Sunday, March 13, 2011

Critical Mass

It's been on my mind the past few days. Is it easier to criticise than it is to create? The quick and easy, and maybe also correct, answer would be yes. Who painted the Sistine Chapel is a general knowledge point on the board but could you off-hand name any critics of this visual delight? Me neither. However even Michelangelo had his detractors.

A few night ago in work, a colleague remarked on what he thought was a cynical attitude I had to a certain celebrity's 'good deed'. What was called into question was the motive for this good deed. Was it simply to make the world a better place or was it to raise the profile of this particular publicity junkie. It is not important that you know the celebrity or the scenario as it can easily be replaced by any do-good deed you can think of perpetrated by your national B-lister.

His questioning of the cynicism of my retort made me ponder the nature of critiquing and of personal agenda. Are critics a good thing? Do their own agendas get in the way and are they even justified in having their view aired so candidly. I will save you some time in telling that none of these questions will be adequately answered as it is somewhat of a paradox to be trying to solve something so subjective. And what is that independent variable which can't be controlled? That rogue element which cannot be accounted for? Opinion.

Criticism is the pendulum which travels across the artistic spectrum of what is bad vs what is good. These terms are meaningless in all honesty but are a shorthand which everyone ad-hears to. We are all subject to scrutiny, it guides every decision we make and every action we don't. So to all those Hollywood millionaires who see critics as the enemy, it is an interesting point to note that if a film cannot be released with the possibility of being panned then there is no peril in the process. And what is life without risk?

The Oscars, for example, are an excuse to awards those who's films were seen as 'good' and at the other end we have the razzies which awards the 'bad'. The Oscars are film academia's way of saying what is the pinnacle of film-making and by and large everyone agrees that the ceremony is required; the interesting point lies in what the academy deems as good and how the come to this conclusion.

Referring to the 2008 documentary, Not Quite Hollywood: The Wild, Untold Story of Ozplotation, critic Mark Kermode remarked that it was an important factor within the westernised film industry that films like Mad Max were made because if you are to have a broad spectrum of films, then you need something to oppose the polished, ironed out feel of a Hollywood blockbuster. It essence the broadness of scope strengthens cinema through diversity.

The personal agenda of a critic if also often called in to question. Some argue that it is easy to come out with shock-tactic reporting, calling the latest installment of Transformers the worst film ever made, for example. In that, the critic is more likely to be heard, like the loudest child in the class. That complaint is a very just and fair point however what will be said one the day the worst ever film is released. Will fear of being branded tabloid and using shock tactics stop the true opinions of the journalist... only time and poor film making will tell.

More questions than answers.

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