Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Top 10 laymans advice to critics of the arts.

I was reluctant to even begin this blog because It has been said in a much better way already.  I have been putting this blog out for quite a while now but I am running out of material.  Longer than a lot of start up companies and some marriages.  Sometimes I get comments, and if I do they are comments from well wishers and encouragement from friends.  I appreciate them all.  If someone disagrees they just don't say anything because they know me. Also, they followed the sage advice from Thumper's mom.  "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all".  Well if a professional critic does that, they would be out of a job.  It is their job to throw rocks at the fence, not build it.  Sure once in a while they put up a shining review for their favorite offering (uncompensated OF COURSE), but for the most part it's sour grapes.  Well, as a member of the public that reads critical reviews I have some advice for these sharp-tongued leeches on the belly of art.  Most of this will be aimed in the direction of movies, but really it probably applies to anything you are being critical of.

10.  Don't watch movies that aren't your 'cup o tea' - The problem with providing any form of entertainment is material.  When I say material, I mean the inspiration to give the readers something.  I suffer from this from time to time, obviously.  It's hard to consistently provide your audience something that will entertain them without being too much trouble or require too much preparation.  Sure, some critics have broad taste and like something in every genre, but others seem to consistently pick on (or love) the same sort of things: movies about French bikes, or people that die under very sad circumstances or combustibles, for example, and the truth is the critics that love combustibles are looked down upon by their peers.  Good critics find something to like in every   The best you can do is take a clinical look at it and say why it is technically good or bad.  Otherwise, reviewing something you're predisposed to dislike makes the whole thing, and you, sound sour.

9.  Were you entertained? - Please include if you were entertained or not.  Art is communication.  Some art is made for the masses and some art is made for artists.  If you watched a movie and it was horribly made, but something about it entertained you.  Please say so.  Guilty pleasures are for clergy, not for critics. When you are done with a movie the only thing that remains is if you were compelled to watch.  It also applies to other forms of art.  Did the art communicate to the viewer in such a way that they were receptive to the message?  Then it at least partially worked.

8. We really don't care how well you were educated. - Honestly reading the evaluations written by some people is like reading their resume written in code.  They start using terms found only on the inside of the art.  Yes, that's fine, we're very impressed, but how was the MOVIE? We don't care how your personal 'intelligence' was insulted.  We don't care about the time you studied with James Lipton.  We would like to know if the movie was entertaining and the reasons for it.  Not how they used an obscure editing technique that you happened to do your thesis on and would now like to finally prove your tuition dollars were well spent.

7. Technology is not your enemy! - If a novel piece of technology is used in the committing of art, it is usually denigrated by the critic.  It happens in movies all the time and it's always in terms of what people are used to.  "I don't like 3d", "I don't like higher frame rates", "I don't like black and white", "I don't like color", "I don't like sound".  When faced with new things, critics are more likely to act like a petulant 6 year old at the dinner table when presented with a new dish with 'black things' in it.  Open your mind, the people making the film are willing to take a chance and shake things up a bit.  I say good, even IF it turns out bad.  Future film-makers will thank them.

6. Look at your own failures - Keep track of your evaluations and see what the public response was.  I know the public isn't nearly as well qualified to determine quality as you are and heaven forbid that the unwashed masses should have an opinion that speaks against your own, but if you look at those places where you differ from the public, you might find you own biases hiding there.  Like a seething mass of hate-cancer borne of unrealized potential...or something.

5. Pretend you don't know much about movies. - This is more about talking to your audience.  Lots of critics use all the technical jargon and observations that the regular public doesn't even really think about.  It's ok, but if you try to look at art with fresh eyes and see why it speaks to people, you might find a different opinion than the highly refined sense of the insider.  This of course only applies if you are talking to the public at large.  If your critique is meant for those inside the production of the art then go deep, it's what they expect.  But if you are going to tell them they didn't do it right, please explain how you did it correctly yourself...That's what I thought.

4. Don't sell yourself so quick - I love movies that have those little critic approvals on them that look like this 'Best movie in Ages - My Mom's Basement Movie Blog'  This is not exactly a rave review no matter what you said.  Wait until your own name/brand becomes more well known...a LOT more well known.

3.  Don't look at Rotten Tomatoes first and put yourself in line with the New York Times.  We can and will form our own opinions, A sad commentary on the critic, but they should form their own opinions as well.  You see, anyone can BE a critic.  All it takes is an opinion which apparently everyone has along with something else that escapes me at the moment.  Now the providing of pithy prose falls under the purview of pedestrian and professor alike, that's something else entirely.  The only thing that sets one critic apart from another is the ability to interpret and prognosticate the movie's impact on you.  If they match up well then you've found a good critic.

2.  Don't quit your day job - I know, you already have lots of jobs, but really, the job of complaining about things for the most part is one that will probably be missed the least after the zombie apocalypse.  Well, actually, there are several jobs that will rank ahead in the not missed category, but that's really a group you don't want to be in.  We like to read what you say, but don't take yourself too seriously.  We can live without you.

1.  Take some art lessons -Your voice needs the balance of an honest, human response and an educated one.  A little background in film technique, a bit of research into the classics, doesn't hurt anyone.  Don't overdo it, don't start quoting Wim Wenders, just try to understand the mind of the artist and the tools at their disposal.  Art, like any other job has a lot more going on than regular people think and it might do a critic some good to look into the actual production of that art.   What's that?  You say that you have spent a lifetime within the art?  You are a critic and not an artist?  I've got news for you, It's because you weren't very good and now you are taking it out on those that are.  I know that's my reason ;)

Now I realized the inherent hypocrisy in writing a list like this.  Then again, I do this as a hobby and I think about 25 people read it (And I appreciate you!), the rest just look at the pictures.  I just read critics to get an idea of the movies that are out and Cya in the funny papers!

No comments: