The World Wide Cinematic Smorgasbord
Film criticism offers a reader (potential audience member) a singular opinion, or an assortment of conjectures pertaining to the quality of a film either new or old, by which they may be persuaded to either indulge in, or forego. And while film critics unofficially assume an authoritarian role when it comes to informing cinema-goers as to whether or not a certain film is of a high quality or low standard, there is a lot to be said for the value of entertainment itself. As a by-product of individual taste, entertainment value sets an empirical criterion through which the quality of a film may be measured, as a varied audience perceives it. So it seems fair to say that film criticism does not authorize (the) standards in cinematic quality, a film critic is someone who measures one film against all those that have come before and sometimes after, evaluating such characteristics as production, direction, performance, dialogue, cinematography and plot development. In short, it seems scholarly film critics may satisfactorily serve the film connoisseur, whilst confusing or boring a motion picture glutton whose filmic appetite can only be gratified at the movie buffet. However, it seems necessary to remember that film criticism, like many other forms of criticism, is fashioned from opinion rather than fact and when considering how film criticism has multiplied in sheer volume of viewpoints through technologies such as the internet and expanding social media services, public audiences are currently afforded the benefit of diverse opinion.
Film criticism, as it exists in contemporary society, can be obtained from a flood of sources. The Internet blesses not only cinephiles with the academic opinions of scholarly critics, but also nourishes the obscure appetites of the B and C grade movie fanatics. Farren Smith Nehme whose writing colours The Self-Styled Siren, stimulates readers with her personal perspectives and interpretations of the melodrama with sharp, witty insights and a unique blend of informed research and poetic description which services the ‘higher classes’. Benjamin Wright also writes for a certain ‘cinema-enthusiast’ and crafts intimate cinema dissections for his fittingly titled online film-critiquing site, Wright On Film. Wright focuses more on modern film aesthetic and the more technical approaches to cinema photography. And while examples of proficient and intellectual sites like the aforesaid demonstrate the seriousness of film critiquing on the web and in social media culture, film critics such as Rumsey Taylor provide comprehensive insight into films considered lower down on the cinematic food chain. Not Coming to a Theatre Near You presents web crawlers with analytical essays delving deep into the underground, bringing controversial classics to the surface with anti-academic, yet simplistic cultivation.
The Internet is a worldwide watering hole brimming with recommendations and condemnations from the autonomous critic, the self-educated, subjective cinematic assessment of the independent critic. Those who write from a liberated standpoint, free from any obligation to dictate various archival knowledge or sweeten the conclusion in order to be published. Film criticism, like every other literary beast of communication and interpretation by human design, is and has been subjected to thematic and formative evolution.
In a time predating the World Wide Web, the quality of a film’s substance was circumscribed to the presentational mode of essays or newspaper articles composed by either journalistic persons, or institutionally certified critics. Certain simplicity can be deduced from this arrangement, though as far as criticism is concerned, is sophisticated artlessness the most affective way of informing potential audiences of as to the quality of a definite art form? The technologically enlightened answer is no. Digital technologies including the internet and other outgrowths of computer technology such as digital editing software make it possible for film scholars to ‘write using the very materials that constitute their object of study: moving images and sound’ (Clayton, Kleven 2011:179). Not only does this innovative process transform the aesthetic configuration of film criticism, it also translates its doctrine through a media that emulates its inspiration. In addition to the visual presentation of film criticism, The World Wide Web with its immeasurable strands of constant information and unlimited proposition from faceless identities offers a state of the art meta-critical fountain of knowledge and information that, in the realm of media criticism, can be considered as valuable or worthless as those opinions put forward by the academically elite. This is because, after all, criticism is never bound by total fact. An authority can never verify criticism unequivocally. As educated as any singular critic or collection of film academics may be, there are far too many textual comparisons, cultural expectations and/or ignorance’s to gauge any one film explicitly.
Film criticism purely pertains to the confessions and opinions belonging an individual regarding a subject that humanity has deemed art and/or entertainment. How an individual chooses to interpret that opinion is completely arbitrary. If anything, the Internet with its multitude of option, opinion, information and identity, highlights both a creative and impressionistic freedom that is made available to a contemporary audience. Nowadays, thanks to the far-reaching fibres of the World Wide Web, the film connoisseur and movie glutton can satisfy their preferred cinematic appetites from diverse menus in the same restaurant.
Clayton A, Kleven A 2011, The Language and Style of Film Criticism, Taylor & Francis, New York.
Nehme, F S 2005, The Self-Styled Siren, weblog, viewed 28/10/13, http://selfstyledsiren.blogspot.com.au/.
Taylor, R 2001, Not Coming to a Theater Near You, weblog, viewed 28/10/13, http://notcoming.com/.
Wright, B 2008, Wright On Film, weblog, viewed 28/10/2013, http://wrightonfilm.com/.