I’ll begin this article the same way I begin any article where I talk about the critical side of movies, with a small reminder that while I have heard someone throw that title around my name I do not consider myself a film critic. I’m definitely not knowledgeable enough, or so I feel at times.
I’m sure anyone enthusiastic about film and who spends all ungodly hours of the day writing, discussing and/or pondering the merits and faults of movies – instead of like going outside and playing football – must at some point find themselves deep in thought about a film, while still watching that film or maybe I’m just crazy?
This morning, as I found myself in my local cinema enjoying to loveliness of Brave, I had a very odd moment. I saw myself, and I can’t say whether this was a first or not, trying to figure out what I wanted to say about this movie in my eventual review. It was weird, selfish and most of all disturbing. The feelings that I experienced was only seconded though by how drastically awful I felt a moment later where I realized what I had actually done; I had began to start judging a movie by some sort of mental check list rather than what a movie really is, which is a non discreet method of expression.
A film, in concept, is pretty much another medium of expression. A lot people like to joke when they go to an art gallery, starring long and deep into some expressionist work, or some finger paintings you did in pre-school, and then say, “yes. It has red, blue and yellow. That makes it a complete painting.” Rather than what I feel art, and any critical thought about art, is a completely analog experience. It is something filled with imperfection but at the same time manages to affect us all on an emotional level and it is only our ability to reflect on those emotional responses triggered by the piece of art in question that then validates the art as valuable or worthless in a completely subjective manner.
While film, especially mainstream cinema, does tend to follow a seemingly formulaic structure, is it right to still limit it to such bullet points of a review? Isn’t reducing a film to a checklist and continuity test the way that everyone loses? Or are movies, and criticism of those movies, evolving to the point where a checklist is somewhat required? I can’t remember the last time I saw a comment section of a review where someone didn’t ask, “but how was the acting?” when that aspect of the film wasn’t mentioned in the review. Ideally not all elements that make up a film need to be discussed when reviewing said film, for the reason that movies can’t have it all. We love a certain movie because all the bits that do work happen to work so well that we forgive it for the moments that don’t. You don’t tend to like long movies? But The Godfather Part II remains to be one of the greatest films ever made. You don’t like romances? But I don’t know a man alive willing to knock The Notebook or Casablanca from the pedestal they happen to currently reside on.
Don’t misinterpret my words though. Movies, and all art forms, are not above criticism. That is, and always will be, without question true. These pieces of art all exist not just for the evidence of an artist’s expression, but also for our consumption. A piece of art is almost invalid without the immediate, or not so immediate, response and discussion that the art inspires in us.
So back to my original thought of whether “critical thinking during the consumption of art” is a problem. Is it wrong to conscious of criticisms while consuming art? It is obvious that one cannot truly criticize anything in parts without first considering the whole, but to make mental notes of aspects that seem to stand out (whether good or bad) seems fairly acceptable. Or is it only once we’ve decided on the elements that make up the imperfect beauty that is the revered film of any era that only then we can decide whether it’s worth nitpicking at those elements that may not work that well? I’m not sure. All I know is that I felt physically sick for a moment having that thought while watching Brave.