Monday, April 6, 2009

Criticizing the Criticism

I started reading film reviews in the Columbus Dispatch when I was around thirteen. One summer I had a week-long babysitting gig for kids old enough to be able to play with their peers in the neighborhood and I started getting bored watching soap operas. So I started a scrapbook of movie reviews clipped from The Columbus Dispatch and People magazine and taped them to loose-leaf notebook paper. I can remember being genuinely upset when the movies I'd seen and loved uniformly received two stars. Who didn't love Sixteen Candles? The same middle-aged newspaper columnists who dismiss the mediocre audience-pleasers of today.

I'm not here to defend middle-brow blockbusters that go on to become beloved nostalgia films. I bring up the scrapbook to say that I have a significant history with reading criticism. The problem is that no one seems to criticize the criticism. Of course we delight in a rave review of something we love or blow off a stellar approval of something that bored us to no end. But I would love to see a small column, once a month even, examining what has been examined.

Sunday night I went to see Sunshine Cleaning. It was one of those right-films-at-the-right-time kind of personal films that is well-written, nuanced, and infused with passionate and gifted actors. The next morning, I was searching for the Suduko puzzle on break at work and saw a review. So I read it. The reviewer did not share my enthusiasm for the film. That's fine, I honestly have no problem with a differing opinion. What did bother me was that they got major points of the plot wrong (and then, of course, gave away the incorrect plot points.)

This has been on my mind on and off ever since. I think it is because I have toyed with the idea of writing criticism on and off for years. But I ultimately think I am not suited to it, all evidence to the contrary. I think it is because I cannot imagine the idea of one's "art" being entirely dependent upon judging someone else's art.


  1. Hey Lia,

    I understand precisely what you mean - and, I think you should be in touch with a local newspaper and see if you can't get yourself a once or twice a month column "critiquing the critics." You would be perfect for it!

    Keep writing. Will I see you in May??


  2. Hello! And welcome to HolyJuan Reviews The Reviewer of the Reviewers. This week's episode, "Criticizing the Criticism."

    I thought the blog post started out strong with some very interesting visuals. I found myself going back in time and watching Lia taping the reviews and then wondering if she still has them, yellowed tape and all.

    In the second scene of the blog, we find ourselves at the movies with Lia and we share in the happiness of the "right-films-at-the-right-time" that we have all experienced (Juno.) The plot thickens as we find out Lia does the Suduko! A word girl spending her time with numbers! The suspense builds!

    In the end, we all feel let down, thinking that perhaps Lia is going to share with us a new website or job that she has as a reviewer, but instead she cops out thinking that all this drivel we put on paper is actually art.

    Chocolate Jesus are art. Our stuff is a physical manifestation of ego in Times New Roman. Well, at least my stuff is. Yours has some heart.

    Overall, I was pleased with her review of the reviewers and though I hoped for a better ending, I can live with her decisions.

    See you next week!