Who Needs Critics Anyway?

Tuesday 30 March 2010, 13:29

Mark Kermode Mark Kermode

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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?

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    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....

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    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!

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    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'.

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    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.

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    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. atthemoviestv.com. 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.

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    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.


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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    Comment number 13.

    Good point well made

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    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.

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    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.


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    Comment number 16.

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

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.


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