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Snarcasm: Film Critics Aren’t People Like Us

snarcasm film critics

Snark + Snarcasm = what you’re about to read

I struggled selecting this week’s Snarcasm because at this point, I’m pretty much done talking about Batman v Superman. I’ve reviewed it, talked about it endlessly on the podcast, and I even wrote a list of over 65 problems I have with it.

I’m just done. And while typical Snarcasm fare would involve digesting (then regurgitating) an insanely contrarian piece about Jesse Eisenberg’s “Lex Luthor” being the best version of the character yet…which exists…this week, let’s take a look at something you’ve probably thought at least 300 times in your lifetime.

Film critics aren’t perfect.

snarcasm film critics

For some reason, people think that critics think that they are perfect. That they fancy themselves the end all for whether or not a movie is truly good or bad. Never mind the fact that critics disagree constantly, which is why websites like Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic exist. But this is the Internet, where all of your presuppositions and knee-jerk opinions are signed into law by Facebook Congress (I’m bad at metaphors).

Sidney Fussell at Tech Insider (because apparently the film blogs didn’t want this hot take) writes:

Here’s the problem with all those bad ‘Batman v Superman’ reviews

Weirdly, but not surprisingly, Sid gives us more than just one “problem” with these reviews. I’ll be honest though and let you know now that I have quite a few problems with this article.

“Batman v Superman” isn’t a perfect film.

When did “this movie is not perfect” become the new preface for setting up an unpopular opinion? Next you’re going to tell us that Superman has a black best friend.

snarcasm film critics
Supergirl beat you to it

 But it would have to be a lot worse to justify its embarrassing dogpiling from critics.

Would it, though? I’m one of the critics who hated it, but it’s not like BvS has a 0% on Rotten Tomatoes (as in 0% of critics liked it). It actually scored a 29%, with most critics being pretty mixed on the movie. In fact, the article Sid links to here mentions that critics almost unanimously praised certain aspects of this film, including Ben Affleck’s take on Batman.

So where is the dogpiling? The film has an average rating on RT of 5/10, which is an even split. You know, the opposite of an uneven split.

Critics are using their “BvS” reviews to express their frustrations with the big-budget superhero genre as a whole.

Holy generalizations, Batman!

First of all, critics have been frustrated with the superhero genre getting oversaturated for a while, now. Age of Ultron had a lot of complaints lobbed at it for this, and weak entries like Fantastic 4 have been eviscerated by critics. What makes BvS so special that it gets a pass for happening to be a bad movie that also exists in an oversaturated genre?

The film had to set up the DC universe, debut new characters, break even on the budget, and keep up with Marvel. Each misstep (and there are many) was reported as a complete disaster. 

Which is exactly the fault of DC for putting all of their hopes and dreams (and ideas) into one movie, when they could have just as easily taken their time and evened out their ambition. The stakes are high because DC is playing a high-stakes game and betting the house on the ponies and other casino metaphors (told you).

The pressure to do it all made for a very uneven film and many critics voiced frustration at what they saw was a rush to set up a lucrative cinematic universe (with endless spin-off and sequel potential) over simply making a good film. 

In other words, “Critics made that criticism because they’re right! What a bunch of morons!”

It’s funny though. The second season of Daredevil stuffs a lot of new characters and plots into its run, and yet critics aren’t taking their frustrations out on Marvel/Netflix. I wish I knew why.

snarcasm film critics
“It’s too dark!” 

When reading the many poor reviews of “Batman v Superman” it becomes apparent that somewhere along the way the action epic morphed from just one subpar action film into the representation of everything wrong with the (admittedly stuffed) superhero genre.

Again, this is because the movie itself is poor. If it had been excellent, no one would have made this observation. You sound like Zuko complaining because he didn’t want to go to the war meeting (“I just wanted to be invited!”)

The huge gap between critic reception and fan response shows that this movie really wasn’t “for the critics.” 

I’ve read this sentiment a lot, and I still don’t understand what it means. What, you made a movie that isn’t “made” for people who study and analyze movies? Do you think that’s a valid sentence to throw at people?

