Metacritical Mass

Published on July 19th, 2012 in: Critics/Criticism, Media, Movies, Over the Gadfly's Nest, The Internets |

By Less Lee Moore

bane versus batman
Photo from Collider

It’s no secret that I’m not shy about criticizing other critics. In the last few days, however, I’m starting to feel more sympathy than annoyance.

The first thing I read when I checked my email on Wednesday was this headline from Deadline: Warner Bros Civil War? Its Rotten Tomatoes Suspends Comments On Its ‘Dark Knight Rises’ After Movie Reviewers Threatened. According to the AP article linked on Deadline, Rotten Tomatoes founder and editor-in-chief Matt Atchity, explained, “It just got to be too much hate based on reactions to reviews of movies that people hadn’t even seen.” (emphasis mine)

Yes, critics like Christy Lemire and Marshall Fine received death threats over a movie only a few critics have even been allowed to review.

At this point I feel like I’m treading on shaky ground as I’m defending critics based on a movie I haven’t seen yet and reviews that I haven’t even read yet (trying to avoid spoilers) and which in all likelihood I might find as ill-informed, self-serving, and poorly written as I found many of the reviews of Christopher Nolan’s last film Inception.

But death threats? Come on, people. It’s not like Marshall Fine is Daniel Tosh.

I also read Scott Weinberg’s article on Kevin Smith’s “tirade” at Comic-Con and watched the included video clip. Now I feel even sorrier for my critical brethren. Still, I don’t know what’s more troubling to me: that I agree with some of what Kevin Smith is saying or that people could confuse my own pleas for real criticism instead of negative snark for the kind of egocentric, “criticism is less valid than creation” bullshit Smith is peddling here. (While we’re talking about “free,” Kevin Smith, some of us write criticism for free because we love to write criticism. Put that in your bong and smoke it.)

Granted, yes, I’ve been frustrated for decades (because yes, I have actually been reading and writing music and film reviews since I was in grade school) with the self-aggrandizing wankfest of a lot of criticism. It seems to have gotten worse with the ascendancy of the Internet. Do I think critics need to check their egos sometimes? Yes. To imply (or okay, flat out state) that critics don’t contribute anything is so ignorant as to be mind-boggling, however.

Not all of us can be filmmakers, and not all of us want to be filmmakers. Some of us just love film so much that we want to gush about it and sometimes even tell people how we think it could be better.

With that in mind, I invite you to read this honest, refreshing, non-self-aggrandizing critical account of the viewing experience Jason Gorber had with the film Beasts of the Southern Wild. Here the critic actually critiques himself, which is a nice change of pace.

Although it was buried in a lot of bloviating, Kevin Smith had a good point about enjoying movies. Not everyone goes to a movie because they want to spend four hours afterwards discussing it. Some people just want to forget about the rest of the world for two hours. And that’s fine. So imagine what it’s like to watch a movie and turn off that critical part of your brain you’ve been cultivating and honing for years to just watch and enjoy.

No tiny violins, please. This isn’t an invitation to pity those of us who choose to write about the art that moves us. It’s just my explanation of why I do what I do and how not every critic is a jerk, something I should probably keep in mind as well.

4 Responses to “Metacritical Mass”

  1. Paul:
    July 19th, 2012 at 10:15 am

    Kevin Smith’s output proves that creation in cinema is inherently more worthwhile than criticism. Criticism is a form of creation anyways, and since Lester Bangs and the Rolling Stone crowd made personal experience the #1 criteria, it has easily crossed over into a kind of fiction. Not sure of the general sturdiness of this approach – to inform or to bring specific insight, especially from dullard goons who think having a body beats having some intellect / expertise – but it has certainly provided more yucks than pretty much everything Kevin Smith has done.

    On the issue of interweb cretins: well, yes. They have some serious problems that are never going to be worked out sufficiently for them to see the problem of combating opinion with threat of physical violence. Rather than say a strongly worded rebuttal on a competing publication. I personally find the backlash towards comic book movies – and Science Fiction, and Horror and anything popular that baffles the non-Genre heads of the critic – to be incredibly tiresome and the cry of the pseudo-intellectual, but that’s me.

  2. Paul:
    July 19th, 2012 at 10:16 am


    “Kevin Smith’s output proves that creation in cinema is NOT inherently more worthwhile than criticism.”

  3. Paul:
    July 19th, 2012 at 10:19 am


    I find looking at the number on Metacritic to be the very bottom of the bottom of the avoidance of forming personal opinion, as well as the most obscenely reductionist eye on what criticism is.

  4. Popshifter:
    July 19th, 2012 at 11:47 am

    As you’ve already probably assumed, I don’t give much credence to scores for movies or music. There was more I wanted to discuss about Jen Yamato’s (Movieline) predictions about the score of TDKR on Ritten Tomatoes, but I didn’t want to give such a ridiculous thing any more weight.

    What’s funny is that we both agree that the pseudo-intellectual critique of “genre movies” is tiresome, and there’s a kernel of truth in Smith’s complaints that aligns with that idea. But he just goes on a completely different tangent and then misses the point. I also will go on record as retroactively hating all of his movies now, even the ones I liked at the time.


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