The 21st Century Critic

Hello there. It’s been awhile. A liIMG_0627ttle over two months actually but it’s been 113 days since I started and I’ve made it through 105 films that I’ve never seen before. Am I worried that I’m falling behind? Not at all. Why? Because now I finally have a sense of what all of this is about. My blog that is. The meaning of life still terrifies me but I’ll take my epiphanies one step at a time. I’ve done some thinking since the last time you’ve heard from me so I return to you finally with a fancy new header completed with a derived brand new title, (365) Days of Film.

In order to grow, I must admit to my mistakes. Something was really bothering me about my ramblings thus far and I now I understand what it was. You may have all been thinking it but I’ll be the first to call myself a hypocrite as I forced myself into a style of writing I wasn’t comfortable with nor truly believed in. This came into hindsight shortly after the publishing of my last post, “Short and Sweet”, which concluded with a review for a film I had seen recently called Ida. I won’t change my opinion and I’ll take the stand that it is truly spectacular and deserved the Oscar that it received, but because of this I came to contradict an idea I had written only weeks before. My opinion of film evaluation has been obvious since my rant on the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die” series, but as you see, I still felt compelled to throw myself into the flames of highfalutin film criticism which I was previously attempting to dowse.

My opinion doesn’t matter, nor should it, nor should any opinion written by even the most professional of critics. When it comes down to a single writer influencing what an audience should and should not see, they’ve not only failed the audience but also the art form, since art is only functional in the presence of a viewer. What does matter is discussion, especially in an age where we must find a way to get along with each other on this shared network of communication.

Critics have now found a home in social media and it would appear that we are doomed. Now that we are comfortably set in the 21st century, the classic film critic who holds a job at the local newspaper and provides us with their opinions each week is becoming an antiquated practice that has found a way to hang on by its finger tips and manipulate technology to its benefit. They may be found within sites like Rotten Tomatoes, IMDB, and Letterboxd with the capability of posting their work in the form of online articles, websites, podcasts, comment boards, or, *gasp*, blogs, which has culminated to form a hodgepodge of opinions and ideas that all together become muddled into a single statistic or “certified fresh” rating. In a sense, they’ve all been locked into a free-for-all of singular ideas with the intent of outdoing the next, but despite this chaos, I am here to offer up my opinion that there is still room for the film critic to succeed in the modern day, but that we now must let the traditional practice fall and embrace the power of community.

There is an infinite amount of room to let our opinions shine, but due to the sheer expanse of this medium, the real and truly bright ideas get bogged down by petty arguments and ignorance. The 21st century film critic a mediator. Whenever a conversation starts on the internet it’s only two comments away from developing into a discussion on religion or a berating of the publisher’s sexual orientation. A film critic is someone who navigates through the audience’s ideas, hatred, and applause,  and compiles them into something legible and understanding from both sides. They will still be able to maintain a unique voice through explanations of what may be expected from the art form and where it will take us as an audience and also be capable of giving an objective stance on the film and how it will play with the current trends in Hollywood.

This idea is not necessarily new. Film criticism like this can already be found in NPR’s Pop Culture Happy Hour or, to a lesser degree, the Filmspotting podcast which blends classic film criticism and discussion. What they both do, however, is look at films objectively and ignore the stigma that may be attached to them. Check out Filmspotting‘s recent episode solely dedicated to the Fast and Furious franchise which followed their discussion on Satyajit Ray. These two discussions bridge a gap of trends that polarizes Hollywood. Right now we are seeing a flux of sequels and franchises expanding in ways we’ve never seen before, and it’s because the internet swirls with excitement every time a new one is released. It becomes impossible for any production company to ignore the strength of this voice so they give the people what they seem to want. But in this new wave of criticism, what can be expected is a bridged gap between what is looked at as a “Blockbuster” and what is applauded as an “Oscar Pick.”

Movies thrive through viewership and no matter what anyone else tells you, they are subjective. Scoff all you want at the sequels and franchises but you can’t ignore the fact that they are expanding the industry and from this will come something you have never seen before. Production companies will have the ability to take chances and form something new and artistic, and with the help of a solid organization of film criticism that scouts the waters of expectation they will have the foresight to create something that holds the sensibility of an indie drama but disguises itself as a major Hollywood production. I believe we’ve already seen an example of this with Birdman. With a moderating voice in this day and age, work may be successfully derived by popular opinion as well educated knowledge of the form.

I may not be the certified example of the 21st Century critic, but I ask you to involve yourself in this experiment with me. I’ve asked you before to involve yourself in discussion for the sake of community but I now ask you to involve yourself in discussion here for the sake of the art. Within the next couple posts I will be discussing sequels and franchises and continuing my argument that they are beneficial for the industry, so I hope you all will join me in this discussion and inform me of your opinions so I may form a better idea of where the industry stands and where this style and practice will take us. For myself, I will continue my Top 5 section –

My Top 5 Film Franchises/Universes

  1. Star Wars
  2. James Bond
  3. Harry Potter
  4. Pixar
  5. Marvel

As usual, give me your own Top 5’s, post your opinions either here or on Facebook, and of course, discuss. Thanks for reading this week. I have high hopes for the remainder of this blog and wish we may continue down this path. I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Nick Alderink

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