Sheesh. Everyone’s a critic.
There’s a scene in Birdman in which the protagonist and a critic have an argument. I’m not going into too much detail about the scene since I don’t want to spoil it for anyone, but the critic is pretty much the stereotypical character you’d expect. She’s the person who tried and never made it, and so she unleashes her bitterness upon everyone who is still pursuing their passion and dreams.
So is this character just a walking stereotype, or do people like this exist in the real world? Yes, they most certainly do exist.
Does this mean that everyone who has a reasonably informed opinion about films is like that? Of course not. While there may be some truth to the stereotypes, they are generally an over simplification of a person or character.
There are reviewers like Jeremy Jahns who absolutely hates being called a critic. He prefers to call himself a film reviewer since he sees himself as a regular guy who enjoys doing film reviews. He just so happens to have a reasonable knowledge of film to back it up. He has (according to what I’ve read) never pursued any kind of career in film (the closest he’s come is a job as a film projectionist) so you can’t really stick him in the same category as the character in the film.
Another favourite reviewer of mine is Chris Stuckman. Chris does call himself a critic, but, unlike Jeremy, he has a fair amount of home made short films to his name. I’m not aware if Chris ever seriously pursued a film career, but if there’s any kind of bitter feelings towards people in the industry, it never comes across in his reviews. If anything this is a guy who is clearly passionate about movies, and enjoys making reviews about them. So again, not much in common with Birdman’s critic character.
But getting back to the point, that scene in Birdman did make me wonder about where I am in regards to film criticism, and whether my past experiences have drastically affected my view of films.
Have I been screwed over by the local film industry? Yes.
Have I had people butcher my well written short film scripts? Yes.
Am I bitter about it? Well, the answer to that is very complicated.
Perhaps the question I should be asking is do I carry my personal experiences with the film industry over into my film reviews?
The simple answer is no.
The more complicated answer is that like Jeremy and Chris, I love movies. I am a particularly big fan of animated films. Despite my past experiences, I still love the medium, and will do my best to give a movie a fair review. And as a “critic”, I don’t think my word is gospel. If anything I think “Hey, there are probably people out there who enjoy the same films I do, so let me help them find some good ones”. Or “You know, you probably don’t watch this kind of film, but check this one out, you might be really surprised (or you might hate it, that’s up to you)”.
Also, unlike the critic character portrayed in Birdman, I am also still working on my craft. Whenever a writing course or talk pops up on my radar I do my best to get there. I am currently working on a radio play for a competition, writing some back stories for characters in a friend’s comic, and have recently had two of my short film scripts long-listed (fingers crossed they get shortlisted).
At the end of the day, I’m not some old man who has stopped writing due to my disillusionment. As far as I’m concerned the day I give up writing is the day I’m dead. So until that day comes along you can assume I’m still here trying my best to get shit done.