Tuesday, August 16, 2016

It's OK to be a Critic

I seriously read movie reviews. I can probably tell you if a move was well-received or not, claim I plan on seeing it, forget to, then find in on cable three years later and scramble to catch up. Without actually viewing them myself, I can recommend a film.

A.O. Scott is my reviewer of preference. My sister-in-law likes him too, her reasoning that since he is a father he knows what children will enjoy. If he doesn't gush about a film, I usually end up agreeing with him. 


He came out with a book recently about being a critic, and this piece ("Everybody's a Critic. That's How It Should Be.") was compiled from it. He admits having the title "critic" is akin to something of the insect family. 

The article made me think about personal versus public opinion. We all have preferences that we are ashamed of voicing (the sci-fi geeks understand). Sometimes we are loudly profess adoration of a highly contentious belief or person or book just because we know it'll get on our audience's nerves. The latter is not any more authentic expression than the former. 

What do we like? What do we believe? What do we despise? What is merely meh? Every first date is a minefield. Sometimes the other is so befuddled by the other's atypical outlook that the calendar is double-checked to make sure it's not April 1. 

I think we should all stand for something. It won't be the same something, obviously. But we can only stand for something once we know and like ourselves, and feel no embarrassment as the individuals that compose the many. 
It’s the mission of art to free our minds, and the task of criticism to figure out what to do with that freedom. That everyone is a critic means that we are each capable of thinking against our own prejudices, of balancing skepticism with open-mindedness, of sharpening our dulled and glutted senses and battling the intellectual inertia that surrounds us. We need to put our remarkable minds to use and to pay our own experience the honor of taking it seriously.
We can still be friends. Really.   


Daniel Saunders said...

I used to read reviews of films I had no intention of watching. I haven't done that for a while, but my favourite publication is The Jewish Review of Books. Even though I rarely buy books from there (although I sometimes recommend them to the library where I work), but I learn things from the reviews and enjoy reading well-written criticism (criticism in the broad sense of the term, not the nitpicking sense).

But we can only stand for something once we know and like ourselves, and feel no embarrassment for the individuals that compose the many.

Yep. I still avoid telling people I'm a Doctor Who fan, from all the years it was the most mocked programme on TV (or not on TV, as it was cancelled). Now it's popular again, but I can't get used to it. Although even among fans I have no rest, as I like the episodes everyone else hates. I even had (sort of still have) a blog of reviews of Doctor Who and occasionally other SF... I like thinking for myself, and reading thought-provoking ideas from others.

Princess Lea said...

Same here. I dissect the NY Times Book Review every week, because I learn things from the reviews and enjoy the well-written criticism as well. "Criticism" in the sense that "The author's logic is faulty because she chooses not to address the well-known study of 2013 that demolishes her argument," not "The author has terrible fashion sense."

I think a lot of geeks are coming out of the closet now. "Big Bang Theory" made it somewhat acceptable.

Daniel Saunders said...

Agreed about geeks coming out the closet, but I think Big Ban Theory is effect, not cause. I think the growing importance of hi-tech industries has led to geeks having more status and purchasing power, therefore they are a target for business to sell to. Hence the revival in recent years of Doctor Who, Star Wars, Star Trek, The X-Files and Ghostbusters and all those superhero movies that are dominating the cinemas.