Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Why I Write Reviews

So, last night I got into a rather interesting discussion with my long term blogging buddy (dating all the way back to our time at RT), TheAnswerMVP2001. I had inquired about the cost to host your own domain, which lead into a little discussion on blog popularity, getting your blog out there. This of course ultimately lead into the only logical place from which they all came... that is, why do we write these reviews in the first place?

Let's be honest, maybe .1% of film review blogs will reach any sort of sustained popularity big enough that can justify dedicating all your time to that blog. We could maybe go as high as 1-2% will lead to a job outside the blogging world with a salary. Yet for the extreme vast majority of us, blogging about films will be as far as we ever really venture into the film criticism world. At the same time you can't go 5 pages on google without finding another article screaming out questions of whether or not the "professional" film critic is dead, dying, or just in coma.

Really though, what ever truly defined the "professional" film critic. In my city of North Carolina we had one paper, which had one film critic, and that was all you had open to you in terms of how to look and analyze the release of films. Is that such a great method that we can't afford for it to be morphed into a new social situation? Is it so awful that someone can seek out a thousand different opinions on a single film and make an informed decision regardless of how "cool" the commercial is? I'm not saying people always do it, but I think the fact that the option is there, provides our society with a chance at a better foundation. The question then becomes though, do we ever really take advantage of it?

With the rise of social networking, the ability to seek out a wide variety of opinions on issues has become an ever growing staple in the modern society. Yet, it appears to me that as we grow more capable of finding new opinions, people tend to seek out those who only agree with their opinions. People tend to only follow blogs that agree with them, complain about anyone who disagrees, and write off film critics as snobby when it best suits them. A double standard society that seeks more freedom and yet wants more isolation from anything that opposses their ideas. In the latest version of RottenTomatoes you can check, prior to friending someone, with what percentile do you agree on film. By that same standard the selection for a process for a friend (relatively speaking) is based more on congruent taste than quality of the individual.

This is something I find troubling. I believe people should always seek out individuals posses the fortitude to disagree on things as unquantifiable as taste and still be friends. To seek out disagreement, agreement, and everything that wavers in between. To allow ourselves a forum for expression that we open to challenge, criticism, and harsh judgement. And if we're truly open minded we allow ourselves to see the world more full, open to varying opinions, and understand all sides of an argument. The professional film critic shouldn't be the guy who writes for your local paper, the professional film critic should be a collective.

A collective of individuals freely expressing their opinions, challenging them, and seeking out a group idea. For within that collective lies all the ranges of opinions in which people can both possess their own and share with others to see new ways of looking at things. For I've often thought of how I'd like to be remembered long after I'm gone, how I want people to have seen my life. After much self deliberation I've finally come up with the exact situation I'd like to occur after I'm gone.

Three people sit at a table some time after I've passed away. One guy turns to the other two and says "Ryan, he was a great guy." The guy sitting next to him looks back and says "Ryan? he was an ass, couldn't stand him." Then, after much deliberation the third guy finally chimes in with "Ryan, he was an ok, not too good, not too bad." The three sit there, think about it, and ultimately agree they're all right.

To me, that would be perfect. To me, that is something worth striving for. To me, that is what reviewing films is really all about. It's that combination of agreement and disagreement that leads to a better understanding of the world around us. To me, that is film.

And that, is why I write reviews.

Thanks to anyone who took the time to read this, I know it's a rather long and daunting article.

9 better thoughts:

TheAnswerMVP2001 said...

Just a quick comment, because I should be working now. But for the most part I agree with you, in terms of movies, if everyone liked the same thing how boring would that be, and how much of a variety of films would we ultimately have? Comments would be limited to "I agree" if anything at all. Personally when I select other blogs to read it's solely based on tastes not whether or not they like the film I like but if they write about the same stuff I'm interested in.

A little off topic, I must say, since branching away from RT I've seen a rise in quality of other peoples posts and peoples comments. It's really a shame that RT has on turned into more of the "facebook" of movies, people adding hundreds of friends just so they can say look how many "friends" I have.

