Exploring the Artefacts #2: A Discerning Eye
Exploring The Artefacts is a series in which I examine some unique and significant components, or by-products, of cinema storytelling that are often under-appreciated.
The following is addressed to those who wish to enhance their ability to understand, and more effectively express their views on, cinema, still thought by many to be "back of the bus" compared to other forms of artistic expression.
A Discerning Eye
Being a successful art critic means developing a meaningful understanding of the artist's intentions. Alternately, focusing on one's likes and dislikes can move the spotlight away from the subject at hand and disable an insightful perspective from being reached.
I've identified 3 collective ways of achieving a more objective outlook that I hope motion picture critics of all types, especially novices, will take on board:
1. Be completely open to the views of others. Better yet, seek them out as they may serve to enhance your own. There can be as much joy in sharing an artistic passion with fellow enthusiasts as in experiencing the works themselves. Keep in mind there's no benefit to feeling threatened by someone's point of view. If the shoe doesn't fit, simply don't wear it... no need to destroy it. Readers may notice that more advanced critics, rather than just singling out individual components of filmmaking (such as acting, cinematography, etc.), tend to address how the choices made effect the narrative as a whole.
2. Try and set aside your personal prejudices when attempting an objective appraisal of the work under review. This doesn't mean you have to ignore or get rid of these preferences. Just be willing to give the artists or genres you're not fond of, a "fair go" when evaluating a work's strengths and weaknesses. This open-minded approach might also lead to a newly discovered appreciation for subjects previously thought to be off-limits. Conversely, a critic's strong bias in favour of a certain style or artist should be made easily distinguishable from a more thoughtful perspective.
3. TIME. Spend time experiencing and comparing works in your chosen field of interest. [I have an advantage here over many cinema buffs 'cause I'm old]. Critics who are reviewing contemporary motion pictures for example, even more so, those films they are particularly impressed with, might benefit from allowing some time to pass so as to provide a wider historical, and therefore more meaningful, appraisal. The additional experience will help cultivate your own criteria or comparative value system; one that can be applied fairly to all of your movie watching (personal preferences notwithstanding). Hopefully, this will have the "knock on" effect of creating a better class of critic, one that's desperately needed in an age where Citizen Duane can sit on the same shelf as Citizen Kane, and the less noticeable films of formidable artistic integrity, deserving of greater recognition, are increasingly lost in the shadow of their big brother blockbusters.
Finally, it's not so much whether the thumb goes up or down that counts, but how well the critic articulates the reason for it.
P.S. I thought it might be helpful to present the work of a model critic we can all admire and try to emulate so I've posted this video on December 23, 2013: