Thursday, December 8, 2016

YES,... BUT IS IT CRITICISM? REFLECTIONS ON THE GROWING GROUNDSWELL OF REJECTION OF MAINSTREAM FILM CRITICISM AND THE RISE OF IMPOSTER CRITICISM, THE COMMON TREND OF 2016 IN THE ENTERTAINMENT WORLD.

So, there's this episode of "Murphy Brown", that's been on my mind lately, it took a little searching but I found the episode, it's on Youtube for now, so, you can enjoy it here.



For those who don't know, or didn't bother watching the Youtube post, it's title character is a TV reporter on a famous news magazine series, think something in the vain of "60 Minutes" and the episode involves her, calling out modern art, not only aesthetically, but she's debating whether some of it is even art at all. Some of the more notorious pieces of art that people often complain about when they bitch about the NEA. Duchamp's "Fountain" for instance, the sculpture that look like a urinal, that kind of stuff. It was actually inspired by a famous "60 Minutes" piece called "Yes, ... but Is It Art?" which involved an interview Morley Safer did with Jeff Koons, you know the-eh, balloon animal sculpture guy? The guy that creates this stuff:



I find it interesting but.... Anyway, she's in the Morley Safer position and calls bullshit on this, and tries to catch a couple of the major art critics on their crap, by setting one of her toddler's fingerpaintings at a museum showing a modern art collection as a display piece, convinced that, because it's hanging in the gallery like it's a regular piece of modern art that, they'll go all giddy over it, proving that, just because somebody says it's art, doesn't mean it actually is. Here's the funny thing, that I love about the episode, she catches one critic, but the other one, completely sees through it. She says, "This look something a child could do," and he turns to her and says, "...It's probably the comment most used to discredit contemporary art, however in this case I must say I agree with you," and it catches Murphy offguard and then the episode ends with the two critics arguing over the piece, 'cause the other one was a bullshitter who was basically done in by the surroundings and the settings, and yada, yada, yada.

I've thought about that episode a lot, the real critic, who knows his stuff, catches the fake. Especially lately, when there's been such a backlash to critics lately: as a critic, and someboyd who's gone out of his way to bash the fan perspective plenty of times, I'm sure most of you are aware of that, you'll know that I'm definitely in the pro-critics camp when it comes to film and other analysis, usually. But, that doesn't mean that all criticism is equal. Now that episode is 20+ years old now, and keep in mind, it was a lot harder to be a critic of anything back then. Especially in the modern technology age, when literally anybody can be a critic, and post their thoughts in video form on Youtube, or you're old school and still prefer the written word, get a site on Blogger and start your own entertainment blog one day. Yeah, that's literally what I did; I'm not eliminating myself from this. Do I always know when I see a fake? Am I the smart critic? I know that I like to think that I am, but for sure, do I know? I wouldn't be shocked if it is the perceived easily available ability to be a critic as to why so many seem to be so against them now, (And of course if I'm making a political parable, as the rise of fake film criticism comes the rise of fake news, yada, yada, yada... sigh) but as we've seen, that's not true at all. There's plenty of great critics out there that startup from no background at all, and have left a genuine mark on film criticism, and have turned internet-based film criticism into a legitimate source of criticism. But that said, like any saturated market, the more quality that seeps through, there's also gonna be a lot, if not more, less-than-quality criticism out there.

"Fake criticism"? No, no that's not the right term. "Imposter Criticism?" Well, if there can be fake pieces of art being forged, than criticisms could also be forged, in fact there's an internet term for that, "trolls." (We used to call it, David Manning; look him up if you don't know who he is the name)  But they're not really who I'm talking about here, I'm talking about, the perception of criticism, as well as, analyzing film criticism, almost as though it is an art form in of itself. I mean, if you acts like a movie, screens like a movie, is shot like a movie, tells a story like a movie, has actors acting, like a movie, a director, editor, cinematographer, screenwriter, sound guys, etc. like a movie, than, it must be a movie right, so if he acts like a critic, sounds like a critic, talks like a critic, etc. then he must be a critic, right? Or it could just be a bunch of guys playing around with camera equipment, or a guy talking about a supposed film he saw? The good critic, will spot the differences that nobody else does, the difference between people playing around with equipment and people who made a movie, it's the same as spotting the difference between the sculpture of a urinal and why it's art and a regular urinal and why it's not? Ceci n'es pas un pipe, The Treachery of Images, "This is not a pipe" or is it a pipe? If we keep going down this philosophical road we'll end up running into the "Is it art or is it porn" argument, so let's get away from that, for now.

