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Film Hype and Criticism - 9/5/2007 2:51:36 PM   
Benji_Eclipse


Posts: 10
Joined: 2/5/2007
Here is one long musing on movie publicity I have written. It is entitled:
 
"The Role and Purpose of the Film Critic and the Publicity Machine"
 
I'd be happy to hear other people's opinions and discussions on this piece and it's viewpoints.
 
Although the promotion and criticism of feature films has been utilised for nearly an entire century, the advent of both the Internet and a more commercial society has meant that both camps have become larger and more noticeable than ever before. Sites such as Apple.com, Youtube.com and the websites of film production companies publish trailers, clips, posters, plot details and other such things, all designed to further the success of film after film after film. Similarly, sites such as RottenTomatoes.com, TotalFilm.com and EmpireOnline.com are devoted almost entirely to film criticism.
        Exactly how much influence does the criticism or promotions of films actually have on audiences to go and see the film? Recent films such as Ghost Rider and Wild Hogs have received awful reviews but have performed extremely well, while heavily hyped films like Stormbreaker have not.
        Of course, hype and promotion generated by the filmmakers should not really be trusted, as their sole aim is to make money from the film and have a clear motivation to lie in order to draw in their potential audience. With this in mind, it would make more sense to listen to the critics, who don’t appear to have any reason to lie.
        Except that often they do, for several reasons. For instance, film companies often pay a substantial amount of money on first class accommodation and luxury for critics who are looking to review their latest releases. In some cases, the need for artificially positive reviews can lead to even fouler play. A film critic called David Manning wrote a series of positive reviews for Paramount films like Hollow Man and A Knight’s Tale. It was later revealed that, not only were the comments made up, so was the critic, invented by Paramount to boost the box office returns of the films.
        Many existent film critics, meanwhile, do not share their tastes with the majority of the movie-going public. There is an argument that, since critics are people who are far more knowledgeable and selective about films, their comments will not be relevant to most people, who will want to watch the films for different reasons.
        Many reviewers will condemn a film for its background. If they don’t like the director, writer or star, if they don’t like the film-makers motivations for making a film, if they don’t like the genre, if the film had a troubled production or anything else, these things can unnecessarily influence a reviewers opinion on a film, even though they have nothing to do with what is being shown on screen.
        Films that are heavily promoted inevitably attract film criticism, sometimes unfairly, something that often cause flops such as Waterworld and Raise the Titanic (although James Cameron’s Titanic, which received many terrible reviews, managed to become the highest grossing film of all time). Often heavy promotion can be damaging to a film, as the hype can often lead to disappointment from both the critics and the audience. This can often be caused by revealing too much of the film, such as plot details, twists, visuals and “money shots”, which inevitably lead the audience into seeing a film that seems familiar and dull. Film companies and critics alike are responsible for revealing too much of their films.
        What seems to be impossible is for a member of the public to go to any film without having some preconceptions about what it will be like. The only way this can be avoided, it seems, is to sit in a darkened room, with no access to television, radio or other people, until the film has arrived. It is therefore impossible for audiences to form a completely clear opinion of the film that is wholly their own and not influenced by others.
        So is the role of the film critic irresponsible for over-influencing the audience? Certainly it would seem the Hollywood publicity machine is. However, the influence of the critic can often be taken as a positive thing, as it can help audiences to better appreciate the film, to understand it and see more of it than if they had gone to see the film without preconceptions.
        And yet, with the advent of the Internet, it is difficult to know which critics to trust. Looking up a new release on the Internet will, more likely than not, result in widely differing opinions. Anyone can now post a review on the Internet, yet even professional ratings on the same film range across the whole spectrum, from awful to classic. This is often most evident on sites such as RottenTomatoes.com, where a selection of critical opinions are gathered together. The purpose of this is to create an average opinion on a film, but an average made from such different reviews can inevitably turn out to be inaccurate.
        Often, film companies and filmmakers run the risk of being influenced by critics to the extent that they no longer deliver original work, or work that they are excited about, because they are afraid of their projects being panned by critics. This influence that critics have is often the most damaging to the film industry.
        Since film companies know that the word of film critics can often have a damaging effect, they often try to outmanoeuvre them in order to deliver a film to the audience without any interference from critics. For instance, they will tell critics at the last minute that they are not going to screen the film to them before it’s release. They often choose to put the release date back, in order to make last-minute changes to the film in order to make it more “commercial”. Often, this kind of behaviour merely angers critics, who often predict that these are signs that the film will be bad. This can therefore result in negative publicity before the film has even been screened.
        In the end, is it better not to listen to either of these groups? Do they create their own idea of what a film is without worrying what others will think of it? Certainly, in my experience, knowing too much about a film before seeing it has a negative effect on my enjoyment. Perhaps it’s better to listen to word of mouth. However, it is possible to find a film reviewer magazine or website that has opinions on films similar to your own. Empire, I believe, is one of these. On the whole, though, you won’t know whether you like a film until you have seen it. Seems obvious, bu there you go.
 
