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Who Needs Critics Anyway?

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Mark Kermode | 12:29 UK time, Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Does it matter who criticizes movies? How about Kevin Smith's plan of simply handing out free tickets to the public and seeing what they think? What do you think?

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  • Comment number 1.

    I know two regular members of the film going public who went to see Smith's new movie, Cop Out. The said they walked out of the film after half and hour because they were bored and hungry.

    Maybe a critic would have reviewed such a film in a more nuanced way?

  • Comment number 2.

    I concur, just look at the 'vox pop' style 'reviews' used in some trailers...'It's well good, innit', or 'It's scary'. Well, i don't know about you, but I'm sold.... I don't doubt that some of those 1000 will indeed know their grip from their elbow, and would give thoughtful reviews, but many would not. And how exactly does Mr Smith want his 1000 averages Joes and Josephinas to spread their views on the film? Publish them? Because surely then they become either a) critics themselves, or b) hired PR staff. And, heaven forbid, what if they all walked out because they got bored and hungry? Well, I guess at least it beats a critical mauling....

  • Comment number 3.

    Hi Dr Mark,

    Yeah, I think the BBC really know how to use the many good film critics out there(may I say yourself included), by not concidering any of them for the presenter of 'Film 2010'.

    No, they get Claudia 'I love films me' Winkleman.

    Who will turn the programme into nothing more than a love fest of celeb gossip and 'isn't Brad lovely' comments.

    Her knowledge of film must have been one of the closely kept secrets of all time - because lets face it, how can we be expected to take anything she has to say on the subject seriously.

    They may as well have asked my Nan!

  • Comment number 4.

    Kevin Smith is a hypocrite, he's always making critical views of movies in his own films, as well as sarcastic comments about an actors film career in his director's commentary.

    He's also appeared as a guest a popular US movie review show alongside Roger Ebert, and Richard Roeper, giving his critical views points on movies, and was also recently a guest on the Late Night Review show for the beeb.

    As the old saying goes, 'people in glass houses, shouldn't throw stones'.

  • Comment number 5.

    Any Audrey Tautou fans in?

    I like Kevin Smith, I like Mark Kermode. But which is better. There's only one way to find out.......FIIIIIIIIGHT!

    Kick-Ass is out this week. Be there or be somewhere else and slightly less round.

  • Comment number 6.

    It's interesting for Kevin Smith to say that, for he was in fact once a critic when Roger Ebert fell very ill and no longer returned to the show At the Movies he filled in on at least two occasions, reviewing the Departed, you can check it out on the website. The reason why I think he has come out and said this is a case of sour grapes considering that his last two movies, Cop Out and Zack & Miri, have been critically panned, so I think he is firing back just because people don't like his films, which is incredibly hypocritical for him to do. I believe that is the reason why Shyamalan did it and is probably why Smith is doing it now. In fact it proves something you, Doctor Kermode, said a long time ago. He just needs to grow up.

  • Comment number 7.

    I've read what Kevin Smith tweeted (all of them) and I've watched this blog twice. I like to think I'm fairly intelligent but to quote Tom Hanks "I don't get it".

    Kevin expressed some points of view about critics, one of which being that critics don't like to be criticised and Mark has posted a blog confirming this statement.


  • Comment number 8.

    Doctor Mark,

    I am reading your book at the moment and already 210 pages in despite bying it less than four weeks ago. while some sections are repetitive overall its a very interesting book that other critics wont understand. Because- every critic has a different view on film so Roger ebert could write something everyone agrees with and then the next day write something as being good with just 1% on rotten tomatoes.
    Oh, and not to slate you or anything but i think claudia winkleman should be the film 2010 host not because she knows more about film but that your position has given you a big cult fanbase and many people respect you not as a mainstream film reviewer but a reviewer who is not afraid to go and see films which show the darker side to cinema.
    Thats what makes you the best critic at the BBC.

  • Comment number 9.

    As a film critic I get hounded time and again about my bad reviews of, well, bad films. Most hostile have been the ones who took offence to my giving Avatar a two star review and The Hangover a similarly disdainful two star review. But you know what, that's fine by me, because one of the most satisfying things about this job is people coming up to you and wanting to debate. If nothing else, film criticism gets people talking. Would we be here on this blog were it not for Mark's film reviews? Many people here don't agree with Mark's criticisms yet return repeatedly to this blog to voice their opinions and share thoughts. Look at the recent "Film School 101", where Mark has influenced many of us to seek out films we may not have heard of (or have simply forgotten).

    Film criticism is not all about good reviews equalling good box office or good turnout, it's about someone knowledgeable on film being able to generate discussion of film, passionate debate...even if it means getting a mouthful of Budweiser-flavoured spit in my face while down the local pub from a disgruntled Avatar fan.

  • Comment number 10.

    In addition to everything you've cited, a good critic is also a reliable voice of recommendation. You and Roger Ebert, for example, are two obvious experts on the history of cinema and you both have the ability to praise mindless entertainment when you see fit. Even when I disagree with you two, I still have respect for your views.

    That's the way to rely on critics, not as make-or-break forces towards a given film but as intelligent arbiters who have the full context of cinema within their grasp and who can provide valuable insight as to why some films work and why others don't.

  • Comment number 11.

    I think Kevin Smith is just a little too in love with himself and the sound of his own voice. The problem is that enough people still applaud this behaviour and have him convinced that it's perfectly okay. I will say that I think some parts of his movies have been genuinely fun and interesting, but he always falls back on cheap gags and self-congratulatory filler.

    Back on the subject of film criticism, I agree with psychfursfan83 (even if I disagree with them on Avatar, which I enjoyed), it's about discussion and just connecting with other fans, and I agree with Doctor Mark - it's about encouraging better films. We humans are social animals, discussion of a subject extends our understanding of it. And we love discovering things - in this case films - and are thankful when somebody points us to a great one.

    And I think great film critics - and I do think Mark falls in this category - place movies in a cultural and historical context, which elevates them from entertainment to art, and which establishes them not only as meaningful to the viewer, but also meaningful within our culture. You can only expect to be taken seriously if you allow someone to pause and do just that, take you seriously, with all the blows to your ego this may involve. It is, after all, the discussion and consideration of any art that makes it art in the first place, instead of something you just made for yourself.

  • Comment number 12.

    I don't imagine Smith's an unintelligent man and realises that the relationship between fim makers and film critics is, to a certain extent, a symbiotic one. His ploy is an attempt to fire people up - fired me up until it dawned on me that it's a cynical publicity stunt on behalf of Smith to hoist his ailing, so-called "directorial career" off it's sorry ass and carve himself a nice bit of chattering ersatz in the likes of Empire and Total Film. He doesn't deserve a response but he's got one, and by that token he's still buying into the film maker/critic relationship. Bless! Idiot, or is he?

    By the way Mark, got your book for my birthday, loving it, couldn't put it down last night and my hubbie moaned at me for waking him up cos I was laughing so loudly. Proper grand.

  • Comment number 13.

    Good point well made

  • Comment number 14.

    Good critics also have a knowledge of other works the director has done or films that can be compared to the movie in question. Yes we all have an opinion, but I'm always going to be more interested in someone who actually knows what they're talking about rather than one of the thousand who see a Kevin Smith film and say "yeah, it was alright".

