As a movie critic, I deserve criticism

Posted: August 16, 2012 by shawnfury in Uncategorized
Tags: , ,

Tuesday I took in a movie doubleheader. The Bourne Legacy and The Dark Knight Rises.

With a rare day off during the week I traveled south on the subway from northern Manhattan and enjoyed two blockbusters. I bought the overpriced bag of Skittles and chicken strips that were called tenders, even though that wasn’t quite the correct description. I bought one of the organ-crushing giant sodas that will soon be outlawed when Mayor Bloomberg and his henchmen get their way, and later in the day I went back for a refill, which ended with the concession worker putting too much Coke in the cup, making it impossible to walk to the theater without the sticky soda cascading onto my hand and feet, almost as if I was being punished for my gluttony.

I settled into my seat, far away from the few souls sharing the theater, put my feet up on the chair in front of me and watched more than five hours of film. I really liked both movies. Those are basically my reviews.

Ebert’s legacy is safe. The legacies of YouTube commenters screaming “First!” and other f-words when describing short clips or trailers are safe.

As I get older I become less critical of movies. If a movie entertains me I like it. If it makes me laugh I like it. If it has great performances — or what I perceive to be great, since I’m not the greatest critic — I like it. The ticket’s now 14 bucks in New York City and if you go with a plus-one you’ll pay twice that in snacks and drinks. But I’ve still gotten less critical of what I see on the big screen, even as I should be looking at movies with a more critical eye. Hollywood is filled with remakes and retreads and many trailers leave me thinking the same thing as everyone else in the audience: “Really?”

When I do see something I don’t enjoy, my review — my imaginary review — reads “Didn’t like it.”

This critical apathy doesn’t extend to other arenas. I can write thousands of words about a book I love or dislike and I can pen a 5,000-word ode to the 1987 Twins and a 1,500-word deconstruction of Mike Brown. Same with TV shows.

But movies I give a yay or a nay and not enough thought probably goes in to either decision.

Despite my own inability to deliver cogent movie criticism — seriously, check out Terry’s work here on movies like The Hunger Games and understand that was a post I’d be unable to write — I enjoy reading other critics more than ever. I appreciate expertise, whether it’s a director behind the camera, the actor in front of it or the critic describing what it all means. Ebert? Of course. Anthony Lane in The New Yorker remains a personal favorite, as does Dana Stevens at Slate. I read the Friday reviews in the New York tabloids and The Times. I appreciate these and other critics for their pure writing ability, but also for the thought that goes into dissecting the medium.

So what happened? Perhaps movies really are serving as pure escapism now for me and if a film gives me two hours of pleasure I’m willing to give it my seal of approval. And even if I don’t like it I don’t feel like dwelling on the experience.

Part of it is simply an appreciation for how difficult it is to pull off any creative endeavor, whether it’s a book, play or movie. So much has to go right to even give a director or screenwriter a shot that any completed film practically feels like a minor miracle, even the ones that turn into major disasters.

Whatever the case, most trips to the theater — or nights spent watching Netflix — are enjoyable. The Bournce Legacy? Liked it, liked Jeremy Renner, didn’t like the ending. The Dark Knight Rises? Liked it a lot. The “a lot” is an extra star or digit, depending on which film critique you prefer. Enjoyed the story, the wrapup of the trilogy and thought Bane was nearly as effective as the Joker as a villain. The somewhat controversial ending? Liked it.

I’m too easy.

But let me tell you about those chicken tenders…

  1. Rich Jensen says:

    It’s funny. I’ve become both more willing to embrace a movie because it was fun to watch (Tron: Legacy, for one), but I also find myself more curious about what makes a movie fun to watch, or an ordeal. Perhaps, over a decade after my film study courses, I’ve finally started to piece stuff together.

    For instance, I find myself more sensitive to what happens when first act exposition basically brings a movie to a screeching halt (every Star Wars prequel) or when it keeps you engaged (Inception–when Cobb is testing Ariadne to see if she’s capable of building the labyrinth, Batman Begins–the training sequences, Fifth Element–when Zorg and the priest simultaneously explain the need for the stones), or when it’s short and simple enough to fit neatly into the ongoing action (Star Wars, where it forms the substance of Luke’s visit to Obi Wan).

  2. Jerry says:

    My only complaint about the Dark Knight Rises was that Bane sounded like someone doing a bad Sean Connery impression through the mask. Well that and the drunk in front of me who would not shut up…but it is amazing what a knee to the back of the head when he leaned his chair back can do. Good thing it was dark so he couldn’t see me!

  3. shawnfury says:

    That’s why I make sure to try to go when there will be few people, and find an empty area. Good call on Connery. I was worried about being able to understand him but there was only like one line where I didn’t catch what he said.

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