“In 2007, the divide between critics and the moviegoing habits of mainstream American [audiences] seems further apart than ever,” writes Variety‘s Ian Mohr. Which has led some to conclude (or “crow,” as Mohr describes the tone of one Disney exec) that “critics are out of touch with their readership.”
Just because people pay to see something doesn’t mean they love it, or even like it. Many people will pay to see second-tier movies and sit there and seethe, or do the opposite and surrender. Some will sit for almost anything that raises an occa- sional smile or a chuckle. They’ll watch something fairly bland or tedious and go “hey, that’s familiar…kinda funny, in a way…heh!” They’re not looking for any kind of transcendence or deliverance, like most critics; they’re looking for a familiar- feeling massage…a visit with old friends…a cat in their lap.
Does the situation needs to be solved? Should editors think about hiring dumber, less seasoned, more oafish critics?
By the age-old Planet of the Apes caste system (and I realize I’ve used these terms too often in the past), critics are almost all orangutans and chimps while general audiences are always going to include a high percentage of gorillas. Frankin J. Schaffner, the director of Planet of the Apes, knew from gorillas — he knew who they were, what they were like deep down, how they thought, etc. And we’re supposed to contour our moviegoing tastes to the vistas and appetites of those with the least refinement and curiosity and brain cells?
General audiences always prefer crap and rarely show any real taste in anything. Audiences generally have the same low-rent taste in movies, art and music that they have in food. Look at the movies and filmmakers that win the People’s Choice Awards each year — they’re almost always on the level of Carl’s, Jr. and Bob’s Big Boy.
A site called “Super Seventies,” which goes by reader vote tallies, says the following tunes were voted the top songs of 1970: (a)”Bridge Over Troubled Water,” Simon And Garfunkel (tolerable..barely); (2) “American Woman”, The Guess Who; (3) “Get Ready”, Rare Earth; (4) “Band Of Gold”, Freda Payne; (5) “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head”, B.J. Thomas; (6) “ABC” — The Jackson 5; (7)”Let It Be”, The Beatles — THESE ARE ALMOST ALL TERRIBLE SONGS! — (8) “(They Long To Be) Close To You”, Carpenters; (9) “Mama Told Me Not To Come”, Three Dog Night; and (10) “War”, Edwin Starr. What does that tell you? That people know good music when they hear it?
Most critics admired Zodiac (and some creamed over it), and yet audiences gave it a $13.1 million shrug while gifting Wild Hogs, which earned itself an El Crappo 7% Rotten Tomatoes rating, with $38 million in ticket sales. Just about every last critic chortled at Ghost Rider; audiences went for it big-time. Critics said Norbit was dogshit; Eddie Murphy fans made it a hit anyway.
Reader question: you are absolute King of the Land and you have two choices that will remedy this situation: (a) wave your scepter and make editors hire dumber critics or (b) round up the worst gorillas (i.e, the ones who saw Norbit or Wild Hogs two or three times) and put them in Army trucks and send them off to benevolent artistic re-education camps out in Idaho and Montana where they’ll have to do exercises at 6:30 a.m. and eat vegetables and learn to understand and appreciate the works of Michelangelo Antonioni, Sergei Eisenstein, Budd Boetticher, early Fellini, Nicholas Ray, Jonathan Kaplan and Gus Van Sant.
I realize that the latter solution sounds like a Stalinist nightmare on one level, but if there are only these two choices would you really choose to deliberately dumb the culture down? Honest answers, please.