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Film criticism


Film criticism

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Film criticism is the analysis and evaluation of films, individually and collectively. In general this can be divided into journalistic criticism that appears regularly in newspapers and other popular, mass-media outlets and academic criticism by film scholars that is informed by film theory and published in journals.


Journalistic criticism

Film critics working for newspapers, magazines, broadcast media, and online publications mainly review new releases. Normally they only see any given film once and have only a day or two to formulate opinions. Despite this, critics have an important impact on films, especially those of certain genres. The popularity of mass-marketed action, horror, and comedy films tend not to be greatly affected by a critic's overall judgment of a film. The plot summary and description of a film that makes up the majority of any film review can have an important impact on whether people decide to see a film. For prestige films with a limited release, such as independent dramas, the influence of reviews is extremely important. Poor reviews will often doom a film to obscurity and financial loss.

Reviews and film marketing

The impact of reviews on a film's box office performance and DVD rentals/sales is a matter of debate. Some claim that movie marketing is now so intense and well financed that reviewers cannot make an impact against it. However, the failure of some heavily-promoted movies (such as Alexander) that were harshly reviewed, as well as the unexpected success of critically praised independent movies (such as Pulp Fiction) indicates that extreme critical reactions can have considerable influence. Others note that positive film reviews have been shown to spark interest in little-known films. Major box-office analysis websites like Box Office Prophets and Box Office Guru regularly factor in general film review opinions in their projections of a film's earnings.

Studios respect the clout of reviewers. There have been several films in which film companies have so little confidence that they refuse to give reviewers an advanced viewing to avoid widespread panning of the film (such as The Avengers). However, this usually backfires as reviewers are wise to the tactic and warn the public that the film may not be worth seeing. Such films often do poorly as a result.

Since so much money is riding on positive reviews, studios often work to woo film critics. Any major release is accompanied by mailings to film critics press kits containing background information, many photo for use in a publication, and often small gifts. Film reviewers who appear on television are given clips from the movie which they may use.

"Quote whoring"

Almost all films, no matter how badly panned they are by other critics, can find some reviewers to praise them. These praises often appear in the ads for the movies. Often used are stock phrases such as "spectacular," "edge-of-the-seat," "thrilling," "joy ride," "triumph," "tour de force."

These reviews are sometimes obtained by the studio offering to fly a group of critics from cities across the United States to either New York or Los Angeles for a weekend that includes a screening of the studios newest film. This screening normally occurs well before other critics have seen the film. Added to this "free vacation" are often elaborate gifts. After the screening the studios ask the critics to write a small review, often only a few sentences. From these reviews they draw advertising blurbs.

One reviewer who was widely labeled a "quote whore" was David Manning, whose quotes often appeared on promotional posters for Columbia Pictures. In early June 2001, the company admitted that Manning was an entirely fictional creation of their marketing department. In 2005, the studio reached a $1.5 million settlement and agreed to refund the ticket price for viewers who attended certain movies, including A Knight's Tale and Hollow Man.

Online film reviews

Some websites seek to improve the usefulness of film reviews by compiling them and assigning a score to each in order to gauge the general reception a film receives. Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic are two such examples. The Online Film Critics Society, an international professional association of Internet-based cinema reviewers, consists of writers from all over the world.

Some websites specialize in narrow aspects of film reviewing. For instance, there are sites that focus on specific content advisories for parents to judge a film's suitability for children. Others focus on a religious perspective. Still others highlight more esoteric subjects such as the depiction of science in fiction films. One such example is Insultingly Stupid Movie Physics by Intuitor.

One unique website, Everyone's a Critic, allows anyone to publish film reviews and comment on them.

Criticism of Criticism

Some people actively oppose criticism of any kind, noting that films are entertainment which is by definition entertaining. The inability to enjoy a form of entertainment must then fall on the viewer, not the creator or the product itself. This is viewed as logical because one can find someone who hates any particular film deeply and someone who loves that same film passionately. Rather, the criticism should be left up to the individual viewer and not to the opinions of others who many have their own agendas.

Academic criticism

Some claim that journalist film critics should only be known as film reviewers, and that true film critics are those who take a more academic approach to films. This work is more often known as film theory or film studies. These film critics try to come to understand why film works, how it works, what it means, and what effects it has on people. Rather than write for mass-market publications their articles are published in scholarly journals, or sometimes in up-market magazines. They also tend to be affiliated with universities.

Further reading

  • Jonathan Rosenbaum, Movie Wars: How Hollywood and the Media Conspire to Limit What Films We Can See, A Cappella Books 2000
  • Slavoj Žižek, The Žižek Reader (edited by Elizabeth Wright and Edmond Wright), Blackwell Publishing 1999
  • Maya Deren, Essential Deren: Collected Writings on Film by Maya Deren (edited by Bruce R. McPherson), Documentext 2005
  • Raúl Ruiz, Poetics of Cinema (translated by Brian Holmes) Dis Voir 2005

External links

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This guide is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia.