Saturday, 8 March 2008

Everyone's A Critic

Lots of interesting stuff around on the net at the moment, not least Danny Stack’s take on professional critics - What are they for? What do they do?

Rightly or wrongly, I tend to rely on opinions when planning my viewing, purely for the reason that there’s nothing more disheartening than sitting through a film like Hannibal Rising and thinking that you could have spent your money more wisely elsewhere. So, on the most basic of levels, it’s pure economics. Seeing as it costs £16 for a couple of cinema tickets, I don’t want to waste my money on twaddle – I’ll wait for it to come out on DVD thanks (in fact, planning a trip to the cinema can be fraught with logistical nightmares as well: my nearest ‘arthouse’ cinema is the Duke Of York’s, which is about a five minute drive from Chipster Towers. Rock on! Problem is it’s in the middle of a densely populated residential area where parking is next to impossible. Even the local Odeon – which is closer – can be a pain to get to bearing in mind the state of Brighton traffic. I could always get the bus of course, but the buses all tend to be piloted by escaped psychopaths who love nothing more than knocking over defenceless pedestrians, so that one’s out.) Besides, I want to be warned in advance about films such as Ocean’s Twelve (smug, diabolical horse poop) so I can give them a wide berth.

Of course, it’s difficult to come across a critic whose taste segues perfectly with your own. Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian hated The Prestige – I loved it. On the other hand, he slapped five stars on Kill Bill and described it as a ‘sugar rush’ – in my opinion QT would have benefitted from the services of a decent script editor with a bucket full of red ink. As for The Walker, Paul Schrader’s latest – well, the least said about that the better. Which is why I don’t take the word of the ‘professional’ critic as gospel. I’ll even take advice from the ‘blogosphere’ and elsewhere, which means that trying to figure out which film to see turns into an intuitive pasttime. When Oli slated Death Proof, it merely confirmed everything I’d read about the film, so that one was well and truly out (and jumping off the subject of film for a moment, Jon Peacey has even convinced me of the relative merits of David Bowie’s post-Scary Monsters output – no mean feat).

Even then, on the odd occasion it’s always refreshing to disregard the views of all critics and take a blind leap into the unknown. I saw Blue Velvet when it first came out, and remember walking out of the cinema feeling as if my brain had had a damn good shake – which is one of the reasons I go to the cinema in the first place. How many times can you seriously say that that has happened? And what made the experience all the more satisfying was the fact that I hadn’t read any advance critical notices at all.

Anyway, how can you not laugh when the first line of any film review starts like this:

In enjoyment terms, watching this is like wearing a helmet made of untreated sewage (Peter Bradshaw on Grounded).

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