But, this continually growing rejection of criticism, where does it come from? And why? And it's often mainstream criticism at that, they reject. In favor of, this other alternative, imposter criticism? Well, without going deeper than I need to, basically it's this idea that someone the critics do not represent the audience, or "Us" in the anthropologic sense, they are not "People Like Us' and therefore their value, as critics is questionable. Now, I've questioned more than a few critics in the past, including mainstream ones, most notably Rex Reed, and if needed to, I can list off some others whose credentials I find disreputable, But that said, to those people who think that way, "WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT?".

Seriously, the critics are not you? Which critics? Who are these mainstream critics that you're talking about? Cause you search out the Rotten Tomatoes Top Critics and any other major legitimate list, you'll find more than a few people who basically are completely and utterly relateable to whoever you are. Even ignoring their age, sex, backgrounds, writing style, all those other nonsense statistics, they're all people who actually love and like cinema enough to spend their lives writing about it! How, is that not enough for the supposed cinema fans? "Oh, they're not fans, they're critics?!" That biggest of bullshit lies! You know, it's not a sports team right, "I cheer for the movies!" "Let's go movies, let's go! (Clap, clap, clap-clap, clap)" Yeah, that's, that's not a thing. Cause that's what fans really do, not the morons who think that they own their own likes and dislikes like a badge of honor. Like and good and two different things, and good critics, not only know that, they know the difference. But even if you ignore all that, I don't even get the argument that "The critics don't like the things I like," or 'They're never right about movies!" Really?!?!?!?!?!? Have you actually checked that to find out, 'cause as far as I'm concerned and as far as I can tell, that has NE-VER been the case! Not once!

I mean, yeah, occasionally critics, myself included will go against the popular consensus on a certain film or two, but if you actually go through all the movies you've seen and correlate them to the critical viewpoints and consensus on the films, I guarantee, that 99% of the time, that's not true, like, at all. I mean, just on a good, bad, somewhere in-between status, no, it almost certainly correlates. You know, not to sidebar here again, but I remember this kid in film school, it was a film criticism class in fact, and we talked about the role of the critic in the modern cinema world, and I distinctly remember him saying, how the critics don't like the films he loved, and he noted, that, "Ebert & Roeper" don't like his favorite film, which was, "Dodgeball..." "Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story", a movie that on Rotten Tomatoes, has a 70% positive rating, and I corrected that fellow classmate of mine, 'cause I knew damn well for a fact that Ebert & Roeper gave that film two thumbs up, 'cause I watched the episode of their review! Like I said, perception and outliers are not usually the reality. All the supposed "Oscar Movie Attributes" or whatever. Seriously, critics have never given positive reviews to a movie they think they should or a negative review to a movie they supposedly are supposed to, for any reasons other than they think it's good or that bad, at least good critics don't.

Like I said, the good critic can spot the difference. The genre or style, doesn't matter, they really don't care. And the weird thing is, it seems like the alternative imposter critics that some of these "fans" tend to drive towards, are the exact opposite and only care about certain films and opinions on them. Now, some of them I can look at and consider, "Experts" I guess, in particular genres or whatnot, which in of itself is fine, but on the whole I tend to think that's something that should be more reserved for art theory and not art criticism, but still.... There's an online critic, who's name pops up a lot, Jeremy Jahns, I don't bring him up much, because he's awful. He's a terrible human being and him and his fans more and more, I notice, seem to represent the exact kind of illogical anti-critic sentiment that I tend to notice. I've only occasionally stumbled into a review of his, usually when somebody posts it in a Facebook group, And, here's the difference, between me, saying somebody's an awful critic, and what seems like most others, when they make that claim; I don't hate him, because of any of his opinions or reviews on movies. That's not relevant to me, it's how he approaches movies and criticism that pisses me the hell off. First of all, his fans, often make his first point when somebody criticizes or admonishes him as a critic, "He's not a critic," which is true enough, but no, what they're saying is that, "He doesn't call himself a critic, he doesn't write critical reviews, all he does is go online and monologue about the movie he's just seen." "He's a fan", like I said, "People like us"-syndrome, not a stuffy critic, or whatever, blah, blah, blah. And all of that is true, he does in fact, make it emphatically known that he is "NOT a MOVIE CRITIC", but a MOVIE FAN, who just posts on Youtube his thoughts on films, the same way he would talk about them with his friends.