    Am also gutted that Mark didn't get the job of Film 2010, but then what the hell does Jonathon Ross know about films? Surely he just reads whatever autocue is in front of him.

    One last thing: really struggled with the camera/editing there Dr. K. That light in the mirror did my head in.

  • Comment number 15.

    Well said Dr K, err did I miss something? Anyway love it, keep it coming. Yadayadayada I know what your gona say, anyway wish you would have done film 2010 andor at least helped that fit bird who's going to do it.


  • Comment number 16.

    To each his own / Varity is the spice of life, etc.

  • Comment number 17.

    Dear Dr Kermode

    Something has just occurred to me with the publication of your book - is it my imagination that this is the first autobiography by a film critic? I have a couple of Ebert's books and read some of Pauline Kael's that were more or less reprinted reviews of their previous articles - I'm not counting the novels of Kim Newman.

    Here we have an instance of film critic as auteur; as the hero of the story. Not that indomitable Woodward-and-Bernstein investigative journalist but the unsung, unappreciated shill for corporate Hollywood (Empire and Total Film, hold your heads in shame - in the words of SLJ in Jackie Brown, "what happened to you man, you used to be beautiful")

    I've read your book. I really liked it. But then isn't that at the heart of auteurism? I like you, I like your work, I liked your book - and the opposite is usually true. A film critic is a friend with whom you share interests and respect their opinions. And some friends you trust more than others.

    Transformers and Avatar (why has no-one mentioned Cameron ripped off Frank Herbert) are generally regarded as critic-proof. Critics at Empire and Total Film have sold out (like Michael Bay and Paul WS Anderson). Jonathan Ross whom I've liked since The Last Resort became unreliable by having conflicting shows. I won't bother mentioning his brother (the film critic equivalent of a crack whore). I don't trust Peter Bradshaw because he was responsible for one of the worst sitcoms ever (like Tim Burton after Planet of the Apes and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory). And Kim Newman scares me - his reviews of genre films for S&S are like a 70s open university programme shown at 6am on a subject I thought I knew about and suddenly realise the true insignificance of my brain.

    Maybe I am stretching the analogy and I don't want this to be one big ego stroke but I do wonder how there is a market for the autobiography of (essentially) a film critic? Maybe you have gone from the "friend" whose opinion we like to hear to the "friend" we like and want to know more about?

    Btw. Just wanted to quickly share a tenuous 'six-degrees-of-Kevin-Bacon' moment. I was at the Raindance Film Festival in 1994 about to meet an exec from the company that distributed 'Reservoir Dogs' and I started speaking with a very nice Italian director who was trying to sell his film - the first movie shot in the Ukraine, a horror called Dark Water. Lovely guy and being the sentimental type, I showed my support by buying the VHS when it was eventually released.

  • Comment number 18.

    It's all well and good saying critics are there to point out smaller ect films and bring them to a wider audiance. However, when ever hear about a film such as this for you or another reputable critic, I am often unable to see it. Many of these films recieve only a limited release and it is difficult, especially in the provances, to catch them.

    Aside from this, agree with your points completely. However, im sure not all of the critics have been horible about kevin smith's new film. If the reviewer at the daily mirror can give 2012 a 10/10 rating and call it 'the best disaster movie ever' then there must be some hope for cop out.

  • Comment number 19.

    This seems to be emblematic of a deeper malaise on the part of The Journalistic Collective - namely being undermined by bloggers who are freed from the shackles of financial gain or editorial supervision.

    It would seem prudent for many critics, of any medium, to shed their relation with inevitable success stories and instead become bastions of quality (not, of course, that success and quality are incompatible).

    If The Journalistic Collective successfully migrate to the web, there is little reason they cannot reside quite happily beside The Public.

  • Comment number 20.

    With any genre of art, I think someone with background, in-depth knowledge on the subject and an eloquent way of expressing their opinion on it is necessary, especially for films.

    I take for granted my daily clicks on Rotten Tomatoes and IMDb to see what critics and your average cinema-goer thinks respectively and it's become second-nature to see whether a new film is worth seeing. Even then, in the case of Inglorious Basterds, it can be highly lauded and I think 'nope, don't agree - mediocre, overlong mess', and makes me glad I waited for the DVD.

    Personally, if you can't take it, don't dish it out(especially someone like Kevin Smith - I saw his vid on YouTube ranting about Superman Returns). If a adult can't handle constructive criticism then film-making is the wrong career for them. They like it when people are kissing their arse, but become disgruntled when they get a critical mauling. Awww, their poor egos can't take anything besides 'yes, George'.

    You know, for some film makers, they need someone to tell them 'that's enough' on set, during filming so they don't become self-indulgent when given free reign *cough* Tarantino and Lucas *cough*

    Critics aren't superfluous beings - they're needed (as aforementioned) to share their recommendations and background knowledge about film, whether the review itself is negative or positive. Hopefully, this will lead to better films being made.

  • Comment number 21.

    Well this question was recently put to a great many critics in the Culture show I believe - was it that Toby Young who was investigating? Anyway:

    I believe that the point of a critic is so that the public can find one of the many opinionated voices in the media that conform for the most part to their own likes and dislikes when going to the cinema.

    I generally seek the reviews of a certain quiff wearing undertaker because well... in Dr. K I trust. It allows an individual a heads up from someone who's POV they can trust.

    This proves helpful with films such like the recent Burton Alice in Wonderland. While I do like his work, I had my worries confirmed by the good doctor's review so it fell off my priority list and under Green Zone and Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

    There are some films that can be a big disappointment; I had the experience with The Watchmen - and so one should simply pick those up on dvd when bored or on TV when those movies bare their ugly heads.

    I have recently become involved with ShowFilmFirst which does exactly what Kevin Smith has suggested. I get free preview tickets and write about movies online to help with viral promotion. However this is simply just a new channel for movie PR.

    There will always be a place for the popular critic who can draw on a wider film history (than you may have) and inform you better than a money grabbing presenter who prank phone calls old British actors on radio but is given the great Barry Norman's old job.

    In fact Norman did say that one of the reasons he wanted to quit was because he found it harder to discuss films more honestly and his work was becoming a process of back-patting for cash - enter Jonathan 'I've seen no films made before 1970' Ross.

    As for Kevin Smith - I doubt we will be seeing any new, challenging work from Mr Clerks that requires critical support. Like he said in his stand-up routine: "Throw a rock and you'll hit a better filmmaker than me"

  • Comment number 22.

    Critics need to exist so that the best of them can shrug off films like The Dark Knight and tell the average cinema going public to get real.

    Words like 'genius' and 'masterpiece' are abused when referring to hyped-up, comic book films like Batman 2.

  • Comment number 23.

    Nice plug for the book (missed the signing in Brighton due to you literally selling out the Duke Of York's!).

    Very interesting topic. Remember Godzilla in '98, where Emmerich (sic) called the mayor & his aide Siskel & Ebert, and said critics (particularly Siskel) called this move childish? Maybe so, but perhaps some critics need to develop a sense of humour. If you can't catch, don't throw.

    Agree with Mark's comment that it seems to be formerly beloved film makers who've fallen on crtically hard times that seem to react this way. As he said, it's all about opinion. You could argue that Mark himself is proof positive about this re his review of Sherlock Holmes. His love of all things Guy Ritchie is well (ahem) documented. But, a full year before it was released, when a fan mentioned the film was being filmed and how could they sabotage it, Mark said that it could be his masterpiece, you never know - and lo and behold, it appears it was, and Mark's review reflected that.

