So you can read my books

Friday, August 16, 2013


(Robert Neubecker)

Being a critic is a job -- you have to watch many, many movies -- in genres you do not like.

Imagine sitting through dozens of movies in the genre that irritates you.  Imagine how good that movie would have to be to get a positive remark out of you.

I read a fascinating article in THE NEW YORK TIMES

I didn't say interesting.  If you read it, take a couple of No-Doze tablets.  Ever hear a psychology professor dissect why humor is funny?  Brrrr.

Ms. Rampell is an economics reporter for THE NEW YORK TIMES and the chart detailing ROTTEN TOMATOES critics/audience ratings show it.

Cliff Notes version:

The biggest critical disconnect is romantic comedy.
The average romantic comedy is rated positively by 57 percent of Rotten Tomatoes users,
versus just 36 percent of Rotten Tomatoes-approved critics.


People tend to see what their bias whispers to them. 

Take Alfred Hitchcock --

In his lifetime he never received an oscar for Best Picture, and his films were criticised by some critics for lacking substance

 However, since his death his reputation has grown and he is now widely regarded as one of the greatest directors of all time. His film Vertigo recently topped Sight and Sound’s prestigious critics’ poll.

Movie criticism is  practiced by amateurs who have little schooling in the art of cinema or appreciation for film history, according to old-school professionals. In short, everyone has an opinion and is able to share it digitally.

When critics go to the movies, they sometimes take a free vacation.

Studios routinely host such events, bringing casts and crew together in a posh location to meet film press. Even more than that, the studios typically offer to pay all the writers’ expenses — airfare, hotel and meals.

It’s called the junket circuit — and it’s how some members of the film press spend many weeks of the year.

Alan Silverman, a former film correspondent for a number of radio outlets, recalls a couple of trips to Hawaii —

in one instance, the studio “was kind enough to throw in an extra day” (presumably, for a little more beach time at the resort). “We had a mini vacation,” he adds.

Critics are in the blurb business

Movie studios love to find the perfect review snippet they can use in an ad. And some critics appear to be willing participants in the game, writing in a gushy way that almost guarantees them a place in movie marketing campaigns.

(Cynics within the ranks of reviewers suggest such blurbmeisters do so to boost their own profile — in essence, they’re riding the coattails of Hollywood itself.)

In reverse mode, many critics seem to race to be the first to slam a Tent-Pole movie as with THE WOLVERINE which was a financial and audience success.

 Critics are not exactly in tune with the public’s taste:

As measured by box-office results, Tyler Perry is one of the most entertaining filmmakers in history.

His movies — from 2005’s “Diary of a Mad Black Woman” to 2012’s “Madea’s Witness Protection” — have grossed more than $600 million to date.

But to hear critics tell it, Perry is a hack — unsubtle, unfunny and overly sentimental.

To quote David Cornelius of in his review of “Diary of a Mad Black Woman”:

 “This is a film that’s gone way beyond the realm of bad, past disaster. This one’s in the area of all-time grand mistakes.”

Rotten Tomatoes, a film website that assigns a score based on a survey of reviews from as many as 200-plus critics, gives “Diary” a 15% approval rating.

By contrast, the audience rating approval for “Diary” on Rotten Tomatoes is 88%.

Movie reviews from Roger Ebert’s career

Legendary film critic Roger Ebert died at age 70 after a long battle with cancer. Here’s a look at some of our favorite Ebert reviews of films over his 46-year career. (Photo: AP)

How to explain this gap between critics and the public?

Some filmgoers see it as elitism at its worst:

Most critics are trying to impress the public (and other critics) by flaunting their perceived affluent taste and intelligence,”

one movie fan wrote on a Yahoo message board about the issue.

It’s gotten so bad, critics actually prefer television to most movies!

Christopher Null, founder of the Film Racket website, says he “laps up” “Game of Thrones,” “Mad Men” and “Breaking Bad.” “We’re in a golden age of television,” adds Null.

"The studios have decided that adult dramas are not what they’re going to make,” says Florida film reviewer Erstein. And that’s led critics to turn elsewhere for quality viewing."

 Erstein counts himself a fan of “In Treatment,” saying it’s “better than most of what is on at the movies.”



  1. Hitchcock can do no wrong. We would have more original movie scripts if Alfred had been cloned.

    I don't give much credence to critics. I will read some bloggers' reviews on movies and books - IF they don't have spoilers.

  2. Add me to the list of Hitchcock fans.

    I'm not sure why there's such a disconnect between critics and the audience, other than that they're doing a job and everyone else is going for [often] mindless entertainment. The critics have to sound like they know what they're talking about or they won't have a job.

    I never listen to the critics. I listen to popular opinion when it comes to movies. Like with Amazon reviews of books, I read the good and the bad, not just looking at the rating. The reason people hate it may just be the reason I pick it up/watch it.

    Shannon at The Warrior Muse

  3. I agree with you that critics aren't always in tune with the public. Plus, they're probably a little more jaded!

  4. D.G.:
    Alfred Hitchcock kept experimenting all his life with films. Roger Ebert felt that even the mention that there was a surprise twist in the film was a spoiler!

    The Hitchcock Club just keeps growing. :-)

    Yes, critics have to watch films in genres that they dispise so guess what kind of review they give those films? True, what some feel is a distraction to a film or a book may just be the very thing that will draw me to it!

    How many films they detest must critics have to view in a month! After years of that no wonder so many of them are grouches! :-)

  5. The critics are looking for finesse, perfectionism, art, and a lot of the same qualities you'll find in classic literary fiction.
    People are looking for entertainment, escapism, fun, and emotional attachment.
    It doesn't matter how poorly written the Twilight books (or how crappy the movies), teen girls connected and that was all she wrote.
    The general public isn't as discriminating. Which can sometimes be a bad thing. Those Tyler Perry movies shouldn't have made that much money as they are truly horrendous.

  6. Alex:
    I can't speak on the Tyler Perry movies since I haven't seen them. I'm more of a Sci Fi/action movie fan.

    Not every movie can be Hamlet. The movies are made for the public not the critics.

    There was an old black and white movie with Joel McCrea who played an actor who only wanted to made "significant" films. On the road to discover the "real" America, he was unjustly arrested and put on a chain gang. He managed to escape, and while hiding in a movie theater, he saw the depression-era audience lose themselves in laughter and escape the harsh demands of their lives for a brief moment. He then vowed to make only comedies from then on.

    I saw that movie as a very young child on TV but it made an impression. Entertainment can be healing.

    Thanks for such an insightful, thought-provoking comment. Great fortune with your new book!

  7. Well, psychologically audiences are paying, not getting paid, to see the movies, which means they're less likely to admit it was a waste of money. But this doesn't mean that there isn't a large amount of genre-snobbery going on among critics. Tyler Perry has been named THE most successful person in Hollywood, but for every Precious he puts out, there's about twelve Madea movies that are ripped to shreds in reviews yet bring in ten times as much. Critics would never, could never admit that they might be good. It's a lot easier to say the public is wrong.

  8. I completely agree with, D.G. Hudson, in that I don't give any credence to movie critics, or book reviewers either for that matter.

    In fact, it fascinates me why 'some' people are so interested in what 'other' people have to say on the matter. Can't they work it out for themselves? Like, oh, I don't know ... read the book perhaps ... or see the movie? After all, no one person is alike.

    Good post, Roland, and thanks once again for the RIVAL. You're way to kind :)