Critics review movies on the basis of how they represent the best of their own genre. Odds are that the critics have seen more superhero movies than many of the “fans,” considering they have to watch hundreds of films each year, including all of the ones you didn’t bother watching because you had the choice.

Telling a critic that a movie “wasn’t for them” is like getting mad at a garbageman for saying your moldy trash bags smell terrible. You don’t have to listen to him, but he’s probably right.

“Batman v Superman” currently has a mediocre to fair 72% audience approval rating with a ghastly 28% critic score.

Good thing people aren’t insanely easy to please.

Look, liking a movie doesn’t make it good, no matter how much I wish people liked Speed Racer as much as I did. Because it turns out that everyone likes bad movies, and it’s just tossup depending on the person.

It’s not the job of the critic to get inside your head and predetermine everything that will satisfy your Narnia mind. It’s your job to interpret a review based on what you know about the critic’s tastes, which is why people read the same critics every week, even if they disagree sometimes.

Amy Adams, who stars as Lois Lane, said the movie simply wasn’t “for the critics.”

Sure, let’s listen to the person who has a financial stake in the film she’s promoting. Not saying that doesn’t mean she’s right, but—

She’s right.

Let’s just settle down.

ultimately critics and audiences go to movies for different reasons: a critic goes to engage with a film, it’s perspective, and decide how well it executes a cinematic vision from this perspective. Audiences, especially for a popcorn action movie, go to be entertained.

Right, critics don’t care at all about entertainment, which is why they never talk about it or base their reviews on it. I’m pretty sure you have to sign an agreement on the “Become a Critic” form that states you can no longer factor in the entertainment of a movie when evaluating how entertaining it is.

If “Batman v Superman” functions well as entertainment, but not as reflective Campbellian metaphysics, then (no matter what critics say) it works.

Correction: a movie “works” if a movie works. The fact is that critics happen to be people as well, and guess what? The movie doesn’t work for them. A lot of people, fans included, don’t think the movie works. The people who do think the movie works have every right to think the movie works for them. But for everyone else who disagrees, it doesn’t work.

You can’t negate that by arbitrarily splitting up two vague generalizations of people groups and simplifying it to match your argument. That also doesn’t work.

And given its success at the box office so far, it’s working fairly well. 

Setting aside the fact that the movie had a record drop in the box office from Friday to Sunday, the big takeaway is that a movie making money is not a reflection on quality. It’s like saying McDonald’s is the best restaurant because it sells the most burgers.

snarcasm film critics

Fans have many new films and heroes to look forward to and most of it isn’t coming from “BvS” Zack Snyder.

I’m one of Snyder’s most vocal critics, and even I cut him some slack on the blame for BvS. A lot of its problems are clearly due to the studio forcing him to add unnecessary plots and teases.

Director Zack Snyder has taken the brunt of the criticism for “Batman v Superman,” with most reviewers saying his vision of an ideologically heavy-action film resulted in clunky, obtuse dialogue.

And for good reason. He may not deserve all the blame, but he certainly deserves most of it. BvS is based on his vision, as you say. And even though he doesn’t concept everything in the movie himself, he signed off on a vast majority of it as director.

And while the many teases to other properties irked some critics, at least fans can look forward to different visions for DC heroes from other directors. The sprawling DC Universe already has 11 more films in the docket between now and 2020, not a solo adventure for Ben Affleck’s Batman. 

That’s it? That’s the end of this article? Are you sure?

Let’s just call it a Thursday and get some McDonald’s.


Hey! If you’ve come across a silly article that deserves the Snarcasm treatment, send it my way via Twitter or the comments below!

I’m Jon and thanks for reading this. You can subscribe to my posts by clicking “Follow” in the right sidebar. Or just say hey on Twitter! @JonNegroni

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Snarcasm: Critics Ruined ‘Gods of Egypt,’ Not the Movie Itself

gods of egypt critics

Snark + Sarcasm = what you’re about to read.

Remember last year when Josh Trank embarrassed himself via Twitter by dissing his own movie (Fantastic Four)  before it even came out?

Well, Alex Proyas, director of Gods of Egypt, apparently thought that his own airing of grievances over social media was a smart career move. Or he just loves one-upping Josh Trank, which may also be valid.

Gods of Egypt hasn’t been doing all that well at the box office since it opened two weeks ago. Deadpool (which opened on Valentine’s Day) is still outperforming it, which wouldn’t be bad news until you remember that the kid-friendly Zootopia is on the horizon.

At this point, Gods of Egypt has made about $40 million, which is modest until you remember that the film has a reported production budget of $140 million, not including marketing dollars (which tend to double that number). Worse, much of the money it has made is overseas, which the studio gets less of a return on.

gods of egypt critics

So unless the gods of the box office perform an impossible miracle similar to the final act of the movie we’re talking about, Gods of Egypt will be a big flop. And Alex Proyas took to Facebook recently to explain exactly why that is in the most eloquent way possible. Well, depending on who you ask…though that would have to be Alex Proyas.

No headline, but Proyas begins his rant with a killer summation:

NOTHING CONFIRMS RAMPANT STUPIDITY FASTER…Than reading reviews of my own movies.

Off to a great start. People who review Proyas’ movies are consistently stupid, and this is a confirmed thing, according to said director. Seems legit.

As someone who also reviewed Gods of Egypt (I gave it a C), I’m starting to wonder if I fall into the grace of Proyas’ approval, lest I be doomed to a life of moronity.

 I usually try to avoid the experience – but this one takes the cake.

This is coming from a guy who hasn’t made a movie in seven years. Saying “I usually avoid the experience” is like me saying “I usually avoid taking girls to the food court on our first date.”

Often, to my great amusement, a critic will mention my past films in glowing terms,

Well, some of these past films.

OK, like two of them.

when at the time those same films were savaged, as if to highlight the critic’s flawed belief of my descent into mediocrity.

This is a laugh for anyone remotely familiar with Proyas’ filmography. Dark City and The Crow are the movies critics reference most, and both received excellent reviews at the time they were released. His other movies — such as i, Robot — received mostly mixed reviews. They weren’t “savaged.”

And who today looks that fondly on i, Robot? Besides me?

The only movie “savaged” in his filmography is Knowing, which no one except for Roger Ebert thought was very good. Years later, this hasn’t changed in the slightest. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the magic of selective memory.

You see, my dear fellow FBookers, I have rarely gotten great reviews… on any of my movies, apart from those by reviewers who think for themselves and make up their own opinions.

That’s right. Proyas’ argument is equivocal to that of a temper tantrum.

“Only bad critics give me bad reviews,” he says. Or in other words, “Me good, no matter what bad man say!”

Sadly those type of reviewers are nearly all dead.

WOW. 

Good reviews often come many years after the movie has opened.

Let me fix that for you. Better reviews come out years after people have had time to think about the film, its impact, and how repeated viewings improve or worsen the experience. But that doesn’t invalidate the first inspection of a film. Critics are mostly judging the first experience because that’s what people read their reviews for. 

I don’t care if a movie that’s just come out will be more interesting ten years from now because it says something compelling about a culture point that may not have happened yet. I want to a watch a movie that’s competently made and will deliver a great experience in the theater.

 I guess I have the knack of rubbing reviewers the wrong way – always have.

But hey, that couldn’t possibly mean that there’s something wrong with you. That’s not how narcissism works, right?

This time of course they have bigger axes to grind – they can rip into my movie while trying to make their mainly pale asses look so politically correct by screaming “white-wash!!!” like the deranged idiots they all are. 

Really? It’s idiotic to point out that your movie set within an established mythology is mostly casted by a single, unrelated demographic? To Proyas, we’re idiots for pointing this out, despite the fact that nearly everyone seemed to think this long before the reviews hit the web.

That’s not even mentioning the fact that most reviews didn’t even spend much time on white washing, if at all. In my review, I bring it up because it’s ultimately distracting to be watching a movie set in Egypt without anyone who looks Egyptian. It ruins the immersion of the movie, which hurts the overall experience of watching it.

They fail to understand, or chose to pretend to not understand what this movie is, so as to serve some bizarre consensus of opinion which has nothing to do with the movie at all. 

Oh, we know what this movie is, Proyas. It’s an attempt to make as much money possible for the studio. Problem is, you thought you had to cast only white actors in order to do so, but it didn’t work. That’s not anyone’s fault but yours.

That’s ok, this modern age of texting will probably make them go the way of the dinosaur or the newspaper shortly – don’t movie-goers text their friends with what they thought of a movie? 

This oddly constructed sentence is an appropriate parallel for Gods of Egypt. It tries to look like it’s not out of touch, but everything presented makes it more obvious that it’s out of touch.

People don’t just text for information, Proyas. They use this magical thing called the Internet, which you’re using now. And while movie critics as we know them may not remain the same forever, it’s clear that the Internet isn’t leaving them behind; not when YouTube critics are gaining subscribers in the millions.

Besides, aren’t you undermining your argument that critics ruined your movie’s box office by saying they don’t even influence people anymore? Why write any of this at all if you sincerely believe no one will read reviews in the next few years?

Seems most critics spend their time trying to work out what most people will want to hear.

Finally, something sensible out of this rant. Yes, we can agree that a lot of critics form their reviews around groupthink, not real analysis, that forms before a movie releases. I wouldn’t say most critics do this, but it certainly happens.

How do you do that? Why these days it is so easy… just surf the net to read other reviews or what bloggers are saying – no matter how misguided an opinion of a movie might be before it actually comes out.

I think what this supposedly professional screenwriter is blathering about is how critics may read other reviews and blogs in order to form their own opinion. His evidence? Well, people don’t like his movie, so…

To him, it’s not because a lot of people have the same problem with a movie. Nope, because that would mean there’s a problem with his movie, and that can’t be right. Proyas is mad at the people who hate his movie, who then influence “deranged idiots” into hating his movie. But even if you’re right (and you’re not), that’s still a good chunk of people who still hated your movie before anyone else did.

There is something to be said about critics who go into a movie ready to hate it because the public hates it. Yet what often happens is the opposite, in that critics give a movie great reviews, much to everyone’s surprise. A good example is last year’s Paddington, which no one thought would be a great movie due to its bad marketing.

It’s clear that Proyas was wrongfully convinced this would happen with Gods of Egypt.

Lock a critic in a room with a movie no one has even seen and they will not know what to make of it.

Has Proyas never heard of a press screening? We do this all the time. It’s as if he thinks we write these reviews while conducting exit interviews simultaneously, despite the fact that most reviews are written weeks or days before the embargo lifts, and we spend most of that time editing our grammar.

Because contrary to what a critic should probably be they have no personal taste or opinion, because they are basing their views on the status quo.

Again, you can argue that some critics do this (because human beings are human beings), but Proyas is trying to make the case that all critics lack the ability to criticize, which he has to say in order to justify why Gods of Egypt has an 11% on Rotten Tomatoes.

This is the logic of a narcissist incapable of admitting his own mistakes. After all, the diversity problem in Gods of Egypt is easily the least of its problems. Everything from the shoddy CGI to the middling performances screams of mediocrity, not some sort of hidden gem we’ll all be celebrating in 2026.

None of them are brave enough to say “well I like it” if it goes against consensus.

False, untrue, a lie, etc. Critics enjoy movies all the time that go against consensus. That’s why Gods of Egypt has an 11%, not a 0%, on RT. 

More recently, I gave The Good Dinosaur a perfect grade, despite everyone telling me I was “wrong.” Months later, I haven’t changed my mind, and critics everywhere do the same thing with movies that I don’t like. But in Proyas’ fantasy land, we all give the same reviews about everything somehow.

Therefore they are less than worthless.