Thanks,
 
Benjieclipse

_____________________________

Check out www.youtube.com/benjieclipse to see trailers for my new short film, Golem
Post #: 1
RE: Film Hype and Criticism - 9/5/2007 4:03:22 PM   
Q.T


Posts: 256
Joined: 7/2/2006
From: London, England
Well written, though as to your last sentence or so when you said "you won’t know whether you like a film until you have seen it" it seems like Empire can't bone the Pirates sequels enough

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Post #: 2
RE: Film Hype and Criticism - 9/5/2007 4:15:40 PM   
Lazy wolf eyes


Posts: 4104
Joined: 9/9/2006
From: Royston Vasey
quote:

ORIGINAL: Q.T

Well written, though as to your last sentence or so when you said "you won't know whether you like a film until you have seen it" it seems like Empire can't bone the Pirates sequels enough


Did you even read the review for pirates 2?  It wasn't exactly glowing, and I think it was a fair review. 


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Post #: 3
RE: Film Hype and Criticism - 9/5/2007 6:08:08 PM   
monkeyfish


Posts: 1234
Joined: 18/9/2006
From: Under the sea
quote:

ORIGINAL: Lazy wolf eyes

quote:

ORIGINAL: Q.T

Well written, though as to your last sentence or so when you said "you won't know whether you like a film until you have seen it" it seems like Empire can't bone the Pirates sequels enough


Did you even read the review for pirates 2?  It wasn't exactly glowing, and I think it was a fair review. 



I actually felt that Empire's Dead Man's Chest review undersold a movie that was almost as entertaining, exciting and funny as Curse of the Black Pearl, only diminished by not quite having the joy of the first film's surprising originality. At World's End has received the kind of coverage you'd expect from a major summer blockbuster and actually the magazine haven't spent as much time on it as Spider-man 3, only one cover as well.

As to the original subject, I tend to agree with your final paragraph, that you should find a critic or critics you tend to agree with and trust them as an indicator of what is worth seeing, I agree that Empire's reviews tend to fit in with my position (underrating DMC being a rare mistake), they're excited about both big and little films but will tell you if they're good examples or failures. I would say though that I'm not at all sure that Titanic "received many terrible reviews", to my memory the film was generally fairly well received by critics although not to an extent that suggests it deserved quite the box office and Oscar success it received, the real heavy anti Titanic backlash only really started after this slightly undeserved success.

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Post #: 4
RE: Film Hype and Criticism - 9/5/2007 6:52:09 PM   
TheManWithNoShame


Posts: 6767
Joined: 1/8/2006
Its a decent article, but I think you undersell what the good critics really do for the industry. For example you may be familiar with the French publication Cahiers Du Cinema that was started in the 1960's by a group of French critics. These critics went on to write thesis's and articles that changed the face of cinema, and in particular the developed the auteur theory which remoulded the public's view on certain directors. For example they re-evaluated Hitchcock's position as a director and showed that actually he was producing films of pychological depth and graceful artistry that he deserved to be more respected than just a purveyor of entertainment.
These critics then went on to make films based on their theories and they developed the French New Wave with Jean-Luc Godard, Francois Truffaut, Claude Chabrol et al heading the movement, and all of them were once critics.
There are also numerous cases of critics re-evaluating films and film theory that they can be just as important as film-makers in developing the language of film, so I think your article should mention that as well.

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Post #: 5
RE: Film Hype and Criticism - 9/5/2007 7:08:15 PM   
TheGreatEye


Posts: 1476
Joined: 30/9/2005
quote:

ORIGINAL: monkeyfish

I actually felt that Empire's Dead Man's Chest review undersold a movie

A critic 'underselling' a movie is much prefered to a critic overselling a movie. I've been suckered into the former more than once, with bad results - I was nearly always let down by this amazing, fantastic achievement time and time again. Critics on the whole tend to lick the arse of a good film, making it an "outstanding" film, whilst destroying another decent film, in turn making it seem a turkey.

Thankfully the likes of Empire and Total Film don't follow that elitest, snobby route. Thats not to say that Empire itself hasn't got its nose buried up its own arse at times. But I put that down to the fact that the only UK competition they have is The Telegraph or something as snooty similar.

(in reply to monkeyfish)
Post #: 6
RE: Film Hype and Criticism - 9/5/2007 7:48:14 PM   
justified by grace

 

Posts: 1551
Joined: 4/2/2007
quote:

ORIGINAL: monkeyfish

I actually felt that Empire's Dead Man's Chest review undersold a movie that was almost as entertaining, exciting and funny as Curse of the Black Pearl, only diminished by not quite having the joy of the first film's surprising originality. At World's End has received the kind of coverage you'd expect from a major summer blockbuster and actually the magazine haven't spent as much time on it as Spider-man 3, only one cover as well.

I totally agree.

quote:

ORIGINAL: monkeyfish

As to the original subject, I tend to agree with your final paragraph, that you should find a critic or critics you tend to agree with and trust them as an indicator of what is worth seeing

Absolutely.  Most critics just try and find excuses to tear down films, particularly blockbusters.

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Post #: 7
RE: Film Hype and Criticism - 10/5/2007 9:50:28 AM   
MOTH

 

Posts: 3479
Joined: 3/10/2005
From: Sittin' on the dock of the bay


quote:


quote:

ORIGINAL: monkeyfish

As to the original subject, I tend to agree with your final paragraph, that you should find a critic or critics you tend to agree with and trust them as an indicator of what is worth seeing

Absolutely.  Most critics just try and find excuses to tear down films, particularly blockbusters.


Nope - they just say it how it is - most blockbusteres aren't very good. the critics that say they are are called Paul Ross.

Anyhoo - the article is grand, but I'd agree with TheManWithNoShame in giving critics a bit more credit. Plus Rotten Tomatoes average mark is usually not far off - if a film is rated 9%, it's a fair bet it's not very good. It's ultimately up to the individual to distinguish between bad & good recommendations (from either critics or friends), see through the marketing and make their own mind up about seeing a film.
Finally, you quote some example films in your essay but I'd be inclined to mention recent examples which reflect the two extremes of your arguments
ie. (i) Film critics universally praised but was a box office flop (Away from Her : 92% on rotten tomatoes, $67,000 in US)
(ii) Film critics universally hated but was a box office success (Norbit: 9% on rotten tomatoes, $96,000,000 in US)

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Post #: 8
RE: Film Hype and Criticism - 10/5/2007 1:03:59 PM   
monkeyfish


Posts: 1234
Joined: 18/9/2006
From: Under the sea
quote:

ORIGINAL: MOTH



quote:


quote:

ORIGINAL: monkeyfish

As to the original subject, I tend to agree with your final paragraph, that you should find a critic or critics you tend to agree with and trust them as an indicator of what is worth seeing

Absolutely.  Most critics just try and find excuses to tear down films, particularly blockbusters.


Nope - they just say it how it is - most blockbusteres aren't very good. the critics that say they are are called Paul Ross.

