Critics and audiences live on separate planets. And critics live within and certainly write for their own cloistered community. Joe and Jane Popcorn know this and regard their opinions accordingly. There are several independent, X-factor, emotionally attuned, basic instinct critics and columnists (like myself), but most critics wear the same monk robes and the same open-toed sandals and drink the same goat’s milk.
Plus critics tend to herd together for safety’s sake. Right now that means most of them are bending over backwards to praise films of a woke caste. Everyone knows or at least believes this. Nothing new here.
I’ve just read through a 3.15 report by statistician Stephen Fellows, titled “Are Film Critics Losing Sync With Audiences?” The answer, boiled down, is “yeah, but not actually or not altogether, or at least not so you’d notice.”
A 3.19 Daily Mail summary of Fellows’ report, written by Adam Schrader, concludes the following: (a) Fans are more likely to agree with films rated highly by critics than those rated poorly by critics; and (b) Fellows’ study concludes that a “de-synchronization” between how fans and critics review movies has taken place consistently over the past 20 year..
Fellows also notes that “factors that influence the discrepancies are a film’s budget and genre.” This seems to indicate what most of us have known for decades — audiences are more generally more supportive of tried-and-true familiarity — and therefore more willing to trust and submit to large-budget genre films than critics. Likewise critics tend to be more accepting or supportive of small-budget indie and non-genre films. Is anyone shocked?
Near the end of Fellows’ report, he states the following three conclusions:
“(1) There is a strong correlation between the average scores of critics and film audiences; (2) However there was never been complete synchronization; and (3) there has been a de-synchronisation taking place fairly consistently over the past two decades.”
So critics and audiences tend to agree about the good and the bad, but they’ve nonetheless been drifting apart for the last 20 years? What does that even mean? Fellows report is tell us nothing we don’t know, except he’s injected a tone of fuzzy vagueness.
HE default #1: “Most critics tend to be dweeby, cerebral, analytical-to-a-fault types. You can tell that by just looking at some of them. Guys who never got the girl in high school — portraits worth a thousand words. And for the most part they process films in cerebral, academic terms — as objects of study rather than journeys.
“Hollywood Elsewhere has always gotten the feeling thang, of course, along with a relative handful of top-dog critics — Ann Hornaday, Owen Gleiberman and Todd McCarthy, not to mention the late Roger Ebert, Pauline Kael and Andrew Sarris. An old truism still holds. If you suppress or sidestep the emotional current, you’re missing the essence of a film or certainly a good portion of it.” — “What 90% of Critics Don’t Understand,” posted on 4.26.20.
HE default #2: “[There’s long been] 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, if not utterly dismissive of it.
“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.” — posted on 8.3.17.