No one can be “less than worthless,” but at least that sentence matches the rest of the logic in this Facebook post. Hey, and his movie, too!

Now that anyone can post their opinion about anything from a movie to a pair of shoes to a hamburger, what value do they have – nothing.

Wrong. Now that everyone can have a platform, competition is skyrocketing, pushing all of us to rise about the complacency that plagued film criticism in the past. Some people try to stand out by doing the opposite of Proyas accuses by liking a movie against consensus, even if they didn’t like it all.

In other words, Proyas can’t see beyond the issues that affect him and only him. Because he’s what, class?

“A narcissist,” said the children in Snarcasm Elementary School.

Roger Ebert wasn’t bad. He was a true film lover at least, a failed film-maker, which gave him a great deal of insight. His passion for film was contagious and he shared this with his fans. He loved films and his contribution to cinema as a result was positive.

This is all true, but just keep in mind that Roger Ebert was the about the only critic to give Proyas’ last film, Knowing, four stars. I wonder if that factors into Proyas’ belief that Ebert was the only good critic…

Now we have a pack of diseased vultures pecking at the bones of a dying carcass. Trying to peck to the rhythm of the consensus.

Are you the dying carcass? Because it’s not our fault you don’t make a lot of movies anymore, and when you do, we don’t like them. That’s completely on you.

Or is “the dying carcass” your movie? Because if so, I’m glad we’re pecking apart a movie that was incapable of thinking outside of the pale-white action fantasy movies made in the 80s.

Or is “the dying carcass” the film industry as a whole? Because if so, your barely average movies aren’t doing much to make things better.

Also, we’re not that diseased.

I applaud any film-goer who values their own opinion enough to not base it on what the pack-mentality say is good or bad.

The false premise, of course, is that film-goers can only do this by burying their head in the sand, not reading the varying opinions of others. Oh, I guess they should just text each other reviews sentence by sentence instead.

I feel bad for Proyas because it’s clear he bases the value of his work on the opinions of critics, instead of his own fans who champion Gods of Egypt. For him, that’s not enough because a group of evil film critics are now conspiring against him (roll credits).

gods of egypt critics

Yet Proyas says nothing of the people who like something merely because no one else does, a practice just as dishonest as what he condemns critics for.

That said, critics aren’t perfect, and they’re certainly not my favorite people to mingle with. They can be cynical cockroaches, if you ask me and plenty others. But not all of them. Many critics put as much work into their criticism as anyone else who puts effort into their art.

Heck, it’s clear they work harder on their reviews than this lopsided, no line-broken block of Facebook post text that makes it clear that you must have at written Gods of Egypt in at least some capacity.


 

Hey! If you’ve come across a silly article that deserves the Snarcasm treatment, send it my way via Twitter or the comments below!

I’m Jon and thanks for reading this. You can subscribe to my posts by clicking “Follow” in the right sidebar. Or just say hey on Twitter! @JonNegroni

Snarcasm: YouTube Is Killing Film Criticism

film critics

Snark + Sarcasm = what’s you’re about to read. This week: It turns out no one should be a film critic unless they’re like every other critic. 

This is a tough Snarcasm to write because I agree with a lot of what Will Mann has to say about how film criticism has changed over the last decade. We just arrive at completely different conclusions because…well, you’ll see.

Writing for Medium, which was made to be longform Twitter, Will Mann writes:

Why I Miss Roger Ebert

Yeah, I miss him, too. He was a legendary—

-OR-

Uh oh.

(Youtube) Video Killed the (Film Criticism) Star

But the song is “Video Killed the Radio Star.” So shouldn’t “Film Criticism” at least be outside its parentheses? I don’t understand this reference, but that’s OK.

Will Mann begins his piece with a loving look back at Roger Ebert, one of the greatest film critics of all time, who sadly passed away in 2013.

