So, You’re a Critic?

What separates a reviewer from a critic?

Brennan Griffin, Review Editor

The very first article I wrote for OspreyOnline was a not very favorable review of Insurgent, the newest installment of the Divergent series. However, when I tell my friends what I primarily do here they often respond with the question: “So, you’re a critic?” I often find an issue with this as would many other people who review media.

I enjoy the film world. Film is something that is a big part of my life. It is because of this I will often watch films multiple times to see everything that came together to make the film good. I review films because it was a way for me to share my opinions on them. I do not do this to tell people that what they thought of a film was wrong. There is a clear line between a person who reviews a film and one who critiques one. You will often find that a reviewer does not blow the bad components out of proportion. Critics are often harder on films, not because those films are necessarily bad but because they do not have the same mindset as one who goes to the movies to watch a movie. When a critic goes to the theater their primary objective is to scrutinize and find all weak spots in a film. When someone like myself goes to the theater they go to see the movie; it is not until after leaving the theater that I start to collect my thoughts and think of what I am going to put in my review. I look at all the things I enjoyed and disliked based off of my personal preferences and then at what was good and what was bad (acting, CGI, dialogue, pacing, etc.). A critic views this as a business expenditure because it is their job to view movies and put a number or grade for what they thought of the movie. When there is something bad about a movie I will point it out in my review and then move on to my next like or dislike. A critic will often dwell on an issue they found and make it seem as though it is a huge problem when in reality it is only a minor issue for the average moviegoer.

I have standards for what I consider to be a great movie, however. I know that sometimes my personal enjoyment of the genre can cause me to be a little easier on certain flaws in the film. Because I know that people enjoy different genres more than others and will not like a film as much because of this, I try to make it known what you will be seeing in this movie and if certain groups may not enjoy it as much. I also don’t use a rating system because of this. My final ratings are a word or a phrase related to the movie, not a number. For example, the rating I gave for Mad Max: Fury Road was “What a film! WHAT A LOVELY FILM!” I choose not to assign a number or letter to a film because that’s where critics lose people. A critic can write the most objective and fair review of a film but once they assign a number to their feelings on the film people get angry. To them the film was a 7.5 and not a 6. A critic assigns this number or grade because it is their opinion of the film, but they are asserting that their view is the correct one. Everything they have said before becomes obsolete once the reader sees their score.

I know that people will dislike films I love so I show what I think of a film with an opinion. My rating is my opinion not an undeniable truth. My opinion was that Insurgent was “Avoidable” because of the reasons I stated in my review. The difference between a critic and a reviewer is that reviewers want to voice their opinions, not tell you what to think about a movie. As Michael Keaton’s character in Birdman, Riggan Thomson, said in a rant against a critic: “You mistake all those little noises in your head for true knowledge.” I know that every word I type in my reviews are my personal opinion on these films. I enjoy when people agree with what I’ve said about a film but I also enjoy the disagreements because they can spark further discussion on what others look for in films.

I do not want to analyze and nitpick a film as I view it, if there is really a problem with the movie it will stick with me after I have left the theater as I am collecting my thoughts on the film. If a film truly deserves a large amount of time spent on negatives (such as the recent monstrosity Fantastic 4), then I will discuss the negatives heavily (ask anybody who was unfortunate enough to see the recent monstrosity Fantastic 4). When you are a film critic, watching movies is your job, not a fun pastime. You lose the ability to simply watch a movie and try to enjoy yourself. You lose the ability to enjoy cinema as it was meant to.

I have lost my ability to trust the views of critics. I turned to YouTube personalities who review films because they love them and love talking about them. While many of them can be critical, they all have a passion for films that is absent in a review you might find from a prominent critic. That is what truly separates the reviewers from the critics: passion and subjectivity that shows they were watching the film not watching for errors.

I’m not sure how I should end this. I have spent nearly one thousand words essentially ranting against critics who force their views on you as fact. It only seems appropriate that I finish with these five words. This is just my opinion.