Some people might think I’m insane by telling everyone not to listen to film critics. I don’t really consider myself to be a film critic. I am a film lover. I watch film with the eye of an art patron. I might not know art, but I know what I like. Some art I like better than others, just as there are some films that I like better than others. But I have a healthy respect for film and the arduous process for how film is made and how it finds its way to an audience. When I review a movie, I do just that, I review it. I try not to criticize it because intrinsically the word criticize connotes a negative response.
Film criticism is to cinema, as film school is to cinema. Just because you went to a good film school does not mean you can make a good movie. In fact, you are not a filmmaker in film school. You are not a filmmaker until you pick up a camera and make a film, and film schools delay you from doing this by taking up your time in class and filling your head with conventions and methods that other people who have actually MADE a movie have already figured out. Film criticism is similar in that regard because all film critics do is prevent filmmakers from making true art. They tell filmmakers that because their film does not conform to a certain set of learned criteria that it is bad, or somehow unworthy of public viewing. Some critics give the classic thumbs-up, thumbs-down approach, similar to a convention that was used in gladiatorial arenas in ancient Rome to decide whether or not a competitor was worthy to live or die. How did these critics become the gatekeepers of good taste? They could collectively watch every movie ever made but that still does not make them experts on film. All that makes them is experts on convention. They know the ins and outs of the 180 degree rule, the dutch camera angle, the wide shot, the cowboy. They have memorized what has come before, to pass judgment on what is to come. This is wrong.
Film in general has not had a true significant evolution in over two decades. New types of films that truly make an effort to break away from convention rarely are given the same type of regard as a movie that follows simple rules like a three-act structure, the classic character archetypes, or conflicts. These movies are sometimes even viewed as amateur. Was Picasso an amateur? He created art that was unconventional. His paintings were vastly different from what his contemporaries were doing. However now his art is regarded sometimes as being better than theirs, and mostly because it is so different. This is what filmmakers should strive for, and this is what film critics should look for rather than falling back on learned behaviors.
There are many factors that contribute to a film critic’s viewing experience. There is the environmental factor. Where is the critic viewing your movie? Is he or she at home watching it on a big screen TV with a Dolby surround sound system? Are they alone? Is it day or night? Are they in the theater surrounded by a group of their peers who are also evaluating the film? Or are they in a theater with a group of fans who already hold the film in high regard?
There are emotional factors as well. Is the film critic having a good day? Are they hungry? Thirsty? How are things going for them at home? Are there other thoughts that they might be preoccupied with while viewing your movie?
I bring this up because I want to illustrate that film critics are just regular people who are prone to the same issues as anyone else. Their opinions can be swayed for any number of reasons, and even the best, most experienced film critics may have a differing opinion of a movie on a second viewing. When having film a film critic view your movie, treat it like a trip to the doctors office, and afterwords try to get a second opinion. If you made a movie and a critic doesn’t like it, that does not mean it is a bad movie, it just means that the critic is not part of your audience. If your goal is to make a film that appeals to the widest audience possible, and you need it to advance your career, then go ahead and listen to what that critic has to say. But if you are making film as an expression of art, then let time be the judge as to whether or not your film is any good.