Movie Reviews, Part II
Here is the second installment: You can't tell anything about a movie's quality by the mere fact that critics unanimously like it.
Why do I say this? Experience. Consider the film Morvern Callar. As you can see here, 84% of critics liked it. But when I recently rented it, I found it unwatchable. The movie starts out with the lead female character lying on an apartment floor next to her dead boyfriend. This sounds like the beginning of an interesting movie. But it's not. After about 40 minutes, I had had enough of watching the lead character and her friend stumble in and out of meanless scenarios randomly stitched together with no coherent plot or storyline in view. Or take the movie Pi. 86% of critics raved over that one. But while it was more coherent than Morvern Kallar by a long shot, it was still a spastic and unbelievable film that would only appeal to weird tastes.
On the other hand, sometimes all the critics like a movie that really is good -- the superb Rabbit-Proof Fence, for example, or Stevie, or Dirty Pretty Things. That's why I'm not claiming that critical acclaim is proof that a movie is bad. It's just that critical acclaim isn't informative one way or the other.
Why do critics all seem to fall for movies that are so bizarre? This is another aspect of BGUTMR©: It's precisely because they are movie reviewers. As movie reviewers, what do they do for a living? They watch movies day in, day out. They become so cynical towards the average movie that they become suckers for anything that is off-beat, far-out, odd, quirky, etc. (They seem to be impressed if a movie's awfulness is somehow rumored to be "artistic" or "edgy.") And they become especially sensitive towards anything that seems "cliched," even though the rest of us might not have watched enough movies to be bothered by (or even to recognize) a particular "cliche."
This aspect of my theory has empirical confirmation: I asked my good friend Rod Dreher of the Dallas Morning News, and he said that this was absolutely true. When he moved on from his job as a movie reviewer for the New York Post -- and stopped watching at least one movie per day -- he found that his attitude towards movies became fresher, less cynical, more sensitive, and so forth. He recalled having attended a film festival where a short film realistically depicted a child rape for several minutes on end. He found it unbearable to watch, and yet the audience of reviewers loved it. Why? Because they had seen so many movies that they were inured to the sorts of things that would make most people shudder.
Now that said, if 90+ percent of reviewers hate a movie, it probably isn't worth watching. This was true in the case of Godsend, a movie that made absolutely no sense in several different ways, and The Order, a screamingly awful attempt at a religious horror movie.
So there you go: The second installment of BGUTMR©.