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Published on February 13th, 2011 | by JJ


Mars Needs Culture #7- Everyone’s a Critic

I think what we need now is not criticism. I like to believe that movie critics think their role is to steer you toward a great film. However, new film gets all the spectacle and noise, and the fantastic library of great work gets tossed out for the shiner model. I am going to try to rectify that.

The role of the movie critic is evolving; it is the pinky on the movie industry’s hand. We may have thought it had a use at some time, but it certainly hasn’t made a difference in my life, except maybe to scratch my ear. In a time where movies were a primary source of entertainment, and information was hard to come by, I can see that a review in the paper might have informed which part of town you drove to. However, between the multiplex showing all films in one location, the internet making sure you know every detail of a film before it is done filming, and the window between cinematic release and home viewing getting smaller every day, they don’t have much sway anymore.

Of course, the most damning thing is the fact that entertainment is subjective. It doesn’t matter how many people tell you a movie is fantastic; if you don’t enjoy yourself, then it was a waste of your precious time. I think back to a conversation where The Website Of Doom’s own Aaron Poole and I failed to agree on the film Anchorman. Aaron is of the opinion that it is a very funny flick, whereas I can’t seem to get into it. The masses agree with him, but that can’t shake my opinion that it seems flabby, slow, and gets in its own way, killing a funny premise. Still, we are both right. If he has fun, great. If I avoid it, great. Everyone wins.

The subjectivity of enjoyment seems to come into focus every year around this time. We made it through the end of the year’s movie releases- you know, the “Oscar Bait.” The public is trained to accept films in degrees throughout the year. January and February are the throwaway films, May through September are blockbusters, and the quality dramas are released in November and December. What happens then when a film like The Dark Knight comes out? Well, as we all saw the Oscars freaked out. There is no doubt that The Dark Knight was a favorite of the public and there was a bit of outrage when we geeks were not given the chance to enter the mainstream that we all thought a quality super hero flick would give us. However, I for one, cannot say that No Country For Old Men didn’t deserve all the love the Academy Awards gave it. Honestly, when you consider 2008 gave us No Country For Old Men, The Dark Knight, and There Will Be Blood we should just call that a banner year for cinematic quality. Of course, we all know that only two of these got Best Picture nods, and the public declared the Academy Awards out of touch with the common man. They volleyed back by letting ten movies be nominated for Best Picture. Because the best way to seem “hip” is to lessen the importance of the nomination, or as The Incredibles’ Elastigirl and Dash summed up so aptly…

Dash: Dad always said our powers were nothing to be ashamed of. Our powers made us special.

Elastigirl: Everyone’s special, Dash.
Dash: [sullenly] Which is another way of saying no one is.

Now, I don’t say all of this to rail against the system. I don’t think that movie critics should be completely abolished. There will always be those who are not as tuned in as the rest of us. Also, people like to know if a film is good before they plunk down a few hours pay to have Hollywood’s finest provide a bit of well deserved escapism. However, we all need to know that there are lots of voices out there. The key is to find someone you agree with and listen to them. This is where the modern era steps in: Due to social networking one can align oneself with those possessing similar tastes. Any form of media that is recommended by a friend has a better chance of being right then some random guy at the paper who took some film appreciation courses in school. If it hadn’t been for internet friends, I would never have discovered the series Firefly, a personal favorite. Roger Ebert and I don’t agree as much. Sorry, Roger. Glad you are coming back to television.

Now this diatribe has been largely influenced by a side effect of the modern age I have witnessed. When I was a kid, movies played on television all the time. It was what stations used to fill all the hours without original content. I can remember flipping through the channels and settling on many a film that I might have not watched, as I had classified it as “Classic.”

“Classic,” as we all know, means BORING! But, as I flipped channels something might catch my eye, and boom I was sucked in for the ride. I think that my love of movies was helped by the fact that I wasn’t faced with the sheer amount of options that are provided now. I love Netflix, but if I had had it when I was 15 I might have never discovered the wonders of Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy movies, as I would have never sought out Desk Set or Pat and Mike, and that would be a shame.

From time to time I am going to use this column to bring attention to the rich history of cinema. I want to recommend films that should be a part of every cinephile’s mental library. Maybe together we can cut through the fog caused by the availability of plenty and my hope is that my love of film will be contagious.

I will do my best to make sure every film I talk about will be easy to find. I’ll have my write-up, but I am really hoping that I will hear back from you. Tell me what you think. Because the best part of recommending a film, is the conversation that you can have with your friends later.

Drop me a line at or in the comment section below.

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