Role, respect of critics greatly different from past

By Monica Reida 2009

Once upon a time, the word of a critic could make or break a film or show.

A film that was panned or received tepid reviews would bomb at the box office, sometimes to be revived as a cult film.

A Broadway play that received poor reviews would close shortly after opening, while a play with positive reviews would run for a while. The producers would hold their breath for the word from The New York Times, New York Post and Variety.

But today a film can receive scathing reviews and be number one at the box office. A Broadway show can get negative reviews from almost all of the critics, yet can be a huge success. A show with excellent reviews may not run for a long time.

Why are films and shows with poor reviews doing so well?

Back when a critic’s say mattered, we, the American people, read the paper more frequently than we do now. What we knew about the world around us came from newspapers, radio, newsreels and either ABC, NBC or CBS.

Now we have the Internet, which in essence makes everyone a critic. This can cause several problems with how people get their reviews. For starters, we now use the Internet to read news articles, but some people ignore the mainstream sources and go for the blogs for their news.

A problem with this is that you don’t know who is reviewing something. While a review on the Los Angeles Times website has the name of the critic, a blog has just a username.
Another problem is that few films are original now. They may be based on books, plays, musicals or are a remake.

People also want to see stars in films. Brad Pitt is in a mediocre film? You have to buy tickets for it.

Broadway is quite possibly the worst offender with this, and they don’t just put films and TV stars in shows, but they will also put on the marquee the name of an actor familiar to the theater going audience.

But above all, critics have lost their respect. A review from Ebert and Roper is now no more than a quote for an ad. Manohla Dargis of The New York Times gave Garfield a poor review and got a villain named after her in the sequel. While the view of a critic as an enemy is nothing old, this treatment borders on being just flat out sad.

This is not just the case with major critics. In my own personal experience, I can say that the opinion of the arts critics for The Courier and The Gazette is frequently scoffed at by actors of the productions they review and by the readers of the paper. It could be that people see that reviews from critics in general are poorly written, or some may feel that they are out of touch. A peer may be seen as a better source.

But people are also incredibly picky with their sources on reviews. This may be because they understand the reasoning of the critic or enjoy their writing. It may also be that they do not read a certain newspaper because of their own personal opinions of the publication. This can cause quite a bit of unevenness with opinion.

In all honest though, does the general public, the producers, really expect that the critics are going to like films that look horrible in just the trailers or TV ads?

It seems as though this is the case, yet the public and the industry retaliates and criticizes the critics when they say the inevitable. Frequently, a critic’s opinion is well-founded and has good reasoning.

Yet they become the enemy because they don’t share your opinion. Yes, you can disagree with them, but frequently the disagreement of their opinion becomes an attack on the individual.

But will this continue into the future? It seems as though the recent trend in films and Broadway shows will continue.

There will probably be several negative reviews of the film version of New Moon, perhaps more than it’s predecessor due to the firing of the director. A panning of Spider-Man: The Musical, which is actually in the works, might not stop audiences from seeing it.

It sadly seems that as the industry of newspaper journalism dies, so has the opinion of the critic. While ever truthful, straightforward and filled with both positive and negative emotions, it is a voice becoming unheeded in today’s world.

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