie, drop me a comment. Who knows? Maybe we’ll both find a kindred critic/spirit.