The Literary Salon

A free salon wherein patrons and passers-by may view or contribute ideas on literary and generally intellectual matters. The blog will strive to maintain its commitment to wit, humour and perspicuous analysis.

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Location: Toronto, now Ottawa, Ont, Canada

Friday, February 01, 2008

Better Late Than Never and Critical Insights

I'm about 3.5 years late, but I finally watched the film Sideways last night. On the whole, I'd say it is an amusing film, but incredibly overrated.

This brings me to my next point: I absolutely loathe film critics, with precious few exceptions. Most of the time I remind myself that there is no accounting for taste and that people are different. However, what really grins my gears is the (near) unanimously encomiastic reception of certain films, which renders me a tad suspicious about the whole enterprise.

Apart from Sideways, the following recent films are all vastly overrated: Little Miss Sunshine, Superbad, and Juno. Are any of these bad films? Certainly not: I enjoyed them, but I simply cannot understand the universal praise the have received. When nearly every critic hails a half-decent film as the greatest thing since sliced bread, I begin to wonder.

Perhaps the best example of the bunch is Superbad. I like Judd Apatow's films (40-year-old Virgin is one of my favourite comedies of all time), so I watched and enjoyed Superbad, enjoying it for what it is: a raunchy teen comedy. I was surprised when I saw all the positive reviews the film garnered, especially since critics don't seem to like such movies. I've certainly seen better made or funnier comedies get completely trashed by critics, so I was (and am) a little suspicious.

As one critic who agrees with me on Sideways astutely observed, the positive reviews of the film say less about the film and more about the psychologies of critics. In the case of the latter film, one can chalk up its success to its appeal to critics who perhaps saw a bit of themselves in Paul Giamatti's character. But the appeal of Superbad to these same critics boggles my mind. In conclusion, I wouldn't be surprised if there were some secret relationship between certain directors or studios and critics, because the whole thing makes no sense.

In case you haven't noticed, I don't give a f@$ rat's ass about the biggest waste of time on earth, i.e., the Oscars. I'm no film buff, but it's funny how no one seems to remember recent winners (Brokeback Mountain anyone? What the hell was that, by the way?). The Oscars represents everything I hate about everything, and it's become more of a joke in recent years.

(Rant over, and it's not as vitriolic as I would have wished. )


Anonymous zelda said...

i put Sideways on my Ziplist and it's actually on its way in the mail as we speak. i already suspected it was over-rated, that's why i'm going in with LOW expectations.

2:55 p.m.  
Blogger Dr J said...

I think there are other issues which you ignore, not least of which is that some movies seem better when one is (sub- or not) consciously comparing them to the vast lot of crap out there. Critics have to see a lot of the stuff most of us don't; surely that emphasizes the qualities of these movies. (Other possibilities here include the success of a film in relation to its genre, by which Superbad is Citizen Kane by comparison.)

Then, of course, there are the Sheep Critics, those who read other critics raving about xxx film, and then feel compelled to follow suit with their own psalteries which are about as genuine as Pascal's wager. You should know all about these types, and there are many ways in which your current training is not-so-subtly probably trying to encourage you to follow. (Yes, you too will praise Margaret Atwood. And Toni Morrison and Stephen Greenblatt. And you will insert the word diaspora into everything you write.) Movie critics are not that different than other critics; perhaps something to keep in mind.

Is there a lot of nonsense out there? Of course. A lot of paeanistic drivel? Naturally. But context is crucial, and you're better off reading some of those critics worth reading, like Ebert, A.O. Scott or Anthony Lane. You should adore, especially, the bitchy erudition of Lane.

5:38 p.m.  
Blogger Pious Labours said...

Zelda: you may like Sideways. I thought it was a decent, amusing film, just overrated, which says more about critics than the film itself.

Dr: I haven't read Lane in a while, but I do like him. I find Ebert is very perceptive, but sometimes he pisses me off, which is to be expected I guess.

Yes, I'm fully aware of context, which is why I can see how a movie like Juno did well (compared to most of the drivel out there, it's a masterpiece).

Your point about sheep critics is well taken. In fact, one thing I forgot to mention was the snowball effect, i.e., it gets to a point where critics kinda have to say what everyone else is saying, which unfortunately, isn't very different in academia. The key word here is "honest": I find most critics, either in English or film, simply aren't honest.

1:20 p.m.  

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