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Since the birth of artistic expression, criticism of that art followed close behind. In fact, in the 21st century, it's hard to deny critic's influence on media. Whether it's music, movies, books, or television—the effect critics have on art is undeniable. Visual media, in particular, are constantly adding new movies and television shows on a weekly basis. There's an over stimulation of new art and limited ways to filter the good from the bad. Really, criticism is the only way we as a society have to weed out the gems from the clods of dirt.
At the same time, everyone and their dog seems to have an opinion on something. Whether it's a blog, podcast, or simple word of mouth from one person to another on an interpersonal level—for every movie there are multiple reactions to each movie. The question today's moviegoers and binge watchers have is "How do we sort the actual critics from the millions of reviewers?" Effectively, this question adds another barrier to the average filmgoer and television viewer. In marketing terms, its friction on the surface of the funnel, and that's not a bad thing.
Movies and television have a lot in common with marketing and not just because they tend to have entire departments dedicated to the field. Fun fact, the aggregator site "Rotten Tomatoes" is partially owned by Warner Bros. Before 2016, they had owned the site since 2011. Remember that outcry amongst fans of the early DC Extended Universe (DCEU) films? Everyone came out of the woodwork to defend movies like Batman vs. Superman and Suicide Squad by putting together a petition to take down Rotten Tomatoes for being unfair to DC Comics films and having an agenda to sabotage them. Acknowledging the basic lack of knowledge in the business, this survey of people who signed this online document are missing the real point of reviews.
There's simply not enough time in the day to watch every single movie. In fact, if you tried to watch every blockbuster, B-movie, foreign, or independent film out there, you'd die of old age long before you got half way through all of them. Critics make the struggle of finding which movies to see easier. As the folks of the late Spill.com used to say "If it's crap, we'll tell you." This raw, unfiltered discussion of theatrical releases continues in the Movie Review Extravaganza podcast on Double Toasted.
What, then, is the difference between an opinion and a review? While some would argue they're one in the same, people who have been doing this long enough know facts are king. Like any journalistic profession, reporting the facts is what can break your career if you do it wrong. Movie critics are journalists and are bound by the guidelines of any other kind of reporter.
The term "facts" is slightly misleading—as the connotation of the word usually springs to mind something which can not be argued to be false. "Argued" in this context comes from philosophy, rather than petty internet comments between complete strangers. For example, you can't claim the solar system is a geocentric model when science says its heliocentric. Yes, at one time, scientists believed in the geocentric model and branded everyone who thought differently a heretic. Freedom of speech wasn't exactly a thing back in those days.
Going back to movie reviews, if a well-established film critic went and said a movie was bad without giving specific reasons as to why, people would stop listening to anything they said. They'd come across as ignorant and uncaring—like they didn't bother seeing the movie and went ahead with the review anyway just to meet a deadline or some other reason. You wouldn't start an essay with no research or front end knowledge of a topic. Critics have to do the same thing and support their arguments with what's actually in the movie. Yes, there are times when a critic's bias enters the picture, but for the most part, they know not to include just their opinions in the final draft. If they do, they're quick to acknowledge that their bias' may have entered the equation.
Available on Amazon Kindle
Want to read some of my reviews? Check out the first Audio Drama Reviews book on Amazon from best-selling author Michael L. Bergonzi.