The Mad Hatter said...

See, the short answer for me, was that I started blogging because I got tired of repeating myself.

Co-worker at 9am: "What did you think of STAR TREK?"
Me: "Lots of fun, you don't even have to be a Trekker to dig it!"

Different Co-worker at 10am: "What did you think of STAR TREK?"
Me: "Really cool...go see it"

Yet another Co-worker at 5pm: "What did you think of STAR TREK?"
Me: "Grrr....."

As to your point, I agree that it's fun to find people who offer varying opinions. I usually have fun debating movies, especially when trying to convince a cynic that what they thought was crap was actually pretty good. I actually made one fellow blogger start to seethe with how often I could stop an argument in its tracks with "Watch it again."

That said, I scratch my head at the random people who want to swim upstream against an overwhelming consensus (ie "WALL-E sucked!").

For me, blogging is just a way to tell people about movies they might not have even heard of, and call their attention to something other than the mainstream. Everyone and their brother are going to see TRANSFORMERS...but if I can convince just one other person to go see THE HURT LOCKER, I feel like I've achieved something.

Anonymous said...

Nice article. I really think that what separates a film critic from a person who writes about films is the quality of the writing. Yes, a lot of people run blogs about movies. But really good writing is not nearly as common as one might think. Not by a long shot.

A film critic reacts to a movie, applies critical thought to the reaction, writes down those thoughts and does not close himself off to the reactions, thoughts and opinions of others. Finding other people who are willing to do the same thing is again not as common as one might think. But it's worth it if you really love film.

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

Everyone's a critic...it just depends on professional or novice. Just like there's professional singers, dancers etc and non professionals. Write if you like it. Don't if you don't.

LuckyCricket said...

This is an intriguing post. I agree with your agreement that it is perfectly acceptable to disagree (hooray for confusing simplification), and the general question of "What defines a professional, let alone any breed thereof, movie critic?" This is the kind of material that blogging exists for. Great feature.

TheAnswerMVP2001 said...

One thing that amuses me about professional movie critics is all they're basically giving you is an opinon that's just as valid as any viewer. Sure I can see a professional critic might be able to provide criticism on how the film was made or written but ultimately whether or not they think the film is good, meaning viewers will enjoy it, is purely opinon. And frankly I find the people's thoughts on films to be a lot more helpful than the critics, who a lot of the time forget to have fun, and instead over analyze everything which most of us don't even care about.

Univarn said...

Thanks for all your feedback! I kind of wrote this on an emotional whim so I hope what I wrote makes sense (not going to dare try and read it to check).

@MVP. I couldn't agree more. I think getting away from film forums in general is a great idea for better discussions.

A typical Rotten Tomatoes Post:
"This movie was awesome!"
"I disagree"
"You're an idiot! Go **** yourself"
- I wish that was hyperbole.

@Mad I think that plays into the overarching idea for me. Though it's ironic because the people who ask my opinion on films won't check my blog, despite the ease of it. I think the WALL-E Sucked! people would find life much easier if they would just say "I know lots of people liked it, but for me it didn't offer much"

@joey and lucky thanks for your kind comments, I hope to do some more articles, I just don't know how often I want to do them.

filmgeek said...

What I love about blogging and reading other people's blogs is when you find a common interest and can share films and ideas. I hate it when I ask someone what they thought of a film and they say "I liked it", "I hated it", etc, without ellaborating. I love being able to discuss films and give and receive recommendations. Someone once recommended Little Red Flowers to me on one of my earliest posts. I Sky+ed it as soon as I noticed it was on and will get round to watching it one of these days

Stephen said...

I agree filmgeek, and I agree with almost all of what Univarn wrote here in his funny and interesting post.

I started blogging simply to put my thoughts down somewhere safe and presentable.

It was selfish really. I'd always written reviews for myself, trying to make sense of what I had seen and how I had felt about it.

Then someone comments and you comment on their thoughts until you are all aware different perspectives on the same thing and more clear of your own position.

It's great fun.

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