Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Should Critics Really Have An Opinion About Everything They See?

In this post from Criticwire called “The Pros and Cons of the Critic of Everything,” Matt Singer raises the question, “Do critics need to have an opinion about everything?” In the post, he writes:
Publications that employ large fleets of freelancers…might be able to keep specialists on hand, but for the most part, any working critic today is pretty much expected to be a critic of everything.
As a young critic myself, it’s been my goal to see everything I can and comment on it. But what I’ve found lately is that I just don’t always have anything to say.

Case in point: Last week I posted a short review for Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s World on a Wire. I enjoyed World a lot, and I’d like to explore it again at some point, but what could I really say about it? I had an opinion—I liked it, a lot—but aside from comparing it to a few other films I also love—North by Northwest, The Fugitive, and Minority Report—there just wasn’t much else for me to say.

Which brings me back to the Singer post. This week I’ve been asking myself whether I really should have an opinion on everything, at least at this point in my life. Does the Internet need another review of World on a Wire if all I’m going to do is spend 400 words saying nothing more than, “I liked it”?

That’s why, in the weeks since reading the post, I’ve cast my vote for no. A snap judgment doesn’t add much to the conversation, and very often, when you’ve only seen a movie once (as I have with World on a Wire), a snap judgment is the only kind you have. There are always exceptions, of course, and if reviewing is your job then you’d better have something to offer. But for critics like me, who are hobbyists more than anything else, it can be actually be a relief to not have an opinion at all.

What’s your own feeling on this question? Should a critic—professional or self-described—always have an opinion, or can this sometimes hurt the discussion? Let’s hear about it in the comments.

1 comment:

  1. I don't think so. I think that's why so many weekly reviewers so often feel so repetitive and stale--they see several movies a week and they have to write something on all of them, generally in very limited space. The best film criticism, for me at least, is generally by a person with a passionate opinion about the film they're reviewing, who has taken the time to carefully think things through before offering their interpretation. And it is that, an interpretation, not just a summary and evaluation of what worked and whether you liked it that offers what I feel is really interesting criticism. Admittedly, that can be hard to do, even for bloggers--if you want to have content and get readers, shouldn't you at least post something? But I kind of feel that if you don't have a really interesting thought, observation, interpretation, or opinion, then you should keep your review to a minimum, say one paragraph, and in that graph you can say basically everything interesting you can think to say. And if we were all like me, we would all accept that as all that this writer could offer, and be excited sometimes by the brief, unsupported, but leading statements that seem to open up whole realms of thought that can slip through if you do it right.

    Anyway, that's my two cents, but of course not everyone feels as I do and weekly reviewing is an industry, and there's quite a few good regular reviewers anyway. And really my thoughts are only a general feeling I have, nothing too dogmatic.