Thursday, January 7, 2010

Critics: Samplers or Snobs?

It was recently revealed in one of those endless scientific studies done all the time, that the human tongue is incapable of tasting more than 3 or 4 separate flavors at once. There goes that thin veneer of credibility that wine-tasters had built up for all these centuries or snobbery. Ultimately that is what happens to some critics of all stripes. They start out as people sampling a product and rendering their opinion; they end up as an inner circle of people with just two things in common: a driving desire to be seen as belonging to and exclusive club and a disdain for popular taste.

In film circles, the rise of the independent internet film critic was seen as a great thing. Finally some real opinions will be vented and not just all of that high-brow posing that had become the norm in print criticism. It turns out that a lot of those new critics have just as high a desire to be better than the rest of us.

It is true, inevitable and actually good that a critic will differ from popular opinion at times, because they approach art with a critical-analytical process. They try to evaluate the quality and veracity of the art being presented. Most audiences simply consume without much thought. Art should combine truth with beauty and not all offerings measure up. However, critics need to keep things like entertainment value and an artist’s ability to connect with audiences in mind when they consider art.

There are times when we could wish for more critics to truly and simply describe their reaction to a product based purely on their opinion of it, without the feeling that they are afraid of rejection from other critics. One of the “old guard” may be the best example of this sort of criticism. Roger Ebert has no fear of giving a movie 4 stars simply because he liked it. He even places movies that every other critic panned on his top ten lists.

There are good critics out there today too, even if they sometimes sound like they are trying so hard to demonstrate their knowledge that they can’t simply say what they think.

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