In the latest Mike Fleming-Peter Bart discussion riff on Deadline (posted today around noon), Bart puts down Birdman because it doesn’t play with Average Joes. “Critics don’t like to admit it, but the conditions under which you see a film strongly influence your opinion,” he says. “Birdman is a good example. If you see a film like this with a pack of cinephiles like at Telluride, everyone gets every inside joke, and you instinctively go along with the crowd. I made it a point to see Birdman with a paid civilian audience and it was like screening it in a mausoleum. No laughs, just occasional grunts and lots of walkouts.”
No shit, Peter? The average ticket-buyer has always been on the common side of the equation. He/she is simply less sensitive and attuned to wit and innovation and “da coolness” than movie-mad festivalgoers, and so a film that plays well at Telluride or Sundance is naturally going to have less of a heartbeat in front of a crowd of popcorn-munching Joes. Never judge a film by how it plays with those guys…please.