Ebert was the gatekeeper when it came to my interest in cinema. His reviews were easily accessible on the Internet, and I had done my fair share of both Google searches to find out exactly what he said about all of my favorite movies and late-night Youtube binging of old episodes of Siskel and Ebert.

siskel and ebert
Gene Siskel (left); Roger Ebert (right)

Keep in mind that Mann discovered Roger Ebert’s film criticism via YouTube. That might become irony, soon.

I think if I could explain why I felt such grief at Ebert’s death, it would be because I felt like there was an emptiness, a hole that didn’t used to be there before.

…Go on.

Who would, or even could, replace Ebert?

No one, probably .One of the great things about Ebert was how personal his critiques were. You can’t replicate that experience. This isn’t The Daily Show, after all.

Was film criticism destined to decline in the absence of such an influential figure?

Uh, no

Roger Ebert was influential, but there are many other still-living critics who are just as good. Some could be better, depending on who you ask. And as long as films are still being made, good film critics will be around to talk about them.

Now, some two and a half years after his death, it looks increasingly like film criticism as we know it, and as Ebert knew it, will change forever.

Well, yeah. Film criticism changes all the time. You know why? Because films change. And the people who watch them change. This shouldn’t be surprising.

Suddenly, with the rise of social media, the old expression “everyone’s a critic” is more truth than fiction at this point.

Everyone has always been a critic. Because everyone who watches a movie is a critic. They may not be a professional film critic or even a particularly influential one, but everyone does, in fact, have an opinion.

Youtube critics, or non-professional film reviewers, have risen to prominence, and with that comes some problems that are worth discussing.

So I’m probably lumped into this category since film criticism isn’t my main profession. I do get paid for it, and I see enough movies a year to be taken seriously, but my medium (get it?) is solely online.

Hyperbole and a certain ineloquence that would make Ebert himself cringe define these online critics.

“A certain ineloquence” should be a safe word. Also, Ebert cringed at many critics, all the time. Including his longtime frenemy, Gene Siskel.

While there are online critics doing some great things in terms of film criticism (there’s even an Online Film Critics Society which hold awards every year), most of the critics I’ll be referring to are not members of the OFCS, nor are their reviews tallied on either Rotten Tomatoes or MetaCritic.

This makes sense because applying to be a part of OFCS, Rotten Tomatoes, and Metacritic is a very difficult process. Even great critics get rejected for the sake of keeping numbers down, and Rotten Tomatoes in particular requires a high average of users visiting your site to justify your inclusion. As they should.

In fact, you can’t even apply for OFCS whenever you want (they only accept applications five months out of the year). So many online film critics don’t bother because they don’t need to, anyway.

They mostly exclusively review genre movies, and turn a blind eye to independent or other smaller, non-genre fare. 

I agree with Mann, here. But at the same time, I’d prefer an online critic be honest about the movies they’re knowledgeable about. There’s room in the world for “genre critics” who only focus on movies they have a passion for.

In this era of “clickbait” and easiness of accessibility, there is a feeling like we’re losing something when these online personalities talk about film.

Working for websites who deal with entertainment news, I’ve noticed time and again that reviews almost never bring about “clickbait.” In that the headline promoting the article is misleading or written in a way to create shock value. Because reviews don’t bring about clicks quite as much as celebrity gossip, so they’re typically left to the machinations of SEO.

Once in a while, a movie like Fantastic Four will bring about some clickbait headlines catering to the “fanboys” who obsess over studio rights like it’s celebrity gossip. But most of the time, reviews survive because the critic slowly builds a dedicated following.

Critics used to be gatekeepers, an indicator, a gauge as to whether or not a movie was worth investing time and money into.

Good thing they still are.

Now, with fervent fanbases that resemble cults and a relative inexperience in the field of film criticism, these online critics are changing the way movies are reviewed, and not in a way that’s positive, nor in a way Ebert would’ve wanted.

The premise is the problem, here. Mann is arguing that because some bad film critics give bad reviews, it’s negating any of the good reviews that come out all the time. He even manages to lump “fanboys” into a cult to get his emotional point across, then pretends to know what Ebert would have wanted.