Okay, this guy is the worst thing to ever happen to film criticism. First of all, again, critics aren't fans, screw you, the only critic I know who's not a fan, is me! That's simply put, a completely inaccurate description. Second, let's go back to the critics and artists comparison for a second....

The good critic will spot the difference, spot the lesser art, the bad critic won't. What am I getting at there, by bringing that up again and again? Maybe he was lucky, right? No, he caught it, caught it right away, and why and how it was a fake too. The audience didn't, in fact somebody bought it in the episode, the other critic who didn't know better, didn't catch it. The good critic spotted the difference, what am I getting at? Criticism, see and observing something, having enough knowledge on the subject to speak thoughtfully on the subject, contextualizing one's analysis into the form of a review, what's the X-factor between the good critic and the bad critic? Voice? Jahns, has a unique voice, one could argue, I wouldn't, but it's certainly a loud one if nothing else.

No, it's none of those things, the X-Factor, is the fact that the good critic, ACTUALLY has a VALID ENOUGH of an OPINION to CONTRIBUTE to the CONVERSATION! That's why the bad one got caught and the other didn't, he had an opinion that added value. Jahns, doesn't. He says so, he doesn't, he's a fan! The "not a film critic" who Watchmojo.com called the #1 Film Critic on Youtube! You see, the reason I consider him indefensible and utterly reprehensible, isn't that he's "not a critic" and talks like a fan, or whatever bullshit. (Which yeah, Stephen Hunter writes like that and they gave him a Pulitzer for it, so yeah, "Critics aren't fans," my ass!) but the fact that he promotes this lack of critical perspective as a positive is bad enough, but he's in the place of the critic. He's trying to have his cake and eat it too, he says he's not a critic, but he acts in the spot of a critic and is therefore taking the spot of the critic. He is, taking money, in essence and literally, stealing from real film critics, whether on Youtube or some other media, by acting as a critic, and not being a critic as through that "Not a Critic" point of view he has is valid. He doesn't contribute anything to the conversation. I mean, there are critics I don't like at all, Jahns's rival Chris Stuckmann for instance, I don't think he's much better, but he is a critic and is knowledgeable, and does make contributions to the world of cinema, even though he confesses to being a fan first. Hell, even an online critic I greatly admire, Kyle Kallgren, has essentially said the same thing, he's a fan first, and then a critic, but he contributes a valid perspective, a knowledgeable and insightful viewpoint on cinema. Jahns says all those things, but isn't a critic, and promotes that as his selling point, and then uses that non-critical perspective to promote his film critic reviews! As far as I'm concerned, I don't care if we agree 100% on every movie we've both seen, Jahns is the antithesis of a critic, the quintessential "Imposter Critic".

And why do his fans like him, "Cause he's like them?" Really, I doubt he is, but whatever. If I wanted an opinion of my fellow movie fan who's like me who likes to hang out and talk about movies, I'll ask my friend about a film; I don't need a Youtuber for that! That's not a good enough reason to be placing oneself in the spot of critic, just because one can. He's not the only one either; I used to call out Nick Powell of "The Cinematic Katzenjammer" for much of the same reasons, he's a fan, not a critic, and worst than that, he's acting as critic without possessing or bringing any voice or real analysis or interesting-enough of a viewpoint to the conversation and now, that everybody's a critic, or at least has a Letterboxd page to write their reviews on, (Well, I don't but everybody else) it's worth saying that people should be called out for this. Not just critics either, but hey, I've gone after fans plenty of times for this too, These imposter critics wouldn't have an audience if it wasn't for the fans who seek them out. And I get it, everybody likes being flattered, and that's what it is, flattery, confirming their viewpoints, and anybody who outright rejects whatever opposing viewpoint somebody else might have.... Except their not even viewpoints any more, they're just...-, cards on the table, they're prejudices. Not biases, really. At least, when it gets this far, a bias is a preference, but these have been outright prejudices lately, and that's why some of these common themes lately have just pissed me off.

This, in some manner has been a common theme in my posts throughout this year, these editorial commentaries anyway. This reactionary response to actions usually associated with fans or the outlets of some of these fan opinions. I guess some can be blamed as an offshoot of the political environment we're in, but it's always been a constant subject I've returned to. Having to defend the position of "The Elite", the critics in this case, and often denounce the opinions that seem to be of the Groundlings. You see..., (sigh) Excuse me for a second.