    It is all about opinion. Both film makers & critics are entitled to it, and both must accept without rancour that you may get it wrong / back in your face at times, and you must accept it with good grace.

    And I'm looking forward to Transformers 3! More big robots hitting each other please!!

  • Comment number 24.

    Sounds good to me, can I have some free tickets then?

    Kevin Smith = kind of similar to Tarantino, in that they both only made one good film (Mall Rats + Jackie Brown), both of which are overlooked for more flashy ones (Clerks + Pulp Fiction).

  • Comment number 25.

    Odd that this has come out at the same time as the announcement of Claudia Winkleman taking over the film 2010 spot.

    I generally don't try to go by one review and I would hate to think that anyone else does to. The best way of working out if a film is good or not is to take a broad range of views. It is just common sense really. Most film reviewers do a good job and also it is quite easy to work out who the good and bad reviewers are and that is generally down to the individuals taste. I don't want to pay money to see complete dross and reviewers are a good barometer to that.

  • Comment number 26.

    chrisdeyerd @ 24

    You think Clerks is a flashy movie? Overrated maybe but as Scott Mosier the producer is quoted as saying 'It's barely a movie'

    Me, I like Smith's films (even Jersey Girl) and follow his tweets and whilst he seems to go OTT on a few issues I think his point that some critics review him rather than the film are valid. Go on Rotten Tomatoes to see the cliches tumble out.

    I enjoy serious criticism as I enjoy any form of written or broadcast writing/content that has intelligence and enthusiasm behind it. I don't take Smith's assertion that 100 punters could give as valid a response seriously, but in that 100 there could be at least 5 or 6 with intelligence, wit knowledge and enthusiasm that would be interesting to read. I read Peter Bradshaw in the Guardian every week and mostly think he is a bit of a pompous tit but he writes well.

    And for what it is worth, I am really looking forward to Film 2010 once Jonathan Ross goes. I hope the new format that CW talked about (discussion format with critics) is given a chance although it could turn into Newsnight Review lite.

  • Comment number 27.

    I have a wonderful essay on criticism by a man called A.D. Coleman (a photographer)

    He talks about how the root of the word criticism is the word crisis. By calling something into crisis, subjecting it to stress analysis you can accentuate and aggravate its flaws and finally see it for what it is, laid out bare.

    Interestingly the Chinese idiogram for [i]crisis[/i] is made up of both [i]danger[/i] and [i]opportunity[/i].

    "Criticism, like biography, is the process of falling out of love with your subject" - Sitney
    "The unexamined life is not worth living" - Socrates
    "...when and if we reach the state of cannibalism, I shall try to eat a critic. There should be good crackling around fat heads." - Philip Wylie

  • Comment number 28.

    Dr. K. -- despite your protestations last Friday that suggested that you were never in the frame for Film 2010, and the insinuation that perhaps your sensibilities weren't mainstream enough for the role, what you've said here suggests many of the reasons you would have been ideal for it. I would like to rubbish the idea that anyone with taste and standards is somehow not of the mainstream. Roger Ebert wrote Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, that great pinacle of Russ Meyer's OTT exploitation. Hardly a "mainstream" sensibility, yet one of the most widely known critics in the States.

    You well up at movies about dogs. This hardly spots you out as a cinematic outsider. OK, so you might also enjoy films in which dismemberment is played for slapstick, things done well enough sometimes transcend their offputting qualities.

    A critic's job is to act as a signpost for the films. If a critic is honest about their reaction to a film, and frank about their own biases, the reader/listener/viewer can make up their own minds. The job is to give an inkling to each individual as to whether they might like or dislike the film under discussion, while your opinion may be a useful tool in this task, it is secondary to this first duty. Painting a picture of enough of the qualities of a film without banally describing and ruining the subsequent viewing experience is the real art of being a film critic.

    Dr. K. is a pretty good example of a critic who gets this right.

    Bad critics rely on reducing the role a to a school book report, including, unfortunately synopsis. It's bad enough you can glean a synopsis from many of the trailers. The critic I've hated most in one review stated after describing a scene in detail "it turns out to be a dream!" oblivious to the notion that the director clearly intended that the audience not know that the scene was a dream until its conclusion. Bad critics believe their opinion is absolute and brook no disagreement.

    A balanced critic may even guardedly recommend a film they had problems with to a portion of his audience. That ability, to say "I like X, Y but not Z, but if you do like X, Y and Z this film is for you." You're the lawyer for the defence of good but neglected films, and the prosecutor of rubbish whose success darwinistically produces more of the same.

    It is a real shame that the Beeb clearly don't want to promote decent film criticism in their choice for the future of Film 20xx. Whether or not Dr. K. for the job, it should have been someone like, who would know how the job should be done.

  • Comment number 29.

    pretty funny the film was gonna be called 'a couple of dicks' and they changed the name to 'cop out'. either way, i wish i got paid to voice my opinion.

  • Comment number 30.

    Tarantino put a character in Inglourious Basterds who was a film critic, an idiot and British who caused the whole mission to derail. I have wondered if Tarantino was trying to finger any Britsh film critic in particular. Certainly, you are not the only British critic to give him consistently bad notices (Jackie Brown is a long time ago now). I think it might take a better film than Sherlock Holmes (and Inglourius Basterds was a better film than Sherlock Holmes) for you to do an about face on Tarantino like you did on Guy Ritchie, but as bad as Tarantino has been, he's never been as bad as Ritchie.

    Maybe the inconsistency is what enfuriates Kevin Smith, Quentin Tarantino, M Night Shyamalan et al. and even some Mark Kermode fans about the critics.

    *** Shutter Island Spoiler ***
    How could you say this was a good film? It was not appreciated in the theatre where I saw it where there was nearly a minor uprising when people became aware of the twist and realised they had wasted their time and money. Definitely Cape Fear was a better movie and arguably better than the original.

  • Comment number 31.

    Who needs critics? Obviously not Film 2010. Kermode not Claudia, please.

  • Comment number 32.

    I think film critics are very funny and very cleverer and it is wot I want to do when I grow up one day.

    C. Winkleman

  • Comment number 33.

    Lets just get this straight.
    Kevin Smith barely criticises some critics, then a critic critiques that, everyone on the blog then critiques the critics criticiser........... I love the internet. Aintitcool is over there somewhere.

  • Comment number 34.

    Like Columbo, just one more thing, this time from Stephen Fry:

  • Comment number 35.

    @Dominic Holmes

    Thank for that link. I don't know about Mark but I am quite offended by Mr. Stephen Fry's (I use his full as he seems to hate critics using only surnames) contempt for the profession of film criticism. Maybe he is suffering from a case of the Kevin Smiths. I usually like Mr. Stephen Fry's intelligent, witty banter when on the likes of Jonathan Ross's show, but this loathsome tirade has put him down a peg or two in my book. He must have been remembering when he starred in such trite, horrible, sub-bourgois crap as Peter's Friends
    when he wrote this piece on critics.

    OK, we film critics may not be performing great public service, maybe we would be better off picking up litter on the streets, but at the end of the day we are providing informed pieces of writing for newspapers and other media outlets which people read and enjoy.