This is a weak argument. Relative inexperience is natural, as everyone has to start somewhere. Snarcasm has certainly taught me that, as I mainly read through scores of reviews that are painful to read. But I don’t call them out just because a review is bad. I only review a review if they truly deserve it (i.e. when they attack other critics for having a different opinion).

Also, it’s important to mention that yes, online critics are changing the way movies are reviewed for some. But to say that’s it not positive because it’s different is certainly troubling. Critics before Ebert lambasted him for having a TV show and hated his review style. I’m sure someone back then said he was changing the way movies were reviewed, and not in a positive way.

Take, for example the case of Boyhood. In summer of 2014, Richard Linklater Boyhood came out, earning a 98% Rotten Tomatoes score and many critics from all across the country proclaiming it to be a landmark, groundbreaking film.

A lot of online critics loved it, too. Myself included. I even included it in my Top 10 of 2014 list.

But as you no doubt guessed, Mann cherry picked one of the few “online personalities” who didn’t like it to prove his point.

Shortly after the film debuted, Half in the Bag, an online movie-review-show from RedLetterMedia, reviewed Boyhood, with both hosts, Jay Bauman and Mike Stoklasa coming out overwhelming against the film. They said things like, and I am quoting directly from their review, that Boyhood “sucked,” “sucked so bad,”

film critics

What’s interesting is that Mann is citing a comedy website as a representation for all online critics, here. If you’ve watched any of the RedLetterMedia videos, you know that most of what they do is satire laced with their true opinions. Yeah, they didn’t like it. But their show isn’t about artful critiques.

In fact, they’re famous for reviews of older movies that provide new insight into why we liked or disliked them, including Plinkett’s legendary takedown of Star Wars: The Phantom Menace.

Still, if you really want a more nuanced opinion about Boyhood that isn’t positive, you can certainly find it. 

Rather than admitting they might have gone overboard in their dislike, they followed up with a video where they made fun of what they viewed as the overwhelmingly positive reception of the film

Because they’re a comedy…ah, never mind.

It used to be that the purpose of having two critics discuss movies is that they could disagree with one another,

I’ve seen my fair share of Half in the Bag, and I can assure you that they don’t always agree (Jurassic World, for example). But since you’re treating this one review like their gospel…

Debate between two movie critics can be informative, for them and for us, the viewer. In contrast, Stoklasa and Bauman only reinforce each other’s worldview.

Yes, for this one movie you picked. Why are we still talking about this?

Moreover, all the attention they gave towards what I’m calling a “hate campaign” against a film that is so well respected by industry insiders, critics, and seemingly the general public (with the exception of RedLetterMedia’s fans, apparently) over actually-bad films that deserve scrutiny is truly baffling.

That’s the point. They don’t think the movie deserves the praise it’s getting because it doesn’t stand on its own (in their opinion) when the gimmick is removed.

Mann goes on to compare this Half in the Bag review with a review by Ebert, who also hated a film once. The point is that Ebert is a better critic…and?

Again, we’re still fixating on this one review. Proving that one critic is better than another doesn’t shed light on anything besides itself.

Compare Ebert’s exquisite insight on Contact to popular Youtube film-reviewer Jeremy Jahn’s perspective on a film he was very fond of, 2015’s Mad Max: Fury Road:

film critics

Seriously? You’re going to compare a 1997 review about a science fiction drama with a George Miller action movie from this year? This doesn’t prove anything except that Mann is impatient when it comes to Google results.

I’ll admit that I’m not a fan of Jeremy Jahns, probably for the same reasons as Mann. The difference is that I don’t blame him for the decline of an entire industry. Or even the medium he’s delivering on.

Jahns, on top of other prominent critics like RedLetterMedia, YourMovieSucks, Chris Stuckman, etc. utilize simplistic language and quick edits to get their point across.

First of all, no

Chris Stuckmann in particular is a fantastic film critic, certainly more credible than anyone else on that list. And the guy is only in his mid-20s. Lumping him in with YourMovieSucks is almost criminal in my opinion.

