Critics under fire: Hollywood is taking aim at movie reviewers

Everyone from Ben Wheatley to Jesse Eisenberg have critisized the critics

As a film critic, someone who is paid to give opinions, you have to develop a thick skin.

Not only do the comments section under your reviews - not to mention every form of social media - leave it open for the world to announce their opinion of your opinion, you're also liable to upset everyone who worked on a movie that you've just given a bad review to.

Nobody WANTS to make a bad movie (usually), and nobody WANTS to see a bad movie (also usually, but there's always time for Showgirls), but if the movie is bad, it's the critics job to let the world know that.

However, with building frequency of late, the folks involved in the movies have taken it upon themselves to react to these criticisms.

Director Alex Proyas just released his new movie Gods Of Egypt in U.S. cinemas. The film cost $140 million, and opened to just $14.1 million in the box office there, and currently holds a 12% score on Rotten Tomatoes. Did Proyas blame the poor quality of the movie for the poor box office return? Nope, he took to Facebook to blame the critics:

 

NOTHING CONFIRMS RAMPANT STUPIDITY FASTER...Than reading reviews of my own movies. I usually try to avoid the...

Posted by Alex Proyas on Sunday, 28 February 2016

Last week, while on the promotional campaign for his new movie High-Rise, director Ben Wheatley talked about critics in his interview with FlickReel:

“It’s a job that I wouldn’t want or seek out. As a creative person, I think you should be making stuff. That’s the challenge. Talking about other peoples stuff is weird. Why aren’t you making stuff? And if you aren’t, why should you really have a voice to complain about things until you’ve walked mile in someone’s shoes? There are a lot of critics that I like, but I don’t get that relationship with art where you can just talk about it but not create it.”

Back in November 2015, Jesse Eisenberg had a short-fiction printed in The New Yorker, titled An Honest Film Review, in which a film critic initially gives a movie a bad review because "the press screening is on the other side of town", before changing his mind: "[This movie] is easily the best movie of the year. I’m saying this only in the hope that the studio might print my name after a blurb on the movie poster. And I’ve always wanted to have my name on a movie poster. How cool would that be?"

There was that time that M. Night Shyamalan made a movie critic the weak, slimy bad guy in his movie The Lady In The Water. And then, of course, there was this scene in last year's Best Picture winner Birdman:

Yes, Michael Keaton is tearing into a theater critic, but the fact that it's in a movie means we can't distance it from the movie industry. It appears that Hollywood has it in for film critics, in a way that isn't being mirrored by, say, the music industry and it's professional reviewers, or books critics, or just about any other medium of entertainment and the people paid to rate them.

Do they have a point? Is film criticism something that should be even taken seriously? Well, that depends on how seriously you take film itself.

Despite the hate, Birdman got stellar reviews from critics, and that word-of-mouth was a major part of what allowed the film to make it's own budget back five times over, and the writer-director went on to make The Revenant the following year, another film critics raved about and people flocked to.

With the advent of Twitter, everyone and anyone can become a 140 character critic, but despite that, Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic still get millions of views each and every week to see what movie critics think of the new movies. They champion the little guys and get people aware of films they might never have heard of, and they call out Hollywood for spending hundreds of millions of dollars on lowest common denominator muck.

Critics, much like the movies they're reviewing, are merely a matter of taste. A lot - maybe too many - are just plain bad, even more than that there's plenty you won't agree with, but there are some who have turned it into an art form, reviews worthy of review themselves.

Through the years we've had the likes of Roger Ebert, Pauline Kael, Barry Norman and Mark Kermode. There's the nerd's champions like Harry Knowles or Drew McWeeny. We've got Vince Mancini or Mike Ryan who have almost turned reviews into a form of entertainment. There's our own historic reviewers like Michael Dwyer or George Byrne.

So is Hollywood right to say critics don't really matter? Are they right to assume they're all just toffee-nosed snobs who instantly write off blockbusters in favour of the latest black-and-white seven-hour documentary? Of course there are some such critics in existence - the few that give the rest a bad name, much like the James Cameron's or Michael Bay's that would have you believe all directors are dictatorial tyrants - but of course they're wrong.

You can only take critics as seriously as you take movies. So if you love movies, you'll know deep down that critics do too.