I’ve watched a few CinemaSins videos recently, and thought they were pretty funny. Then a few days ago I saw this tweet from the Nostalgia Chick, and I was curious as to what people hated so much about them. Someone linked to this article (although I actually can’t find the link anymore; I located the post through Google), and I have to say I found it to sound rather elitist. The CinemaSins format doesn’t get at what making movies is all about? Well, why should it? The majority of the audience filmmakers are aiming for doesn’t either. Now, I think it’s a valid point that the “let’s point out everything wrong with this” school of criticism (if you can even really call it criticism) is a bit overdone.
I love the Angry Video Game Nerd, but so many Internet personalities are doing the same basic schtick. And yes, some of the jokes on CinemaSins aren’t at all funny; I feel the listing of “reading” as something wrong buys into a general trend of anti-intellectualism in our culture, even if such is not the intent. I’ve also never considered movies that assume you’ve read the book to be a bad thing, although perhaps they should let you know this before you go see it. Overall, though, I think the post is an admittedly better-written version of the meta-criticism I see constantly, which largely boils down to, “How can you complain about this piece of media? Could YOU do better?” And no, I generally couldn’t, but aren’t I still entitled to an opinion? Besides, no one is paying me to try, and I figure we SHOULD hold professionals to a somewhat higher standard. That said, I can also understand how someone’s feelings could get hurt by a particularly harsh criticism of their work, which is why the fact that pretty much every artist is on Facebook and Twitter these days probably should lead to more fairness in criticism. I would imagine someone is less likely to call a director a talentless hack to their face than on an Internet forum they’re unlikely to read, although such does not always appear to be the case. And I’ve seen some artists who seemed WAY too intent on responding to every bit of criticism with nasty comebacks, even when that criticism was actually valid and not especially mean.
All in all, criticism is a rather odd activity. Does anyone really care what your opinion of a particular piece of art is? Well, maybe, if their opinions are similar. That’s why I’m more likely to read reviews by someone I know has similar tastes than by a professional reviewer. On the other hand, reviews are an art form in and of themselves, aren’t they? Siskel and Ebert were quite popular, after all. Still, though, I’ll sometimes read reviews of albums by musicians I like, and notice how incredibly lazy they often are. Practically every They Might Be Giants review has to use the word “quirky,” and while I’m not saying this isn’t appropriate, it really doesn’t say anything. I recall talking with another TMBG fan some years ago who said critics called Macy Gray “quirky,” and her music certainly isn’t similar to TMBG’s. “Weird Al” Yankovic reviews frequently make a point of how the parodies are so much better than the original songs, which makes me wonder if the critic even listens to the originals or just hears the beginning and thinks, “I don’t recognize this tune from an already-existing popular song, so this CAN’T be worth listening to!” And Frank Black reviews constantly insist that his solo work isn’t as good as the Pixies. Now, granted, these reviews aren’t from fans, so I don’t expect them to have the same level of appreciation I do for a Weird Al original or a Frank Black solo song. I’ll admit I’m biased. I just have to wonder why they have to rely on these review clichés instead of actually saying what they think in their own words. Are people typically influenced by music reviews anyway? Movie and book reviews, sure, but I figure most people buy records because they’ve heard one or two songs from them that they enjoyed, or because they already liked the artist. Maybe I’m wrong, though.