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The Critic's Critics

July 25, 2000

Ever wonder why movie critics are called "critics"? Because they criticize movies, right? Maybe that was the original idea. Actually, we're called critics not because we criticize movies, but because we get criticized so much.

That's right, critics have critics too. In fact, critics receive far more criticism than they give.

Here's an example: I write one review criticizing a film. I receive a hundred letters criticizing me for criticizing the movie. And that happens every time I write a review!

Well, I don't always get a hundred letters, but I always get at least a few. And that goes for favorable reviews too! Some famous dead guy once said, "You can't please all the people all the time." He was right. If I like a movie, the people who hated call me a juvenile idiot with no taste. If I dislike the same movie, the people who liked it call me a stupid moron with no taste. I can't win!

You have to be thick-skinned to be a movie critic. Either that, or you have to sacrifice your integrity and go with the masses on everything. Sure, if I was a wimp who couldn't take criticism, I could just say I liked all the popular movies and disliked all the flops. I'd still get hate mail - no matter how poorly a movie does at the box office, there are always a few devoted fans, and vice versa- but I'm sure I'd get a lot less.

And I'd be better able to defend my opinions. To the people who disagreed with me I could respond: "Hey, this movie made a hundred million its first weekend in the box office and everybody in the whole world loves it so if you don't like it there must be something wrong with you." (Actually, I've been told that a few times myself.) But then I'd just be a sellout and my opinions would be worthless.

That's why I told the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth about my opinion of Star Wars. I hated Star Wars and I did not hesitate to say so. Consequently, I got a slew of you're-an-imbecile-with-no-taste letters. Just so you nice folks who sent me those letters know - you got deleted. But a couple people did agree with me - so I'm not alone.

The typical Star Wars retort goes something like this: "Dear Vivian, You are an idiotic, dumb, stupid, moronic imbecile. You failed to see this movie for what it really is, a beautiful piece of art that will go down in history as the best film ever. I pity you for having no taste in movies. Why do they let such an idiot review movies anyway? I should be the critic, I know a good movie when I see one, and Star Wars is the perfect movie. Everyone else I know agrees with me about Star Wars so therefore I must be right and you must be dead wrong. Star Wars rules and you suck. Because you don't like Star Wars you are the worst person alive and you deserve to be drug out into the street and shot. I hope Darth Vader gets you."

The length of many of the letters I receive tells me they were authored by someone with a LOT of time on his/her hands.

This is not to say that I never get good letters. Just as I like some movies, some people write to say they agree with my reviews.

I'm just shocked at how personally people take movie reviews. People act like it's a personal affront to them that I didn't like their favorite movie. Most of the more heated letters I've received sound like a declaration of war. Reading these letters, you'd swear the author was willing to fight to the death in defense of his favorite film. I'm surprised nobody has challenged me to a duel yet!

Lighten up people: It's JUST a movie review, and it's JUST my opinion. If you disagree with me, go get your own site and write your own review. I promise I won't write to tell you off if I disagree with your reviews.

This is not to say I don't welcome opinions. Many of my letters are quite sensibly written, and occasionally they even contain some valid criticism. Also, some of my hate mail is quite hilarious. My favorite letter goes something like this: Yu are a stoopid ideut. (I'm not making that up!)

Audio VersionI wrote this to vent a few frustrations, and also to let people know what movie critics put up with. Hey, I'm not complaining - I do get to watch movies for free, that's not a bad gig. I just wanted to let everyone know that critics are the most criticized people around - so remember that the next time you get ticked off at one of my reviews.


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