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Thursday, March 24, 2011
Short Answer: No. Long Answer: Not really. Allow me to explain.
There's a fine line between having an opinion and voicing it - that line being the opening you'll find situated under your nose but above your chin - but there isn't such a fine line between voicing your opinion and being a critic. What difference is that? You may be asking. Simple: The amount of effort you put into your analysis.
"I liked this movie." Good for you. Why? When did you see it? With whom did you see it? What about it lead you to like it? What about it kept you from loving it? These are the basic building blocks of any review that intends to critique. Being a critic is more than having an opinion, it's about voicing that opinion in a manner that not only analyzes the film in question, it also tackles the difficult task of self-evaluation - the various factors in ones life that lead them to their conclusion.
Without those, I'm sorry to say, but your voice lends little to the topic. That's not to say your opinion isn't important, it is. Rather, without these various qualifiers, you offer nothing to others that they can take away from the conversation other than the knowledge that you liked it. A lot of good that will do them unless they happen to keep detailed records of what movies you like and dislike, why you did so, and can easily cross reference those with their own opinion to see how that works out. Sorry, no dice. You've basically just voiced your opinion because you wanted people to know it, so they can turn around and quickly forget it.
Now, voicing your opinion is a great way to start a review, or engage in a critical discussion. That's fine. In fact, if anything that's a good thing. But lots of people don't. They only go so far as the base level "I LOVED THIS MOVIE" with a quick "ME TOO!" response, and a brief 'how awesome was it when X happened.' Those conversations are all well and good, but please don't confuse them for critical thought. I'd hate to see you in a philosophy class trying to explain why you think deontologicalism fails to capture weighted outcomes even if the immediacy, with respect to morality of the decision at hand, seems apparent. If you're saying to yourself right now 'well, I don't care about philosophy so this obviously doesn't apply to me' then you're missing the point.
Honestly, many people don't accept the notion that opinions are anything other than gut reactions. The possibility of false perception/interpretation or populous influence is brushed aside in favor of the speed with which they can type their opinion in all caps. A critic should accept that there are any number of factors which play a part in the formation of their opinion and evaluate them with how they relate to the various components of the film. For example: a scene in the film displays a man hitting a woman to prevent her from acting 'wimpy' - something one might find offensive - a critic will take that feeling and formulate a reasoning around it. Lots of people will acknowledge that feeling, allow it to affect their opinion, and then not look at any further, settling on the weakened opinion as just being 'their opinion.'
So, why is it important to be a critic? Simple: Social Acceptance. Whether you think it or not, your ability to analyze and dissect something, presenting what you like and don't like about it, has a strong impact on what we as a society will tolerate. If you settle for merely 'liking' something, but don't voice your distaste for what you don't like about it, than there is no measurement by which anyone can say those generally disliked aspects need to stop. The same applies for increasing the likelihood for those pieces of a film that you demonstrably enjoy. Hollywood is in the business of making money, and if people are capable of telling them what aspects of a movie they saw will increase their chances of seeing another movie, Hollywood will acknowledge and adjust accordingly. If you don't, which is far too often the case now, Hollywood goes with a best guess and just rips whatever it can from the movie without paying attention to what it is about it that makes it special.
Your ability to express your opinion in a useful way is paramount to how the world operates. When you settle, you're not only weakening the discourse on the whole. You're allowing for those with more radical ideals to be louder. The less of you who try, the louder they get, until even the most resolute can't be heard. And then everyone loses.