Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Daily Reads: Why No One Remembers "Avatar," the Best Blu-rays and DVDs of 2014, and more Daily Reads: Why No One Remembers "Avatar," the Best Blu-rays and DVDs of 2014, and more Criticwire Survey: Last-Minute Gifts for Movie Lovers Criticwire Survey: Last-Minute Gifts for Movie Lovers 'The Interview' Reviews: So How Is That Movie That We're Not Going to See? 'The Interview' Reviews: So How Is That Movie That We're Not Going to See? Star-Ledger's Stephen Whitty Loses His Staff Job Star-Ledger's Stephen Whitty Loses His Staff Job So Long, 'Stephen Colbert': How His Star-Studded Finale Sent Up and Outdid Talk-Show Schmaltz So Long, 'Stephen Colbert': How His Star-Studded Finale Sent Up and Outdid Talk-Show Schmaltz The Scrambled Sexuality of 'Frozen's "Let It Go" The Scrambled Sexuality of 'Frozen's "Let It Go" Numerical Proof that 'Boyhood' and 'Transparent' Were Critics' Overwhelming 2014 Favorites Numerical Proof that 'Boyhood' and 'Transparent' Were Critics' Overwhelming 2014 Favorites Cahiers du Cinema's Top 10 Movies of 2014: 'Goodbye to Language,' 'Under the Skin,' 'Love Is Strange' Cahiers du Cinema's Top 10 Movies of 2014: 'Goodbye to Language,' 'Under the Skin,' 'Love Is Strange' Why the Unanimous Praise for 'Boyhood' Is Bad for Film Criticism — and for 'Boyhood' Why the Unanimous Praise for 'Boyhood' Is Bad for Film Criticism — and for 'Boyhood' Sleeper of the Week: 'Maidan' Sleeper of the Week: 'Maidan' Kevin B. Lee's 'Better Than Boyhood': 'Goodbye to Language,' 'Dear White People' and More Kevin B. Lee's 'Better Than Boyhood': 'Goodbye to Language,' 'Dear White People' and More It's Official: HBO Is Remastering 'The Wire' in the Wrong Aspect Ratio It's Official: HBO Is Remastering 'The Wire' in the Wrong Aspect Ratio Sony's Chair Sends Racist Emails, Also Greenlights More Movies Starring Black Actors Than Anyone in Hollywood Sony's Chair Sends Racist Emails, Also Greenlights More Movies Starring Black Actors Than Anyone in Hollywood Beyond 'The Interview': 6 Movies About North Korea You Can Watch Right Now Beyond 'The Interview': 6 Movies About North Korea You Can Watch Right Now 'Disney Deaths' and 'Big Hero 6': How Children's Stories Process Loss 'Disney Deaths' and 'Big Hero 6': How Children's Stories Process Loss Why 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' Fills Me With Dread Why 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' Fills Me With Dread Why 'Spring Breakers' Is the Movie of the Year Why 'Spring Breakers' Is the Movie of the Year Watch: David Ehrlich's Top 25 Movies of 2014, a Video Countdown as Good as the Movies Themselves Watch: David Ehrlich's Top 25 Movies of 2014, a Video Countdown as Good as the Movies Themselves Film Comment's Best Movies of 2014: 'Boyhood' Plus 'Birdman,' Plus a Cotillard Twofer Film Comment's Best Movies of 2014: 'Boyhood' Plus 'Birdman,' Plus a Cotillard Twofer Daily Reads: 'The Interview' and the End of Satire, Why 'Selma' Matters Today and More Daily Reads: 'The Interview' and the End of Satire, Why 'Selma' Matters Today and More

Blindspots: The Critic's (Not-So-)Secret Shame

Criticwire By Matt Singer | Criticwire March 28, 2012 at 10:41AM

Here's something critics don't want you to know: they haven't seen every single movie ever made. And even a few classics.
3

Gene Hackman in "The French Connection"
Gene Hackman in "The French Connection"
I'm going to let you in on a film critic secret, but only if you promise not to tell anyone (except everyone on Facebook and Twitter. Well-kept secrets don't bring in a lot of traffic).  Are we agreed?  Okay here it is:

Film critics haven't seen every movie ever made.

Oh they've seen a lot of 'em.  They've seen way more than any normal human being should, probably at least three or four hundred a year every year they've been reviewing professionally.  But even at that sort of absurd, borderline insane level of viewership, movies still fall through the cracks.  

It's just not possible to see every new film released in a given year and try to track down all the great movies of the past you've already missed (unless you're also ready to give up eating, drinking, talking to people, and the possibility of ever having sex again).  Not to mention that some movies are impossible to see because they're out-of-print or unavailable.  In this business, oversights and omissions are inevitable.  

That's why no film critic is without their fair share of blindspots.  But the fact that everyone has them doesn't make them any less embarrassing.  Knowledge is what gives critics their authority.  When a film critic confesses to never having seen a classic title, they're like Superman right when Lex Luthor pulls out a piece of Kryptonite.  They're still super, but they're not quite as super as they were two minutes ago.  

Maybe that's the reason I admire Eric D. Snider's new project for Film.com: "The Shame List," in which Snider confesses to 25 of his most egregious blindspots -- including "Brazil," "The French Connection," and "Schindler's List" -- has readers rank their egregiousness, and then watches and writes about them.  Facing your blindspots openly and honestly; that's like Superman watching Lex Luthor pull out a piece of Kryptonite and powering through the pain to kick him in the balls.  

(To recap for those keeping score at home: a film critic's Kryptonite? Blindspots.  Superman's Kryptonite?  Kryptonite.  Lex Luthor's Kryptonite?  Kicks to the balls.)

Over email, Snider told me he started the project to replace another Film.com column, and that while he's calling it The Shame List, he's really not that ashamed to have never seen, say, "My Dinner With Andre." "In fact," he wrote, "part of what inspired the column was the realization that there was no need to be. Even if you've seen everything, there was a time in your life when you hadn't. We all see everything for the first time at some point. All you can do is keep seeing stuff, keep filling in the gaps. Now, if you professed to be a film buff and had no INTEREST in seeing the 'classics,' or the 'important' movies, that would be something to be ashamed of."

The idea of letting readers rank which omissions were the worst came from Snider's conversations with people about this sensitive subject. He wrote, "A friend will say, 'I can't believe you've never seen MOVIE X!' But it turns out that friend has never seen MOVIE Y! And this other friend has seen MOVIE X and MOVIE Y -- but can you believe it, he's never seen MOVIE Z!! Nobody has seen EVERY movie that a film buff is supposed to have seen." 

Snider also said -- and I agree with him -- that there is no one list of films you have to see before you can write a review ("It's not like there's a syllabus you have to finish," he joked).  Comprehensiveness is important, but in the meantime sincere effort will suffice.  As for Snider's efforts, there was one thing I had to know: did he have any blindspots too shameful to admit to by including them on the Shame List?  "I'm pleased to say there are not," he replied. "I decided to embrace my shortcomings and own my embarrassment."

That's all any critic can do.  Well that and keep watching more movies.  Speaking of which, does anyone have a copy of "Intolerance" I could borrow?

(NOTE: For more on cinematic blindspots, check out this week's Criticwire Survey, where more than two dozen critics admit their darkest cinematic shame.  And if you're in the market for a good resource to help find your own blindspots, I recommend Jonathan Rosenbaum's list of The 1000 Greatest Movies Ever Made.) 

This article is related to: Eric D. Snider, Blindspots


E-Mail Updates