Critiquing The Critic: The Evolution & Function Of Film Criticism

May 4, 2023
Dimitris Passas

NOTE: This article is a republication- Source: Film Inquiry (by Matthew Roe).

What is the point of film criticism? Why do we even need film critics? Why should they play a part at all in filmmaking, exhibition, or distribution? No one tells me what to like, so why should I heed these people?

The aforementioned questions have been a constant conversation in film communities for decades, especially with the increased dependence (and intensifying backlash) of film aggregate websites like Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic. So, as filmmaking has vastly changed over the past century, we must ask ourselves, has film criticism matched this evolution or has it remained in stagnation? If it has or hasn’t, do we require these individuals in today’s cinematic conversation? Well, the short and long answers are multi-faceted messes of conflicting perspectives – just like film.

At its surface, analytical criticism is the assessment of the overall production quality and effectiveness of a form of work, with final conclusions theoretically determining the lifespan of that work. When this definition is applied to fields other than the arts, critics normally utilize objectivity, and real-world efficacy and application as the major facets of their analysis. Basically, determining how the work functions and serves the greater society in which it’s created. However, this is where the distinction occurs: traditional art (painting, drawing, sculpting), visual art (film, video, new media), performance art (theater, music, dance), and literature are all in the realm of subjectivity, in which you cannot use the same criteria to qualify or quantify.

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