(David walks over to nearby desk, pulls out a pack of cigarettes and a lighter, he then sits back down. He starts to take out a cigarette and puts it in his mother before putting the package aside.)

I don't normally smoke, but for whatever reason...-

(David lights cigarette and then blows out lighter, breathes in and out)

...it feels right to do it now. Anyway, you see, I did pick on a few names, but you see, this has been a bigger, growing problem. The more outlets for film criticism, criticism in general, leads to more critics, more critics means that not all critics are equal, more unequal than ever. Literally anybody, can start a blog or post a video on the internet, and suddenly, there's over-saturated market which leads to over-saturated audience, and suddenly, (Smokes) this year in particular, I found myself, calling out a lot of fakes lately. Fake criticism from fans, fake opinions of critics in particular, fake or imposter opinion in general, things that a lot of the audience says and floats around the ether of the world we're in, and yeah once in a while I call out films with that problem, but that's par for the course, but I've been calling them out on the populace more than anybody. (Smokes, tap ash under monitor.) I've always been reactionary as a blogger, which is natural, but yeah, I've called bullshit, multiple times lately. I've called it on fans who are fascinated by trailers, I've called them for misogyny. I didn't tell this story, when I wrote that piece on-eh, Lena Dunham where I was defending her actions, 'cause of a few things she said in an interview she had with Amy Schumer?  Anyway, I wasn't even gonna write that piece, but some of the hatred I saw written towards her, Schumer and other female comics in particular, really got under my skin, mostly cause I called them out on their misogyny, and against Dunham in particular. One of the people I got into that argument challenged me right back when I posted that piece, even though I literally discredited every one of her arguments for hating her. I won't be coy or humble here, you can find that article below:

http://davidbaruffi.blogspot.com/2016/09/lena-dunhams-apology-and-fan-culture-of.html

and to be frank, I think I did a damn good job proving my case for Dunham. If there's an argument that I missed or something I didn't defend logically, thoughtfully and honestly enough, I didn't find it. If you think I missed something and would like to inform me, please let me know, but I looked pretty thoroughly. Yet, one of those people who were piling on her, came after me on Facebook, and I came after her, (Yes, it was a her) right out on her bullshit. I asked her explicitly to prove her argument other than the fact that she hated her/didn't like her. She called me obnoxious and ended up unfriending me. She never gave a good response, 'cause I was right, and I'm not saying that, because I called her out that that makes me the good critic or anything. She called me out for being a fan, which yeah, I called "Girls" the best show on television in a different show on television, a statement I still stand by, but that wasn't a fan opinion as much as a critical analysis too. It wasn't just her and frankly it wasn't even just Dunham, I could rewrite that same article for about another dozen different artists out there now. Hell, when I put "Trainwreck" on my Top Ten Films of 2015 list a few posts back, I prefaced it by saying it was controversial and told people to come at if they wanted a fight on it. I shouldn't of had to do that, there's no need. The only response I should've expected was, "Oh, nice pick." or "Really?" or "That's an interesting choice" at least.

Fans going after Rotten Tomatoes, going after critics, Critics who aren't even critics taking advantage of the opportunity to become a critic and finding a gullible audience. I guess that comes down to the final question of "Am I a good critic?" I like to think so, but that's definitely more up to you than me. I'll tell you this....

(One last puff, before putting cigarette)

... I certainly wouldn't be doing this blog, or doing it for as long as I have, if I didn't believe that I had the knowledge to do this and do this well, and actually had a valid enough of an opinion to actually contribute to the conversation. Maybe there's somebody else that's me but better and more thought out and contributes what I do plus more and from a more intriguing perspective than mine, but I couldn't find that viewpoint when I started and, I haven't found it elsewhere quite yet. It's possible I just didn't look hard enough, possibly afraid of actually finding that, 'cause I do like doing this... but, I don't really like the fact that I keep myself, lately at least, sorting through a bunch of thoughts, criticisms and opinions that all seem the same, or at least equal to each other, and then, finding myself spotting the one that's the imposter that's not actually like the rest. That's annoying enough feeling that I'm good enough to do that with movies, spotting the imposter in a field of a bunch of similar films. I don't really like the idea of doing that with other critics', professional, amateur, and/or everyone else's. Let's hope that trends stops soon, too.

The good critic can spot the fake. The bad critic, is the fake? (Shrugs)


Post a Comment