Ginzburg’s Gab 8/12/22- Those Darned Critics- A Blog on Film Criticism


On Steven Soderbergh’s Bubble (2005):

The script is boring, the acting atrocious, the direction is poor…what the hell happened here?–
Eric Lurio Greenwich Village Gazette

A haunting film, made all the more intriguing by the use of ordinary people, not actors, in all the roles.–
Claudia Puig USA Today

Wow, those are two quite different takes on the very same 73-minute film.

Well, who’s “right”? Who’s “wrong”? And were there biases that led them to their point of view and, ultimately, their published reviews?

Personally, I found Bubble, a shot on pennies film about lonely and struggling working-class Mid-Westerners riveting, and yes, haunting, and quite an achievement. So I’d go with door/writer #2.

I recently sat at a film festival seminar on film criticism and was amazed and somewhat taken aback by a young, all-female panel’s emphasis on what is important to them in a film today. One loved the mostly derided Marvel’s Eternals so much she “watched it every day for three weeks.” Why? It held ingredients that were important to her. She raved that the director was female, the casting highly diverse, and there was a gay male kiss.

Now Liberal moi would be good and fine with all of that, too, although that doesn’t necessarily make it a great film worth watching 21 times (or let alone even twice). And I just have to wonder, would she have been equally kind to male industry power broker Soderbergh’s little experimental film with its predominantly white cast?

In other words, where do the biases end and the actual film criticism begin?

And what qualifies someone to even be a film critic today? I heard a lot of grumbling at the same seminar about older male critics having most of the power in the industry, but, hey, there was no discussion whatsoever about the merits of critics who have been doing this for decades. Many have an encyclopedic knowledge of film and world cinema going back one-hundred-plus years to the dawn of movies. Personally, I don’t care if it’s a Janet Maslin, Pauline Kael, Roger Ebert, or James Agee. Or a youngster today. I just want to know whether I agree or disagree with them, that they at least know from whence they speak. A “kid”- male or female- with that “strong Internet following” raving about a superhero flick I found instantly forgettable wouldn’t necessarily convince me.

As someone who actually makes movies and has read plenty of reviews- and comments- about films we’ve spent years tirelessly working on, I will indeed savor kind reviews and feel the sting of the scathing ones. But with an asterisk attached. Someone you deem “legitimate” because of their knowledge, experience, and passion is a far different beast than an obsessive fanboy with a forum who writes a two-word comment posing as a review, “It sucks.”

In short, Soderbergh’s Bubble was savored by many, loathed by plenty, and maybe the “truth” is somewhere in the middle.

Discover the critics you believe in- whether they be young or old, major media or indie – and trust in your shared passions.

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