Second of all, what?

Since when was simplistic language a bad thing? Or quick edits? Would you rather bore people and make your reviews less accessible? Why is it wrong to add entertainment value to a video review? It’s essentially the same as Siskel and Ebert using their friction to drum up some dramatic passion that kept people returning.

Most of the time, the reviews of these Youtube critics boil down to the most basic levels of “this was good, this was bad, this could’ve been better” rather than tackling the film as a whole the way Ebert used to.

So because they don’t review like Ebert, they’re…basic? I find this weird because a good review should essentially boil down to talking about what you like. There are other ways to do it, but many professional critics do the same thing you’re criticizing online film critics of doing.

Youtube critics almost always use a mix of hyperbole and language intentionally dumbed down for your everyday layman in order to get their points across.

In a way, Mann is correct. I would add that professional critics are also guilty of doing this in order to draw in readers.

But he doesn’t seem to understand that this isn’t inherently bad. He seems to think that everyone is looking for the same type of film review backed up by the same type of people who run organizations that promote a certain type of review.

film critics

He, and other critics, understand that many people simply want to view an emotional response to a movie. They don’t want to know all of the nuts and bolts in the same way other critics like Ebert liked to talk about. They just want to know if these critics  liked the movie.

YouTube reviews have skyrocketed in popularity for the same reason we loved Siskel and Ebert. Because we were able to visibly see the emotional reactions displayed by these film critics. Their emotional responses were much more memorable than some of the smaller details these guys would talk about, not that one thing is better than the other.

The beauty is that you can watch these reviews and go deeper if you choose to. You can hear some of Stuckmann’s rants about how excellent Deakins’ cinematography is, realize you love learning about that aspect of filmmaking, and then seek out other critics who note these nuances.

And I haven’t even mentioned Nostalgia Critic, arguably the best online video critic, who received praise from Roger Ebert himself for his show.

film critics

So, no, YouTube isn’t killing film criticism. It’s enabling more people to dive deeper into the medium. You’ll come across inexperienced film critics all the time, but your reaction shouldn’t be to silence them because they aren’t as good as the legends. Someday, they might be ready to take on that level of influence.

But, with Ebert gone, who would the young me choose to listen to if he was coming of age today?

The first step is accepting that Ebert can’t be replicated, much like I’ll never get to watch Movie Mob again. You can only connect with something new. It doesn’t have to be a YouTube film critic you can’t relate to. But it can certainly be someone more aligned with your tastes.

I, for example, get my fix from a recent show called “Film Club” on AV Club. In this video series, A.A. Dowd and Ignatity Vishnevetsky critique films in a format similar to Siskel and Ebert, and their condensed half-hour conversations can be just as insightful. I won’t try to convince anyone it’s better, but it’s certainly worthwhile.

 Remember, all these Youtube film critics are just as, if not more, accessible to young viewers as those Ebert reviews were to me. Young viewers, who are just coming into their own cinematic tastes. They, like I was towards Ebert, might be susceptible to older, more experiences voices, and align their tastes with these tastemakers. Does that mean that there are young film fans out there today who will never see a Richard Linklater film because RedLetterMedia told them to? Or that there is a young fan who will avoid anything out of the hyper-masculine genres of superhero films, action films, and horror films simply because Jeremy Jahns doesn’t look as excited when he reviews a drama than when he reviews the latest Marvel movie?

These are questions we need to ask ourselves.

And here’s the answer. The person who won’t watch Boyhood because one comedy website told him not to probably isn’t the type of person who’d find value from an Ebert review. The person who watches Jeremy Jahns to enjoy someone else’s opinion on a genre he loves isn’t there for an insightful critique. He just wants to find out what his friend thinks about the latest Marvel movie.

But the people who love all types of film have little to worry about. Because we have more choices than ever, and a lot of them are worth our time.

I’m Jon and thanks for reading this. You can subscribe to my posts by clicking “Follow” in the right sidebar. Or just say hey on Twitter! @JonNegroni

 

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