It Stinks

I’m going to propose a hypothetical situation, and I’d like for you to take part in it. Suppose you are the editor of a major newspaper. It would work just as well with a minor newspaper but since this is our imagined situation we might as well be successful in it. Go ahead and imagine you’ve just got a salary increase or a hefty bonus too; I want my readers to feel good about themselves.

Okay, so you’re an editor. You’re introducing a new feature to your newspaper: film reviews (yes, you’ve managed to become a large-distribution newspaper without film reviews; you’re that damn good). Now I want you to imagine the person you are going to hire to write these reviews. What kinds of qualities do they have? They can write well of course. They’re punctual. Maybe you’re impressed by their broad education. No doubt those are all admirable qualities in a potential film reviewer. I think we’ve found our person.

Hang on though; are you like me? Did you think of one more attribute that might be desireable in a film reviewer? Did you think "hang on, shouldn’t they like movies?" I did. And now we step neatly out of our imagined world—leaving our raises and sexy secretaries behind—into the real world, where that critical (no pun intended) quality is absent from every reviewer in The Irish TimesThe Ticket.

Take their opinion of Garden State:

Though Garden State believes itself to be startlingly fresh, it’s as formulaic as the average Jackie Chan film.

I might be tempted to agree on the grounds that the average Jackie Chan film is far from formulaic. Unfortunately I know what the reviewer really meant. I’ll refrain from rebutting the criticism for fear of spoiling anyone’s enjoyment of the film but I will remark that The Ticket‘s style of criticism seems to betray an attitude of "hating everything makes you look good". I’ll take Empire‘s "if you liked X you’ll like this", or "not as good as X", where X is some similar film. It’s important to realise that your job is to help people choose which film to watch, not to convince people that they’d be better off going and playing outside.