    If someone got a kick out of my ripping into Avatar (as I did from Mark's recent blog on 3D and Avatar) or The Bounty Hunter well then my job is done. Someone buys a newspaper and said customer is happy whether they see the film or not because they enjoy a piece of witty and informed writing.

    Job done.

  • Comment number 36.

    Nobody ever really complains about critics. What they complain about is critics expressing an opinion they don't agree with (usually a negative one). Because no matter how much people say 'who needs critics' and no matter how much we complain, we all still read reviews, so they must be worth something.

  • Comment number 37.

    Well if there's one person lost up their own bottom more than Kevin Smith, it's probably Stephen Fry.

  • Comment number 38.

    Stephen Fry up his OWN bottom, Surely not? (sorry!!)

    BigMattD @26

    Clerks is flashy in style, if not content.

  • Comment number 39.

    Does anyone really care about Kevin Smith anymore? His podcast, "smodcast" (should be called "smugcast"), is the sound of a man who obviously thinks his opinions are a lot smarter and more interesting than they actually are...

    Don't get me wrong I think Smith has made so decent work in the past, but lately he reminds me of Kerry Katona; always starting fights and making loud noises to draw attention away from his own dwindling career......

  • Comment number 40.

    I am just coming to the end of the complete film writings of the late Manny Farber and I must say that it has been quite an experience. I appreciate his singular perception of films and his ever-changing attitude toward a work and I will undoubtedly return to his prose many, many times throughout my life.

    It is for the sheer brilliance of his writing that I value his work and do not think of such critics as consumer guides, nor am I hurt when their response to a work differs from my own.

    What I value in the finest critics is the historical knowledge and cultural contexts within which a given film is situated and the new light that they can shed on both familiar and unfamiliar works. It's true that the opinion of any moviegoer is worthwhile and relevant, but I'm more likely to be energised by the knowledge and points of discussion raised by those who spend a great deal of their lives viewing and considering films.

    Without the efforts and passion of many film critics - Mark, Kent Jones, Jonathan Rosenbaum, Dave Kehr and Adrian MArtin amongst others, my life would be a LOT less culturally rich.

  • Comment number 41.

    Smith needs critics. Critics need Smith. Like I said yesterday, it's symbiotic, Smith knows that. Malcolm X said, "if you have no critics you'll likely have no success". Quite.

  • Comment number 42.

    Dear Dr K,

    As a 20 year old student I am often expected to be a Megan Fox loving, Avatar worshipping fanatic. I'm not. But you probably already knew that since I would've written my opening statement in such if I was, because I wouldn't know that I was... (right I give up)

    Anyway my point is, I NEED CRITICS and more specifically yourself!! As a long-time fan of all your work (Your thesis is particularly useful to my dissertation on Extreme Fiction) I adore the films that you have recommended to me. For example in the past 6 months I have seen; Possession, Eraserhead, Let The Right One In, The White Ribbon, Anti-Christ and Dead Presidents (there are more but I can't recall them currently) and I've loved every single one. There's nothing wrong with a good 'romp' of a film but surely that's what films such as Event Horizon and Green Zone are for? I mean, at least they have a degree of depth to them! (Plus Jason Issacs of course).

    So to conclude, thank you Mark. You are someone who I greatly admire and whilst I do disagree with you from time to time (still don't get this whole Twiglit thingy) I have a respect for your views. So through all the arguments with my housemates about how HD and 3D aren't (in my view) the way forward, I can always rely on you for some hugely entertaining material.


    Mr Bogle (no, that's not my real name)


    Any chance of a DVD release of your documentaries? I would give an arm and a leg for it! No I really would!

  • Comment number 43.

    I hope Dr. K has seen A.O. Scott's very similar thoughts in this week's NY Times.

    "Criticism is a habit of mind, a discipline of writing, a way of life — a commitment to the independent, open-ended exploration of works of art in relation to one another and the world around them. As such, it is always apt to be misunderstood, undervalued and at odds with itself. Artists will complain, fans will tune out, but the arguments will never end."

  • Comment number 44.


    Success is a strange thing. I don't think many people who attain success (from the critics or otherwise) could honestly pinpoint exactly what it was that they did correctly that garnered them praise, especially when it seems apparent that many deserving and talented people remain perpetually overlooked. In the absence of this insight and especially after a harsh chiding by the critics/box office, too many seem content to retreat to the comfortable watered repetitions of whatever it was they where doing when they succeeded, (Lucas, Tarantino, etc).

    Perhaps it all just boils down to a dose of self awareness and humility- two wonderful traits but seemingly rare in ego heavy competitive arenas.

    But I think Alan Moore said it best, "Never give the audience what they want, give them what they need".

  • Comment number 45.

    To the guy who hasn't the time or money to watch a movie at the cinema and risk wasting both, a critical review can act as a guide. To the guy who can afford time to the subtext of the movie, a critical review can act as theory. And, like Kermode said, supportive criticism can also draw attention to smaller fare.

    Critics must both consider and inform public tastes. They must remain detached in order to achieve objectivity, whilst developing a personal, empirically subjective form of criticism. In this way it should be understood that movies are at once relative - which we call "judgement" - and personal - which we call "taste."

    While I admire Kermode's passion, I think he often gets lost between the two. Or is so involved in personal dilemma that he misses the point. Or is so prefigured to assert himself as the unpretentious guy to an extent no other critic attempts or wants, he sometimes supports what he shouldn't and condemns what he should. He should be ease-up on movies like "The Proposal," like he did with "Cloverfield" - which achieve in their capacity what is attempted - and should take a step back with movies like "The Mist" and "Dead Presidents" - which were promising but messy and confused as a whole. Movies like "Funny People" and "Superbad" he views within the wrong context. Some of the pure genre exercises he could do well to reconsider, like "Kill Bill." But he's clearly no bluenose, as he often makes clear.

    My own criticism of Kermode is that he should observe the rules of "judgement" and "taste." Which doesn't mean we can't still enjoy his manic affectations.

    Artists like Kevin Smith typically don't understand what a critic does, so don't go to them if you want the definition.

  • Comment number 46.

    I watched Cop Out and it's not that bad to be honest. I had a few laughs, ate popcorn and came out feeling in a better mood than I did when I went in. It's an 80's style buddy cop movie, nothing more than that.

    Do we need critics?... No.
    Am I interested in what some of them say?... Yes.

    To be honest I listen to the Dr becausae he's entertaining, not because he's right.

  • Comment number 47.

    It pains me to say that COP OUT is easily the worst movie Kevin Smith has ever made. I found it poorly-written, unfunny and just plain boring.

    I chuckled maybe three times but the humour is distinctly sitcom level where you're almost waiting for the laugh track. In fact, there's a comedic reveal near the end involving the baseball card where I could swear that Harold Faltermeyer cues a synthesized "Wah-waaahhh..." over it. Although I applaud Smith's restraint for not actually employing a slide whistle or a record scratch for that moment.

    The action is flat and unimaginative and the movie as a whole just looks cheap. Sorry, Kevin, I know he shot CLERKS and he's your boy but Dave Klein is just not a very good DOP. Even when he's got a $37 million budget. I know you didn't get along with Vilmos Zsigmond but sometimes you've got to put up with an ego on an immense talent like that to make a movie look better than an average Seagal DTV flick.

    Bruce Willis phones it in, his patented smirks and glares being the limit of his performance. As opposed to Tracy Morgan, who shouts and mugs his way through it all like it's the last role he's ever going to get. But I guess with material this weak you've got to fall back on schtick to make an impression. And again, that's Smith's fault for not reigning it in or coming up with better jokes on the set.

    As usual, Jason Lee is the movie's highlight. I think it's one of biggest tragedies in film-making that Smith never got to make his FLETCH movie with Lee way back when. With Smith going back to the source novels I think it would have been awesome. Hopefully Lee can one day take the lead in a Kevin Smith movie again, rather than just turning up for little cameos in Smith's weakest movies and walking away with the film.

    Even Sean William Scott, who made his name playing smart-arses that were still strangely likeable, is just flat-out irritating in this. But again I can't blame him as those scenes are a comedic dead-end if ever I've seen one.

    I appreciate the opportunities that taking on a movie like this will give Kevin Smith in the future. But considering he has already been attached to cool studio projects in the past (like GREEN HORNET, THE SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN and FLETCH WON) it seems a shame that he settled for such a mediocre piece of material with which to dip his toes into the big pool. Especially when Smith himself will, in a day, post Tweets with more laughs in them than this entire movie.

    I guess I can console myself somewhat by blaming it on all the weed he's been smoking. But really, for a brilliant modern day buddy-cop movie everyone should just go watch HOT FUZZ and see a movie that's immeasurably funnier, better-directed and cost half the money.

  • Comment number 48.

    Smith has argued that Cop Out is helping green light both his horror picture Red State - (christian fundamentalism and horror - Dr K review awaited) and the Ice Hockey picture Hit Somebody based on a Warren Zevon song (to star Sean William Scott). Plenty of top quality actors chalk up hammy performances in forgettable (yet moneyed) dross to let them take more interesting projects. When writers and directors do it it seems to be considered a much worse thing.

  • Comment number 49.

    # 46 AndyGoth :

    "Do we need critics?... No.
    Am I interested in what some of them say?... Yes."

    I'm reminded of a sketch from Alexei Sayle's classic 'Stuff' TV series years and years ago.

    It was about the chaos caused by the national Film Critics strike. First you had a couple of housewives in a tower block complaining about the terrible shortage of penetrative insight. Then the announcement that the army had been called in - so Film 86 [or whatever year it was] was hosted by a squaddie in full gear [Alexei].

    As I recall, he opened the show by saying 'Good evening.

    Viss week oi have bin to see ver Fellini retrospective at ver National Film Feat-ah.

    It was crap.'

    Seriously, I like critics because [a] they tell us in advance what films etc therythink are worth seeing - granted, I don't always agree with them, but I find the critical consensus tends to be right more often than not and [b] while I tend to skim over reviews before seeing a film, as I prefer to know as little of the plot as possible, I often like to read them afterwards, to 'compare notes', see if they have any insights that didn't occur to me etc.

    I'm rather sorry MK didn’t get the Film 2010 chair, but I'll reserve judgement on Ms Winkleman.

    As for J Ross - I'm not his greatest fan but I never had any great problem with him on Film XXXX. As far as I could see, he called it as he saw it, criticised films without fear or favour, said what he liked or didn't and why. I think that's all you can ask of a critic. {I'm pretty sure I've seen him more than once slam a film when he had just interviewed the star or director too.]

    As for S Fry's thoughts - I like Fry and I'm sure he's right that some critics are 'up themselves', but I'd like to think that most critics do prefer to enjoy and praise a film than the reverse. A good critic should be able to say at the Pearly Gates 'I helped thousands of people to avoid wasting their time and money on lousy films, and to go and see good ones instead'. That would merit entry in my book...

  • Comment number 50.

    Film makers/musicians/authors are generally encouraged not to reply to criticism of their work and firing off angry letters to Mojo because they didn't like your new record is considered very bad form.

    Yet I only really follow two critics, Mark and Roger Ebert, and have only started to do so in the last 5 years, in which time both have treated their audiences to defensive rants on this topic in reply to comments that weren't even specifcally aimed at them (Ebert's was in reply to a line in that serious philosophical treatise 'Ratatouille'). Surely "dish it out/take it" rules apply here?

  • Comment number 51.

    Despite the fact that I'm still reeling from the final sentence on comment number thirty 'Definitely Cape Fear was a better movie and arguably better than the original'...Eh? Apologies I digress........So I'll throw my tuppence worth in.I think those of us who have a real passion for film and cinema in general are much maglined and certainly under estimated. We form a fair chunk of the film going public who stump up our hard earned cash week after week to relish (or not which ever the case may be)the celluloid experience.
    Do we really need anyone to tell us what's good,bad or indifferent? Are we incapable of making our own choices. I for one am quite happy to toddle along and make my own mind up, and have been more than capable of winkling out independent movies that may not have been publicised to death or over hyped.
    However the question is do we really need critics? The way I look at it there's room for everyone, and even though 'one man's meat is another man's poison' there are a handful of critics out there the good doctor among them whose judgement I have over time come to trust.That's not to say I'll rush out and watch everything that is recommended, but it assists me in making an informed decision on what I might enjoy,and those films that may interest me more than others.

  • Comment number 52.

    Really? Claudia Winkleman?

  • Comment number 53.

    yeah, really.

    Like Mark has hinted at but was too tactful to say - the gig was only ever gonna go to a middle-of-the-road, generic, blandified yes-person.

    apologies to La Winkle.

  • Comment number 54.

    For those who were, like myself, blessed (read: cursed) with watching "Strictly Come Dancing: It Takes 2" alongside partner-with-remote-control (almost) every weeknight for 3 months will be of course looking forward to every exclaimed "IIII KNNOWWWW!" and "III LLLOVVVEE that!" spat at each banal utterance from the random celeb guest inevitably interviewed for no apparent reason.

    The BBC News story's attempt to convey Winkleman's suitability for the job by mentioning that "she lives right next door to a cinema" is akin to Sara Palin's authority on foreign policy being proven by the visibility of Russia from her house.

    I think I'll just stick to the blog.

  • Comment number 55.


    Sarah Palin never said she could see Russia from her house, that was Tina Fey.

  • Comment number 56.

    @Rourkesdrifter #51 re last sentence of #30

    Mark stated in his radio review of Martin Scorsese's "Shutter Island" that he thought it was a better film than Martin Scorsese's 1991 remake of "Cape Fear". I am asserting the opposite (it's not even close). I also think it's possible that Scorsese's version of "Cape Fear" may have been better than the 1962 original version of "Cape Fear". If you recall the discussion on remakes, the consensus was that remakes rarely, if ever, are better than originals. Hope that helps

  • Comment number 57.

    Personally, think critics serve three major purposes:
    1) Spotting lesser known films (independent/arthouse/foreign language) that don't have wide distribution and/or large marketing budgets
    2)Sorting the wheat from the chaff...a critical review gives you the ability to make a more informed decision on whether or not to go and see a film
    3)Spotting nuances, themes and subtleties that sometimes go over my head!

    I think as long as you find a critic who's views are best aligned to your own then you are onto a winner. Personally I read/listen to reviews from a number of sources and from them glean whether or not to see a film

  • Comment number 58.

    Absolutely! Couldn't have said it better myself. And by the way Dr. K, I started reading your book last night. I am on page 17 and am already thoroughly enjoying it.

  • Comment number 59.

