A Cautionary Commentary for Over-The-Top Critics


khanSimon Pegg got it right.

Usually, when any celebrity criticizes the public, I tend to ignore their out-of-touch statements, but my fellow fanboy was spot-on when he recently expressed his feelings for the club of Abrams-bashers for their criticism of his signature “lens flares.”  Pegg, who loves the effect, mentioned its effectiveness  (in his own opinion) to Spielberg’s use of bloody seawater shots in “Saving Private Ryan.” While promoting his role of Scotty in Abrams’s “Star Trek: Into the Darkness,” he was asked who first made the criticism about these visuals, to which he replied:

“Probably some film student who wanted to demonstrate his or her knowledge of film terminology, thus elevating themselves to an assumed level of critical superiority, which gave them the kind of smug, knowing smile that indicates a festering sour grape, fizzing in the pit of their own ambition,” Mr. Pegg said, before profoundly…and profanely continuing to rip these critics a new one (including referring to them as “boring neggyballs.”)

Of course, this commentary was met with counter-commentary from several film bloggers who decided to tell him how his comparison was inaccurate and went on to describe in boring detail how much they knew about cinematography (with the help of Wikipedia, I’m sure).lens flares

This example is just one of the thousands of instances where über-criticism of movies is beginning to tarnish the movie-going experience. Many of today’s money-making filmmakers (Lucas, Shyamalan, Burton, Snyder, Nolan and the aforementioned Abrams) have become punching bags for the masses of online critics who will sometimes verbally beat-down and destroy a film sometimes based on its teaser poster, trailer or casting choice alone.

Granted, all of these directors have made some less-than-successful-choices in their work, but there must be a reason audiences keep throwing their cash their way.

Dissing movies and movie makers has been around as long as movies themselves. Since Edison and Dickson cranked out their first moving pictures on the kinetograph, there was probably some frustrated inventor out there scoffing “that running horse looks soooo fake…and since when are horses that tiny??”

The difference today is the rise of social media, including endless movie sites (Rotten Tomatoes and Movie Mistakes come to mind), coupled with the easy availability of apps and apparatus that make us all film editors and YouTube stars, has turned the movie world into a virtual minefield for over-the-top nit-picking. We can post, meme, tweet and blog away endlessly today at our disdain for a certain, film, actor or director until our fingers bleed and our butt’s asleep in the desk chair.

I’m guilty of this myself,  (I probably know lines from Mystery Science Theatre 3000 as well as I do movie quotes), and I realize there are plenty of God-awful-throw-up-in-you-popcorn-crappy-made movies out there. I won’t give examples, lest some of what I consider garbage may be someone else’s favorite of all time. I also realize the service legitimate criticism is for helping us make smarter movie choices, instead of just drinking the Kool-Aid offered by every filmmaker.

I also know even movies I love are not perfect, and watching for mistakes can be part of the fun (admit it, you wait for the Storm Trooper in “Star Wars: A New Hope” to bash his head walking under the door, too).  I’m sadly often a “book was better” utterer, but that doesn’t necessarily mean I disliked the film.

However, there is a difference between watching a movie with a critical eye, and with a jaded one. This vile-filled “everything you do, SUCKS” attitude complaining about A) poorly done effects, B) too-much eye-candy CGI sucking the life out the story, or C) pretty much everything else, comes across more petty than professionally-minded.

There are some who have made criticism-for-laughs a fine art, and I am fully supportive of these cyber-humorists as long as what they do they do out of fun, and not bitterness. Some of the one’s I’m prone to waste some time and having a laugh with include:critic sites

• Rifftrax: I made it through college and grad school with the help of MST3K, and the stars of this show (Michael J. Nelson, Kevin Murphy and Bill Corbett) have evolved beyond B-Movies and vintage film shorts to offering commentary tracks for many of today’s first-run hits (along with even more B-movie and vintage film shorts. Purchase a track to play in sync with your movie and let the fun begin). These guys are still the best at what they do, and what they do is bring the worst out of the best and the even worse out of the worst).

• Honest Movie Trailers: Found on the Screen Junkie’s YouTube channel, these “truthful” trailers do for blockbusters what Carfax does for used car salesmen, “where guys go to get honest and authoritative advice on what movies and TV shows they should watch and which ones aren’t worth the time.” It appears the only thing worth watching is their commentary, but it’s entertaining and, for lack of a better synonym, very, very honest — and blunt — indeed.

• CinemaSins: Another YouTube phenom not quite as popular as Honest Trailers, but gaining quite a following, this channel tallies up the mistakes, distractions, inconsistencies and anything else in films they deem unsatisfactory. Kind of a video combo of Rifftrax and Movie Mistakes, they point out some things you might not want to know about your favorite (or least favorite films).

Both Honest Movie Trailers and CinemaSins take suggestions from viewers of which films to slaughter next, so be prepared to watch even the biggest budget hits get torn to pieces, often with admittedly hysterical results.

It’s all right (better, actually) to watch movies with an open, critical mind, knowing you aren’t going to see a perfect specimen of film. Humans, after all, are the ones making movies and there is nothing less perfect than those gangly apes (yours truly included).

But, I leave you, fellow movie-watcher, with a word of caution and invitation: If you can do better, please do (no excuses about ‘I would if I had the money, manpower, etc’). Someday you may (I hope you do, because I want to see you do well), but when you do, be ready to join the other piñatas for the public pummeling.

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