I probably shouldn’t say this, since I have some good friends who are film critics, but I don’t think movie reviewing is a very high calling. It’s based on the premise that someone’s opinion is somehow “better” or “more accurate” than someone else’s. Really? We’re all just members of the audience and entitled to our reactions to an art work. None of us is superior in that way.
Of course, I’m a hypocrite because I read reviews myself and crave good reviews when I write a book or a film. I’ve even been known to do a little reviewing of my own of a sort, although I attempted to do it from the supposedly empathic position of a fellow filmmaker. Nevertheless I always found something vaguely creepy about the process. My reaction to a snotty review is often if you don’t like the movie, why don’t you make one yourself? Show us how it’s done. (A few have done that in the past — James Agee who wrote the script for The African Queen, Truffaut and some other members of the French New Wave — but not many.)
The most obvious and revealing thing about a movie review is most often the bias of the reviewer — something all of us have and some reviewers have in spades.
I was thinking about that this morning while perusing the Oscar nominations for this year. As an Academy member, I had voted but did not see my number one selection for Best Picture — Lone Survivor — anywhere on the list of the nine nominees. I can’t say I was surprised. Lone Survivor is a patriotic film and patriotism isn’t high on the list of positive traits for Hollywood these days, except perhaps to that group of once-secret outliers known as the Friends of Abe.