    Antimode@56 Thanks for the posting I value your opinion.However despite being a life long De Niro fan I agree with Mark, Shutter Island is a better film than Cape Fear, I am a big fan of the original Cape Fear and despite having it's moments Scorcese's offering for me doesn't come close. I certainly agree about remakes, there are probably a handful I'd rate as anywhere near as good as the original.But this very minor debate has just highlighted the fact that film like most art forms is in the main subjective.And we can be thankful for that as the world would be a rather dull place if everyone agreed on everything!!

  • Comment number 60.

    The thing about critics, for me, is that they have to explain why a film is good or bad.

    I could just sit there and have really enjoyed a film (whether it be blockbuster, arthouse, foreign), for a not necessarily tangible reason, similarly hate a film for no apparant reason. I'd just say that it was great or crap (or maybe that the plot/acting was as such).

    Critics have to go into great artsy detail about why the film was so good/bad/indifferent, drawing complex metaphors and comparisons. Often this stuff is simply above most listeners/viewers/readers. It's like they have to find an intelligent reason why they disliked this film so much. I don't really rate that as a good thing.

  • Comment number 61.

    I can be more interested in what brain x has to say about a film than what brain y says because brain x may communicate more things that to-date I, brain totallyunbiased, hadn't considered. I imagine that brain x might have experience in making films, has studied the history of film, perhaps many other subjects, lead a more untypical life; but this by no means rules out hearing something of equal or greater interest from any brain, erudite paid critic or not. Some other point: I don't really understand why a brain takes pride in 'knowing the truth' about a film or a piece of music, especially say, over the absence of such knowledge in other people. Maybe such a mindset marks out a non-artist from a true artist, and that is part of why many artists don't like critics. It's so nice not to be a teenager/young man any more, what a hellish time!

  • Comment number 62.

    It sounds like just the sort of thing that the wacky Kevin Smith would do.

    Is it that his rather dim witted audience has outgrown him, so they are agreeing with the critics that never liked his stuff anyway, but he hasn't noticed yet and is blaming the messengers?

    Isn't it very odd that the guy's movies never matured, presumebly because his tastes haven't, yet the developmentally challenged fool has succeeded in authoring more than ten features.
    Winkleman must be smarter than she usually plays, and IMO would look good with a Tom Selleck Magnum moustache.

  • Comment number 63.

    55. Antimode:

    Sarah Palin never said she could see Russia from her house, that was Tina Fey.

    Yes, you are right. She didn't say that, but she did say this:

    ...[foreign policy is] very important when you consider even national security issues with Russia as Putin rears his head and comes into the air space of the United States of America, where— where do they go? It's Alaska. It's just right over the border. It is— from Alaska that we send those out to make sure that an eye is being kept on this very powerful nation, Russia, because they are right there. They are right next to— to our state.

    I think the point still stands - proximity to something does not convey greater authority on that thing, be it Russia, or a local cinema! :-)

  • Comment number 64.

    On the actual point of the posting, we need (impartial) critics for two reasons:

    1)to act as a bulwark against the power of the PR machine. The entertainment biz hasn't really fundamentally changed that much since the days of PT Barnum - they'll always try to chisel every last pound out of your wallet.

    2) Most content on user-driven review websites is, frankly, pretty much useless when trying to guage the quality of a subject - you only have to look at a [a-popular-DVD-rental-site]'s reviews for evidence of this. I don't know about you, but if I'm going to trust someone's opinions, I'd rather they were a tad more descriptive than "It woz rubish LOL!!1!1ONE!1!".

  • Comment number 65.

    Dear Dr Kermode,
    I am, as I type, sortof watching Inglourious Barstewards. My son has been harping on and on and on at me to watch it for - well, months now. Tonight I gave in and it's on the dvd player. I'm bored, so I'm commenting on this article. It's the usual Tarantino mess of violence and teeny bits of plotline superimposed on the violence to give a fleeting suggestion of storyline. And there's big chunks subtitled, so what plot there is I'm missing 'cos I'm typing.....

  • Comment number 66.

    I hate listening to film critics before a movie because their opinion can affect your viewing pleasure.

    The problem with film critics is that they are human and like all humans have different opinion, but the most annoying thing is that they think their opinion is somehow righteous becuase they are a film critic.

    The clip about Avatar was pathetic and pointless. We all know the story was traditional and predictable but for some that is what made it great, it was a unique setting and utilised unique technology never seen before on such a scale, and the story reflected the simplistic aspirations of human nature that has somehow become over complicated and almost evil with the obssession of technology and greed. That is how I viewed the movie, but it is up to everyone to form their own opinion.

    Nobody likes being told what to think especially in todays society.

  • Comment number 67.

    I wish Tina Fey would take over Film 2010.

    Kevin Smith may be a decent director, but clearly his attitudes towards the greater part of the film industry are twisted.
    Every picture wants positive critical reception and are happy to use any positive source.

    Just look at the poster for 'The Blind Side', it's a fairly good film and Sandra Bullock grabbed the Best Actress Oscar, it could have reviews from reliable and trused sources; yet the reviews on it are from Grazia, Cosmopoliton, She and Heat.
    Who really cares what any of these people have to say? The point is they have all praised the movie.

    So, to you Kevin Smith who claims we don't need critics, I'm sure the poster for 'Cop Out' will have reviews on it, they will probably be from Nuts and Zoo though.
    (I do love Tracy Morgan however)

  • Comment number 68.

    Kermode says critics cant turn the public off a film but can turn them on to one? That's absurd - people are either influenced by critics or they aren't, regardless of whether their opinions are positive or negative.

    Sure a lot of high-concept blockbusters are critic-proof, but some of these films actually get really good reviews but still flop, there is no consistency to this argument.

    Opinions are just that, its just a shame that some peoples are so hard to avoid, particularly the depressingly ubiquitous Mr Kermode. It seems whenever television makes a programme about film these days it wont be long before his ducktail comes into view, indefatigably shoehorning references to exploitation horror into any subject.

    And by the way, only an irredeemable cretin would think The Exorcist is the greatest movie ever made.

  • Comment number 69.

    6: You sir are a troll and I claim my free all-you-can-eat buffet!

  • Comment number 70.

    That should have read "68", not "6"! :-)

  • Comment number 71.

    My point is once again proved thanks to MonzonMan.

    He shows a general disdain for Mark and his opinions yet is on his blog replying to his videos. Is it normal practice to go on to the blog of a film critic you have no respect for and claim that his film criticism holds no value? If I despise someone I generally avoid their blog or website and if it's a critic whose opinion I don't value well then I just don't listen to them. My point though is that Mark must be making some sort of impression on you, whether as a critic or a cult celebrity, that you come on here and join in the discussion, which is great, different opinions are great; you cannot dismiss him altogether though if you are compelled to come here and join in the discussion.

    And THIS iredeemable cretin also considers The Exorcist one of the greatest films of all time, if not THE greatest.

  • Comment number 72.

    Before you start a discussion like this one in a semi public space I would suggest that it is both polite and politic to first define your frame of reference. It also helps you to avoid sounding like an anus gazing idiot.

    I found myself here having clicked the mouse button a few times too many in anger on discovering that the sound card had fallen over and I couldn’t watch ‘ashes to ashes’ on ‘I-Player’. A somewhat weary amusement has brought me back to chip in.

