A brief rant on movie critics (myself included)

Cowboys & Aliens

Cowboys & Aliens

So I started this rant in my weekly work newsletter, but that’s limited to around 250 words before the white space becomes unbearable, and so I had to rein it in a little. And you know by now that I’m no good at reining things in. So I’m copy-pasting my newsletter column in here, then expanding the rant.

Basically, I needed to have a rant about movie critics. And I count myself quite firmly in the group – seeing as, so far this year, I have written reviews for over 40 films and seen a lot more. Some got lost in the vortex that is created when watching four films a week, trying to survive a rather manic personal life and still oh, I don’t know, run a site. (It’s only going to get more hectic in the next few weeks, stay tuned for details!)

One of the films that I saw last week was Jon Favreau’s Cowboys & Aliens. And the reaction – from South African movie critics that consider themselves the next Roger Ebert – sparked a rant that had been coming for some time.

For the most part, the critics panned Cowboys & Aliens. Fair enough – it’s not True Grit or Close Encounters of the Third Kind or 127 Hour or Black Swan or even freaking The Lion King. But for what it is, I think Cowboys & Aliens is a good film. Now before you poke me with a spoon, this post is not about whether or not it’s a good movie or not. Bear with me.

Let’s be honest, the average moviegoer won’t go to a movie called Cowboys & Aliens expecting a cinematic masterpiece. We’ll never compare a movie about aliens invading a Western town to the Oscar-winning The King’s Speech – so why critics continue to hold popcorn-munching blockbusters to the same standards as award-winning dramas is beyond me.

Most people take blockbusters for what they are – mindless escapism, an evening out on the town away from the kids or the stresses of your day-job and a chance to revel in silliness. Critics need to look at blockbusters and ask the question – is this a good blockbuster? For what it is – is it well-made? Is it a cleverly written romantic comedy? Are the giant explosions properly executed? Cowboys & Aliens will never win the Oscar for Best Picture – but that doesn’t make it a bad movie. Critics – myself included – need to stop being pretentious for just one second, and deal with the fact that criticising the new Transformers movie using the same criteria or having the same expectations as we do when revewing The Hurt Locker is just silly.

Only then will reviews be any use to the average viewer – who just wants to know that his rom-com is going to be better or worse than the last one he rented out.

Read my Cowboys & Aliens review here and see if you agree with me.