From Owen Gleiberman‘s latest Variety essay, “Healthy Tomatoes? The Danger of Film Critics Speaking as One,” posted this morning: “Remember when film critics were obsolete? When we’d lost our swagger, our sway, our influence? When it seemed like the entire world had gone critic-proof, because we just didn’t matter anymore?
“It’s hard to pinpoint when, exactly, film critics attained Peak Irrelevance, but it’s starting to seem like an eon ago, because this summer a chorus of people — moviegoers, film-industry executives, critics themselves — have been singing a very different tune. It’s called: We’re back! Critics, in case you hadn’t heard, have emerged from the dark cave of our obsolescence and are once again bringing the news, keeping the studios in check, making the world safe for bad movies to die the grisly box-office death they deserve. Look out, Emoji Movie! We’re coming at you with a pitchfork.
“As someone with a vested interest in thinking that critics matter, I’d argue that our influence never totally went away. There was certainly a perception that it did, a feeling that went hand in hand with the notion that we were elitist art-head snobs who stood on the other side of a divide from the mainstream audience. Film critics have been called out for elitism ever since there were movies, but in an age when mega-budget franchise filmmaking had become a literal universe, one that dwarfs everything around it (including critics), that hostility reached a new pitch of jaded dismissal.”
HE response to Gleiberman: “I’m glad critics are back also, but there’s still an elite cadre of ivory-tower snobs who have done and are continuing to do their level best to convince Average Joe ticket-buyers to be highly suspicious of critical opinion. One result is that while every critic on RT loved Logan Lucky, for the most part Joe & Jane Popcorn stayed away in droves. A famous Samuel Goldwyn‘s statement has been quoted a million times and has never stopped being true. “If people don’t want to see something, you can’t stop ’em.”
“Most potential ticket buyers have made their decision about whether to see a film based on unrefined, knee-jerk impressions — title, stars, trailers, poster art. RT & Metacritic ratings can certainly nudge them or intensify already established feelings or suspicions, but it’s rare when a tide is totally turned. Silver Linings Playbook was a rare example of a movie that really turned and gathered a following after an initial ‘naaah, don’t think so’ attitude on the part of younger women. There are exceptions, thank God, but mostly audiences can “smell” something they want to see or vice versa.
“But overall I’m glad that aggregate review sites are regarded as important factors — that they can occasionally kill interest in a tentpole film, or at least are believed to have that power.”