    'Do we need critics' - define WE.
    Until you do it’s a meaningless and self deluding discussion – like most 'critical analysis’ of 'art'.

    If I ever get to a point where I need someone I don't care a jot about to tell me what to see at the cinema, and what I will or will not enjoy, or to validate the worth of the choices I make in pursuit of enjoyment, I will consider myself at the point of mental incompetence. When I seek guidance it is on things that matter and even then for knowledge and skill, not opinion and preference from a hired gun. But I am not you.

    Pay homage to your critics if you will, though I’d rather you didn’t expect me to pay for them more literally, but understand that in simply having this discussion you are talking about yourselves and not the majority who make the current film industry in all its guises possible. Most of them don’t care.

  • Comment number 73.

    Howdy Mark

    Stumbled across your radio show recently, and over the past few weeks have been working my way through your blog entries. I was a fan until I realised that you were responsible for the Fear of God documentary that scared me senseless many moons ago. I was about 14 when i saw that, so you owe me about 2 weeks' sleep. Not sure how you'd repay that so lets just call it water under the bridge.

    Anyway, i've recently been using your so far exemplary recommendations when raiding amazon UK for films. One of these recommendations was Last House on the Left which you basically said was not a particularly entertaining/ enjoyable watch but a necessary one. That brings me to my question.

    Are you always 'on'? By that i mean is there ever a time when you go to your film collection and think 'I'm not in the mood to sit through a gritty, disturbing, distaseful yet thought-provoking film, I'll just fling on the Transporter and watch Jason Statham whip people into paralysis using only his socks'? I know thats a factor for me, i quite often return rented films unwatched because after a hard days work im not in the mood to sit through a depressing, grey, difficult film.

    Also here's another quick one thats hounded me for years, I'd appreciate it if someone could come up with the answer. When I was very young indeed I remember seeing an animated film either made in or just based in Australia. It involved a scene where the young hero (cant even remember if it was a boy or girl) saw aboriginal cave paintings come to life and dance about the cave wall. There was also some ominous talk of the bunyip, a sort of Australian boogeyman. Thats all I can remember and for years I've asked almost literally everyone i've known if they know the film. If anyone knows please fill me in! It could be a massively successful kids movie that i've simply not seen since or it could be an obscure little film i stumbled accross by accident.

    Cheers, keep up the good work.

  • Comment number 74.

    It's really all a matter of trust, just as we all trust certain stars and production companies to entertain us for our individual reasons, we affiliate towards certain critics as their judgement has proved to be right before.

    this combined with friends and family that have seen the film, read the book, bought the t-shirt is what leads us to our entertainment.

    And I'm sure Ms Winkleman will do a fine Job with Film 2010, Just because she can act like a dafty on "8 Out Of 10 Cats" doesn't mean she couldn't give a competent and trustworthy film review!

    Besides, Dr. Kermodes' blog should be kept for just us, the masses aren't prepared to understand...

  • Comment number 75.

    Whilst my previous post was 'reactively moderated' into oblivion (I failed to sufficiently obscure a 'melonfarmer', I think, whilst quoting from the mouth of anoited-God James Cameron/Jimmy C/J-Cam) I would like to THANK YOU, Mark, for the fantastic piece on Ti West's 'The House of the Devil' - a film which has been shockingly overlooked/ignored for reasons alien to me. Nice to know someone's keeping the torch burning...

  • Comment number 76.

    It is perhaps also worth distinguishing between film reviewing and film criticism...

    Furthermore, there has been a lot going around the internet recently concerning the 'Death of Film Criticism' as happens from time to time, especially when changes in the media industry (laying of a number of print film critics in America for instance) causes panic and uncertainty.

    A more optimistic approach to the changes in the field of film criticism and culture can be found in the book Movie Mutations. Can't cinephiles and critics alike contribute to invigorating the culture of cinema going forward?

  • Comment number 77.

    Why the Doctor is a good one
    Just in case of an identity crisis (to which, it seems to me, you are not prone luckily, but anyway) here is my - very personal — reason why there is a need for films critics like you.
    I am 36 years old, and since I was a teenage girl "The Exorcist" scared me s-less. Not so much the movie itself, much more what I heard about it: the rumors of fainting women during the screening, how shocking it all was blabah. All this talk made me think "I could never watch this, I would confuse me so much I could never have a clear thought in my life again" - and every poster or picture of it made me feel very, lets say, very uneasy. Sounds ridiculous, but it's true.
    Not until 2007 did my attitude change towards the "The Exorcist"...for two reasons.
    - working at the Munich Film Festival, I had a chance to listen to William Friedkin, when he received a Lifetime Achievment Award. His speech was charming and witty... He told the anecdote about the German tabloid newspaper in the early seventies, interviewing him very seriously, taking pictures of him and his then-girlfriend, only to print the picture of her the other day with the headline "This woman sleeps with the devil" :-)
    "Bug" was shown then, a movie which I absolutely love.
    - And then I came across a British film critic takling about "The Exorcist" in a way I have never heard anyone before. Crying at the ending of this movie? The best film ever made? Hm. So there must be something special about this horror-classic, I felt somewhat relieved, but did not have the urge to watch it.

    Yesterday, the time was right. It was shown on TV, my husband said "let's watch it and you'll see, there is nothing to be worried about". I agreed and imagined Dr. Kermode sitting in our living room commenting on the scenes. And what can I say - How right you are Mark! I was prepared enough - by you - to realize what masterpiece it is, pleading for humanity and charity with a dramatic but somewhat happy ending. May sound all banal to you, but to me it was a new and very important experience. And as a "repeat offender" watching good movies over and over again, I can assure you, that next time "The Exorcist" is shown, I won't feel uneasy any more but will be looking forward to make new dicoveries on it. Thank you, good Doctor - and a big hug from Natascha (Munich).

  • Comment number 78.

    Here's my 'Exorcist theory':

    everyone sees a scary film at a certain age which impacts them-

    for mark's generation it was The Exorcist, for mine it was Nightmare on Elm Street- for this generation its probably Saw or something.

    I think such films only have such an impact if seen by someone at the right age (i.e. early adolescense) - its not that the films are powerful as such, its more that a certain type of viewer is susceptible to them.

  • Comment number 79.

    The topic has most recently been raised by A.O. Scott over in the US. Many of the same points are included here...

  • Comment number 80.

    I know we’re already in April and the time for these kinds of lists has probably past, but I was wondering whether Dr K had given any thought to his top films of the noughties? Would love to know. Just to get the ball rolling, here are my top 25…

    1 Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)
    2 There Will Be Blood (2008)
    3 Synecdoche New York (2008)
    4 The Assassination of Jesse James (2007)
    5 Volver (2006)
    6 Devil’s Backbone (2001)
    7 The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)
    8 The Departed (2006)
    9 Amores Perros (2000)
    10 The Reader (2008)
    11 Goodbye Lenin (2003)
    12 Downfall (2004)
    13 No Country For Old Men (2008)
    14 Amelie (2001)
    15 Memento (2000)
    16 Talk to Her (2002)
    17 Atonement (2007)
    18 Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
    19 Mulholland Drive (2001)
    20 The Pianist (2002)
    21 Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)
    22 City of God (2002)
    23 The Others (2001)
    24 Batman Begins (2005)
    25 The Orphanage (2008)

  • Comment number 81.

