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Harry Pottering On: Research & Reviews…

This evening, I will be lucky enough to attend a screening of Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows: Part II, and have a chance to get my review on-line. However, I must concede that I am not a Harry Potter fanatic. I haven’t read the books. I’ve seen the films, enjoyed the majority for what they are, only found one to be an exercise in tedium, and have a genuine respect for what they’ve managed to accomplish in bringing to life a fairly iconic series of books in a manner that can please both the hardcore fans and the casual movie-goer. However, as I brace myself to attend the screening tonight, I wonder what a film critic owes their subject matter in terms of research. Do I owe the people who made the film, and – possibly – the fans that are going to see it, enough to dig into as much of the back ground as possible before the cinema lights go down?

Witch approach should I adopt?

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Critical Predisposition: What Preconceptions Do You Bring Into Movies?

Over the last week, I had the pleasure to visit the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival. I saw a lot of films as part of that, and the reviews have been popping up all week. Anyway, they give out an audience award, which gave me occasion to actually score films. Regular readers here know that I am loath to try to objectively rank cinema, as it’s a very subjective medium and I have difficulty reconciling relative grades, but I went along with it. Anyway, they use a four-point scale and, long story short, I found myself using a lot of “3” grades, which is the second-highest rank. This kinda got me thinking: Am I a little too generous to films I really shouldn’t be? How do I approach the cinema? Do I look for things to love? Do I have a pre-disposed bias? Do I want to love films, even if they aren’t especially great?

Me, aged about eight...

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White and Wrong: Contrarian (Anti-Popularist) Film Critics

I was away in Florida when the whole Armond White thing broke last month. For those out of the loop, users of film review aggregation site Rotten Tomatoes decided that they’d had enough of White’s contrary approach to film reviews after he ‘ruined’ the perfect Tomatometer for District 9 – and generated quite the reaction on the site. With District 9 being released in the UK and Ireland this week, it seems almost the perfect time to revisit the discussion, with the benefit of hindsight. Plus, film criticism is one of those topics that I take a great deal of recreational interest in.

Somehow I doubt we'll ever see eye-to-eye...

Somehow I doubt we'll ever see eye-to-eye...

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I Love You, Roger Ebert…

There’s a lot of trash talk out there about Roger Ebert. Is he going soft in his old age? Is he wrong to ‘go easy’ on really terrible films? I don’t know and I don’t care, because the man is some sort of legend. Sure, I may disagree with his opinion from time (I don’t buy his argument against 3D, for example, and there are quite a few movies on which he and I diverge), but I always find his comments insightful, well considered and respectful. That’s something a lot of film critics these days who seem to use their reviews to make pith putdowns and blithe one-liners could learn from – and I am looking at you, David Edelstein. Still, he ain’t a man to pull his punches, and that’s another reason I love him so dearly. His latest attack was on those who dared deem Transformers 2 a good movie – or even defend it as “as good as it could have been”. The article can be read here and is well worth a look for anyone interested in the man or his artform, or even movies in general.

Some man for one man...

Some man for one man...

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Who Critiques the Critics?

The ability of Transformers 2 to succeed so massively even with the godawful reviews that it is receiving has prompted yet another introspective look at the role that critics do, should and must play in the movie business. It’s a bout the right time of year – last year David Edelstein’s bitchy tirade against a certain blockbuster received such a vigorous lambasting that the author himself had to post an article in defense of his review, prompting other commentators to ask if the critics are out of touch with the public. I didn’t do film studies or go to journalism school. I didn’t do a term-long module on the role of the critic in the arts. Sure, it might sound like a simple enough role – you critique, it’s all there in the verb – but should you try to tell people if they’ll like the movie, or simply whether you did? If you know you hold a minority opinion, should you make some sort of concession to that? I don’t know, but the question interests me greatly.

The film critic in his default position...

The film critic in its default position...

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