Saturday, March 17, 2007

New Heights Of Irrelevance, Or, Apples And Oranges

300Here's Variety's guru Peter Bart on the ongoing and painful marginalization of movie critics:

...In reviewing "300" last week, for example, A.O. (Tony) Scott of the New York Times, said the movie was "as violent as 'Apocalypto' and twice as stupid."

That comment reflected the consensus among critics not only on "300" but also on "Ghost Rider," "Wild Hogs," "Norbit" and the other movie miscreants unleashed on the public since Oscar time.

The situation underscores yet again the disconnect between the cinematic appetites of critics vs. those of the popcorn crowd. The kids who storm their multiplexes to catch the opening of "Night at the Museum" don't give a damn what the critics think ("Museum" has passed $525 million worldwide)...

Have to agree with this. Most kids simply don't care what movie critics have to say (and probably don't read their comments, anyway). 10 seconds into a trailer you know whether you will consider seeing any given movie, and if anyone's comments mean anything to you it will be those of your friends, not of movie critics.

If a critic wants to point out the failings of a movie like "300", fine. But, by all accounts this movie is very violent, has way-cool effects, and is filled to the brim with comic book bravura and bubble gum philosophy -- exactly what the core audience is looking for. To criticize "300" because it has on-the-nose dialogue or lacks complex subtext or theme, or is 'twice as stupid' as another movie, is akin to criticizing an apple because it's not an orange. While it may not be what the critics wished it was (a layered, subtle, compelling war drama that will be remembered as a fine example of cinematic execution) "300" is exactly what it was crafted to be -- big box office eye-candy for kids.

The funny thing is when critics trash these movies it serves as a ringing endorsement for the targeted audience and, as such, rather than dissuade anyone from seeing these romps, a critic's vociferous and articulate thrashing merely functions as free advertising -- they are describing precisely how and to what degree the movie delivers what its producers designed it to.

Mr. Scott calling "300" twice as stupid as "Apocalypto" falls on the cheap side. This is code for "I'm pissed off that I had to sit through this and I'm just going to take shots" -- low-ball, especially coming from a writer for The New York Times. This type of comment only alienates the reader and makes the critic seem tired of his job.

300So far "300" has done great business and the DVD action should be stellar. If anything, the poor reviews "300" received only helped it along while making those who issued these reviews look more snobby, disconnected, and irrelevant than ever. It would appear this round has gone to the fluff eye-candy Saturday popcorn matinee effects-driven multiplex special.

Bart wraps his comments by saying, "As for the critics, they should consider a sabbatical until September, when movies aimed at their quadrant magically reappear." Sounds like good advice.

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