    We need film critics, without them there would be no film magazines, film programmes, film studies courses in colleges across the country, filmmakers striving to make better movies. I bless the day the first person said 'That movie was okay but....'
    I never rely on a critic to tell me to see or not see a movie; I see the the movies that I want to see and that's that.
    I do rely on them to discuss the qualities of a movie, to analyse what makes it good or bad, to point out influences and brand new ideas, to praise the acting and directing (or occasionally slag it off!), to engage me in critical thought about what I am watching rather than accepting everything I see as sheer brilliance.
    I didn't avoid Transformers 2 like toxic waste because a critic told me to, I avoided it because I knew that it wouldn't be my cup of tea. It just so happens that 'most' of my theories coincide with Dr K's
    Kevin Smith has clearly got a case of the the sour grapes, a chip on his shoulder. He should be thankful rather bitter; if it weren't for critics, no one would have heard of or gone to see Clerks. I for one feel quite insulted as he clearly believes that the film going public are just a load of sheep being herded by the 'film critic' shepherd.
    Everyone, and I mean everyone, is entitled to their own opinion and that includes the critics. I for one believe that they enhance my enjoyment of the wonderful world of movies. We may not always agree with them but we wouldn't want to be without them (especially you Dr K!).
    PS Why didn't they ask your lovely colleague Lauren Laverne to do Film 2010? I think she would have been a better choice than Claudia Winkleman.

  • Comment number 82.

    What's great about critics is that they can vocalizee what's wrong or right with a film. Friends really do not have the energy to go into detail about narrative,plot etc etc With critics you get a review that's not just "I really liked it."
    Not to mention the entertainment value. I don't intend to watch every movie reviewed by Mark Kermode but the reviews are entertainment in and of themselves.

  • Comment number 83.

    BUT, and I just thought of this, I really liked the piano until kermode said it was awful. Now I have come to think of it as a bad movie EVEN THOUGH I LIKED IT! Why is that? Am I really that spineless? And are other people as spineless as me?

  • Comment number 84.

    @ Lisztomaniac:

    Thanks for that link. A. O. Scott is fast becoming my favourite American critic, he speaks a lot of sense both in print and on screen.

    To add my two cents to this debate, I think that film critics are like any other kind of specialist, whether it's an academic, a doctor, a lawyer or anything else. They are people whom we should initially respect for passionately dedicating their lives to something which to us may seem irrelevant, incomprehensible or esoteric.

    Like all specialists, if they are not careful then critics can quickly become full of themselves. The act of criticism can then become either an obsession with irrelevant minutiae, or on the other hand be reduced to self-promotion and the pursuit of one-liners instead of reviewing a film (something I think that Richard Roeper or Armand White are easily guilty of).

    But if a critic is smart, he or she won't let that happen. They will use their intelligence and talent for creative expression to inspire and challenge those of us who don't have the time to think so intensely. Some of us may become critics as a result, but that's not the point. The point is to encourage debate and promote new ways of looking at things we take for granted, and if that means we get to see better films with our hard-earned money, I don't see a problem.

    Like all things in film, and perhaps in life in general, critics are a good thing only when they work and are used properly. There's nothing innately wrong with critics, but there is something innately wrong with bad critics.

  • Comment number 85.

    Two words.
    Manohla Dargis.
    - Any argument opposed to professional criticism is now invalid.

  • Comment number 86.

    Critics are there to get people talking. Whether they are do this by being overly brash (Kermode), intrinsically diplomatist (Ebert), painstakingly geeky (Newman) or even generously lenient (Collins) that's all down to their own personal style. But a critic should be able to make a good argument and let the debate unfold. 1000 members of the public aren't going to get people talking because mostly their opinions wont go beyond, "Yeah it was alright" or, "Nah, it was a bit pants."

    A good film critic should be the sort of person that can walk into a room, make a concrete proclamation on a film and then, one minute later, be able to leave to the sound of everyone in there arguing amongst themselves about said film.

    P.S: On the point of Dr K repeating himself in his book, it's not a completely unfounded criticism. The amount of times you used the advert "studiously" was borderline maddening.

  • Comment number 87.

    If Kevin Smith is really that bothered by critics, he could eliminate at least one from the running by making 10 films in a year worse than Bride Wars!
    It's a tough challenge but all he needs to do is commit professional suicide and drop his standards completely. The tricky part is getting the backing for each consecutive rubbish movie.

  • Comment number 88.

    Hello Mark, hope you are enjoying your break. I just wanted to ask your opinions on a subject which has bothered me for some time. Like yourself I am not interested in watching anything that depicts actual cruelty against children or animals. That being said, since I've not heard or read anything from you on the matter, with the imminent release of "The Ghost" I wanted to know how you feel about watching the films of Roman Polanski, a man who pleaded guilty to an act of paedophilia and who spent over 30 years effectively on the run for his crime.

  • Comment number 89.

    The main problem with Kevin Smith's argument is that individuals tend to seek out and watch only a limited number of films, based on their existing likes and dislikes. Critics, however, watch a much broader range of films, simply because it's their job to do so. They, therefore, have a much more informed opinion on films generally, as well as a more developed knowledge of the history of cinema. I wouldn't feel comfortable criticising any art form as a whole, unless I'd put in the time and study to make a worthwhile contribution.

  • Comment number 90.

    Being a critic of any sort of artistic medium is always going to conjure up feelings of loathing from the artists; they may even respond to critics, "you're jealous and bitter that you can not create art", which is nonsense.

    In Kevin Smiths case this anger, disregard, even hatred of critics, has only become more prominent now because even the 'fans' of his work, who stood by him before (even through 'Jersey Girl') have dismissed 'Cop Out' as a bad film.
    Kevin now blames critics for the poor response to his film, concluding the critics were the influence or catalyst for the publics dislike of his film, but a lot of punters don't listen or read reviews before going to films. So the negative opinion of his film was untampered by critics and actually the view of the general public, the people he wants to hand out tickets too. He doesn't want honest opinions, he wants positive ones.

    But can critics become too personal when delivering their opinions? Should there be some restraint?
    A good documentary film on this subject is 'Heckler'.

  • Comment number 91.

    A good example of a film that needed critics to help it as advertising didn't

    The Shawshank Redemption

    need I say more.

  • Comment number 92.

    Would it be mean to say that Smith has trouble giving away tickets to his films these days?

  • Comment number 93.

    Would it be mean to say I would rather see a Kevin Smith film than one of yours?

  • Comment number 94.

    I feel for m night shyamalan: I really appreciated watching The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, The Village. I have not seen the others.

    I really thought this was a film director who had a something different from most Hollywood directors. It would be great to see an interview with him.

    Critics definitely have a place, in fact the rotten tomatoes Top Critics is an excellent example of this adjacent to the user reviews and the public voting with their wallets.

  • Comment number 95.

    M Knight Shyamalan....Why do you people insist on giving this guy a chance? He's been doing films for TEN YEARS. He's not an amateur who has just come on the scene and whom therefore one might forgive the occasional faux pas. Nine out of ten of his films have FLOPPED, or have done little at the box office. Surely that tells you something? HE'S PANTS! His successes have been entirely be accident! He practices incompetence and mediocrity. (ANYONE who can go and say "one to see The Last Airbender, please" without laughing is a better person than I).

    Honestly, if this were any other business people would be telling this idiot to quit!


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