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Kevin Smith's Anti-Film Criticism Tirade & Rotten Tomatoes' 'Dark Knight' Comments Suspension

Photo of Tambay A. Obenson By Tambay A. Obenson | Shadow and Act July 18, 2012 at 10:00AM

This reminded me of Armond White's 2010 lament that film criticism is dead (thanks in part to Roger Ebert), and my questioning what film criticism is - whether it's essentially more of a seemingly joyless (to some), comprehensive, intellectual undertaking, or whether there is a happy middle - and as others have asked over the years, whether film criticism has any value.
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Film Criticism

This reminded me of Armond White's 2010 lament that film criticism is dead (thanks in part to Roger Ebert), and my questioning what film criticism is - whether it's essentially more of a seemingly joyless (to some), comprehensive, intellectual undertaking, or whether there is a happy middle - and as others have asked over the years, whether film criticism has any value.

I suppose your answer will depend on what your expectations of the cinema are; are you strictly an escape/pleasure-seeker, or do you regard the cinema as more of an edifying tool?

Personally, as those of you who've been reading this blog since it was created likely already know, I lean towards the latter, and do so consistently and unapologetically; but, again, maybe there’s a happy middle in there somewhere. However, ultimately, the decision is a personal, individual one.

Although I've never really quite been able to understand the negativity that some associate with film criticism, suggesting that any critique is somehow maliciously-inspired.

It apparently doesn't register that some folks actually like to investigate and get underneath the surface of things, and others will be inspired to take a look (whether first or second or third) at a work, based on a sound critique of it, that gives them a new awareness or understanding of it, or challenges their original interpretation of the work, or even enhances their appreciation for it. 

It’s called film criticism; it happens all the time to the best and brightest. No one is exempt. It doesn’t automatically imply “hatred” of whomever's work is being criticized. Actually, sometimes, it’s the opposite. And instead of challenging or attempting to suppress the existence of film criticism, or to discredit (and in some cases threaten, as you'll read below) critics whose opinions you disagree with, it would be far more instructive to instead challenge their analyses.

But this reductive “hater” labeling whenever criticism is leveled, is so trite; and just as tired is a common suggestion I've heard made, stating that film critics are failed or frustrated filmmakers. I suppose it never occurs to some that there are those who actually really do love the work for exactly what it is (work that requires its own set of skills that many-a-critic has spent years honing through education), and have absolutely no desire to do anything but that. 

There's also a hypocrisy I've often witnessed in some of those who criticize, or sought to supress criticism of any kind. When the criticism/analysis is leveled against a work that they themselves despise, they applaud that criticism. Just don't criticize or analyze a film (or other work of art) that they love.

But as I see it, countering what you'll hear in the video below, there needn't be a "criticism versus creation" debate. Both universes can exist simultaneously, and be mutually beneficial.

The bottomline for me is, criticism exists in all art forms, not just in cinema, and I just don't understand how anyone can’t see how substantive and substantiated criticism of an artist’s work can be edifying for both the artist and the audience. I look at criticism as a path towards enhancing the film-goers experience and appreciation for a work, not the other way around.

And I actually believe we all criticize and/analyze on some level (it happens daily on this site, and I'm not just talking about those who write for the site) - some are just more comprehensive in their criticism/analyses than others, usually because they are armed with more information.

At worst, you can simply ignore the critics, which many already do anyway. Strokes for folks, as the saying goes. Divesrsity makes the world go round.

In a historic movie, yesterday, the film review aggregating web site RottenTomatoes.com suspended user comments on movie reviews of The Dark Knight Rises after commenters reacted harshly to negative reviews of the film and in many cases made profane and threatening remarks about the critics who wrote them.

Really. 

"The job of policing the comments became more than my staff could handle for that film, so we stopped the comments altogether... It just got to be too much hate based on reactions to reviews of movies that people hadn't even seen," Matt Atchity, the site's editor-in-chief, said.

The wrath of the seemingly scorned fanboy and fangirl. You mean there are actually reviewers who didn't like The Dark Knight Rises? My goodness, how could that be? And I thought the human race was controlled entirely by one mind. Who dares have an opinion that's entirely theirs, breaking away from the collective?

Imagine if we had to start strictly policing the comments section of this site, which can some times get quite hostile. We all have opinions and should be able to freely express them (whether you call yourself a critic, writer, reviewer or audience), without fear of one's life being threatened, or even having to defend why your opinion exists. You should be able to defend your opinion, certainly, but your right to have one is just that; your right.

And over the weekend, filmmaker (and fanboy himself) Kevin Smith went on a anti-film critic tirade at the 2012 Comic-Con, after he was asked by a member of the audience whether he felt there was room for criticism, or if criticism should only be reserved for certain films.

I could take on each argument he makes, point by point, but our friends over at Twitch (specifically Scott Weinberg) already did that quite thoroughly and eloquently, so I'll defer to them instead. You can read Weinberg's retort HERE; although I'd suggest you first watch the 9-minute Kevin Smith invective below, which I'm sure some will cheer, while others will not - which is perfectly ok and should be expected. We're not The Borg:


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