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My Critical Philosophy

Read certain critics, and people who criticize critics, you might get the impression that the evaluation of any artform is based on fact.  The only real fact is how one feels during the evaluation.

Go to the critical compilation site that is Rotten Tomatoes and you will see astonishingly different takes on a movie.  Even within the consensus positive and consensus negative reviews, you will see different reasons for liking or disliking a movie.  Then someone, offended, invariably will comment that “such and such a critic is worthless,” as if any one person has any more insight into how art makes one person feel than another.

Certainly, sometimes, a critic will miss the point, and in those cases the backlash is certainly fair.  But I don’t think there’s anybody who watches a movie and likes it and then decides to write a negative review, or dislikes it and writes a positive one.  This doesn’t make any sense, but there are swarms of people who swear that a critic isn’t liking a movie just not to like it, or because they’re not supposed to like it.  I find this extraordinarily silly.

The way I approach a movie is to sit back and relax.  Movies are supposed to be escapism.  With that, one might believe I’m willing to forgive a movie if it’s just a popcorn flick or a dumb comedy.  This isn’t so.  I sit back, relax, and if I’m not responding in a certain way, then I start wondering what it is about the movie that isn’t making me respond.  You find with most popcorn flicks and dumb comedies that filmmakers are being lazy; not exploring ideas, going for cheap thrills ad nauseum.

Which brings me to the awful idea of the “what did you expect?” syndrome.  Filmmakers hide behind this idea as a critical shield when they make something with no ambition.  I find it to be an excuse to be lazy.  It’s the C+ student shrugging his shoulders, saying he can’t possibly do any better.  My answer to that is I can’t possibly do any better to react to it positively.

It’s hard to construct what I expect out of any one movie, but it’s pretty simple to narrow it to genres.  Comedies should be funny, horror should be scary, action should be exhilarating, drama should be compelling. 

Stories should be the kind that if you went to a person and told them the story without benefit of visual aids or digital sound, like the bard, an audience will be held rapt.  That’s why I have a difficult time granting a winning review to a movie with great performances but hardly a plot-driven story.  Occasionally, one of those movies will hit me just right; it usually has to do with an established mood.  Essentially, though, I look for a good, cracking yarn.

But there are so many instances where a movie has what I’m looking for and botches it.  Again, what criticism boils down to is how does a movie make you respond?  So, when anyone reads my reviews, I hope they take it with a grain of salt.  If you are interested in watching a movie, by all means see it, and try to see it before you see reviews.  That’s the best way, because reviews can often color your own opinion before you even step foot in a theatre.

But I know that people read reviews to evaluate how they might spend their money on movie night.  To that, I say, pick a critic you like and respect and agrees with you most of the time and you can’t go wrong (most of the time).  Those critics will always seem like geniuses to you because they think like you do.  It’s a winning combination.  I can only hope that people find my reviews enlightening; many times you will see me divided, mixed on a movie, which I feel constitutes a majority of movies out there (the so-called 2 or 2 1/2 star movie).  I don’t give star ratings because I think it is an inherently flawed system.

Once again, hope you enjoy my reviews and respect my opinion.  I’ll gladly respect yours.  Thanks and happy reading.

The Projectionist


Comment from Brandon
Time: October 13, 2006, 5:15 am

Congrats on getting the site up. I’ll throw up a link on our page. I might have hated ‘The Grudge 2′ even more than you did - with all the jump scares, or beating on the radiator as I like to call it, I was dozing off!
‘Man of the Year’ was pretty bad too, but a masterpiece in comparison. And I’m going to be so embarassed for saying this but I thought ‘The Marine’ was one hell of a good time. A cheesy action picture that was well-aware of what it was, filled with bad one-liners, over-the-top action, and senseless explosions. I can’t wait to buy the DVD (well, I might not take it that far).

Comment from Jon Buchan
Time: April 11, 2008, 5:41 am

Dear Projectionist,

How do I get in contact with you? Can you give me a bell on the email provided?



Comment from The Projectionist
Time: April 11, 2008, 12:54 pm

You can write me at valhalla_overlord@yahoo.com. I’ll be glad to answer any questions you have.  There’s an underscore you can’t see because of the underlined link.

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