Anyhoo - the article is grand, but I'd agree with TheManWithNoShame in giving critics a bit more credit. Plus Rotten Tomatoes average mark is usually not far off - if a film is rated 9%, it's a fair bet it's not very good. It's ultimately up to the individual to distinguish between bad & good recommendations (from either critics or friends), see through the marketing and make their own mind up about seeing a film.
Finally, you quote some example films in your essay but I'd be inclined to mention recent examples which reflect the two extremes of your arguments
ie. (i) Film critics universally praised but was a box office flop (Away from Her : 92% on rotten tomatoes, $67,000 in US)
(ii) Film critics universally hated but was a box office success (Norbit: 9% on rotten tomatoes, $96,000,000 in US)


Yeah, I don't trust a review in The Sun as it will unequivocally love a blockbuster in the same way that The Guardian will take a rather snobby stance towards one. Neither is the opinion that I would take, I like to see a good blockbuster and therefore consider the opinion of an Empire critic worth far more as they are enthusiastic about film and will big up the latest Pirates film if its good but aren't usually afraid to say if a blockbuster sucks as well. Meanwhile, I don't reckon that your extreme examples of Away From Her and Norbit are really valid as the movies are designed for an entirely different audience and would never have expected similar box office figures.

_____________________________

What became of the Empire Script Challenge?

Bring it back, I say!

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Post #: 9
RE: Film Hype and Criticism - 10/5/2007 1:13:19 PM   
MOTH

 

Posts: 3479
Joined: 3/10/2005
From: Sittin' on the dock of the bay
quote:

ORIGINAL: monkeyfish


Meanwhile, I don't reckon that your extreme examples of Away From Her and Norbit are really valid as the movies are designed for an entirely different audience and would never have expected similar box office figures.


that's the point I felt benjieclipse needed to include: critics can be completely irrelevant in some cases - Norbit succeeded commercially because of marketing to key demographic despite poor reviews, Away to Her didn't succeed in any demographic despite good reviews. Simply, more people pay more attention to marketing than critics - c'est la vie.

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Post #: 10
RE: Film Hype and Criticism - 10/5/2007 5:54:47 PM   
TheManWithNoShame


Posts: 6767
Joined: 1/8/2006
Exactly, this whole thing about critics destroying the box office of films is nonsense. Take Grindhouse which was critically loved and flopped financially. Or take Spider Man 3 which has been getting poor reviews but is breaking box office records. Critics really do have very little in determining box office success unless they are praising a little known film which would not get attention otherwise. The only industry in which reviews can really make or break a production is theatre.

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Post #: 11
RE: Film Hype and Criticism - 10/5/2007 6:19:18 PM   
Benji_Eclipse


Posts: 10
Joined: 2/5/2007
quote:

ORIGINAL: TheManWithNoShame

Its a decent article, but I think you undersell what the good critics really do for the industry. For example you may be familiar with the French publication Cahiers Du Cinema that was started in the 1960's by a group of French critics. These critics went on to write thesis's and articles that changed the face of cinema, and in particular the developed the auteur theory which remoulded the public's view on certain directors. For example they re-evaluated Hitchcock's position as a director and showed that actually he was producing films of pychological depth and graceful artistry that he deserved to be more respected than just a purveyor of entertainment.
These critics then went on to make films based on their theories and they developed the French New Wave with Jean-Luc Godard, Francois Truffaut, Claude Chabrol et al heading the movement, and all of them were once critics.
There are also numerous cases of critics re-evaluating films and film theory that they can be just as important as film-makers in developing the language of film, so I think your article should mention that as well.



Yeah, I'm definitely familiar with those critics/filmakers developing the French New Wave, I think you're right there.

But I think the situation regarding critics has changed quite a bit since then. you get good ones, of course, but I think the whole concept of film criticism has become diluted, possibly due to certain aspects of the Internet. I'd say my article was more about the current state of film criticism, rather than the history, otherwise it would be more optimistic.

_____________________________

Check out www.youtube.com/benjieclipse to see trailers for my new short film, Golem

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Post #: 12
RE: Film Hype and Criticism - 10/5/2007 6:21:08 PM   
monkeyfish


Posts: 1234
Joined: 18/9/2006
From: Under the sea
quote:

ORIGINAL: TheManWithNoShame

Exactly, this whole thing about critics destroying the box office of films is nonsense. Take Grindhouse which was critically loved and flopped financially. Or take Spider Man 3 which has been getting poor reviews but is breaking box office records. Critics really do have very little in determining box office success unless they are praising a little known film which would not get attention otherwise. The only industry in which reviews can really make or break a production is theatre.


Yeah, reviews are never going to effect the success of Spider-man (which has had mixed notices rather than entirely poor ones) but for an indie, arthouse or foreign film they are vital for setting it ahead of the pack, look at the recent success of Little Miss Sunshine, Pan's Labyrinth or The Lives Of Others, to name but a few that I have really enjoyed after reading universally good critical reaction to them. Obviously in the age of the internet, this kind of word of mouth is a pretty major thing, see Blair Witch.

_____________________________

What became of the Empire Script Challenge?

Bring it back, I say!

(in reply to TheManWithNoShame)
Post #: 13
RE: Film Hype and Criticism - 10/5/2007 6:55:42 PM   
TheManWithNoShame


Posts: 6767
Joined: 1/8/2006
quote:

ORIGINAL: monkeyfish

quote:

ORIGINAL: TheManWithNoShame

Exactly, this whole thing about critics destroying the box office of films is nonsense. Take Grindhouse which was critically loved and flopped financially. Or take Spider Man 3 which has been getting poor reviews but is breaking box office records. Critics really do have very little in determining box office success unless they are praising a little known film which would not get attention otherwise. The only industry in which reviews can really make or break a production is theatre.


Yeah, reviews are never going to effect the success of Spider-man (which has had mixed notices rather than entirely poor ones) but for an indie, arthouse or foreign film they are vital for setting it ahead of the pack, look at the recent success of Little Miss Sunshine, Pan's Labyrinth or The Lives Of Others, to name but a few that I have really enjoyed after reading universally good critical reaction to them. Obviously in the age of the internet, this kind of word of mouth is a pretty major thing, see Blair Witch.


Thats basically what Im saying. The  impact critics have on the film industry is usually a good thing, particularly the films you mention.

quote:

Yeah, I'm definitely familiar with those critics/filmakers developing the French New Wave, I think you're right there.

But I think the situation regarding critics has changed quite a bit since then. you get good ones, of course, but I think the whole concept of film criticism has become diluted, possibly due to certain aspects of the Internet. I'd say my article was more about the current state of film criticism, rather than the history, otherwise it would be more optimistic.


I d agree with that to an extent, although there is still some interesting reading if you look for it. People go on about snobby publications, yet it was these sort of publications that helped change cinema for the better. Also I know of many so called 'snobby' publications that have given very good reviews for blockbusters, so I think it is unfair to single them out for that. I think those sort of publications review films truthfully in terms of what the reviewer actually thinks, and I think its a bit of a disservice to them for people to suggest they are just doing it out of snobbery or spite.
In regards to your article though, Id argue that film criticism mattered more years ago when there could be critical outcry at contraversial subjects (for example when Hearst tried to block the distribution of Citizen Kane by trying to burn the negatives and getting his critics to pan or ignore the film), and when critical panning could often mean outright failure for a movie. With the advent of the blockbuster though, marketing and hype is now a far more important factor, although that certainly isnt to say there was no marketing or hyping before the blockbusters.
I think for a better essay it may be an idea to do a comparison between the old and the new criticism, as it will show clearly how film criticism has evolved from what it was, for better or for worse.


_____________________________

sorry jbg :( i promise to stop being such a silly boy.

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Post #: 14
RE: Film Hype and Criticism - 11/5/2007 8:24:16 PM   
Mason Verger


Posts: 4724
Joined: 13/1/2006
From: Bombing the storage depots at Daiquiri
This sketch about judges could also apply to some critics.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=18fUkRuKXYc



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Post #: 15
RE: Film Hype and Criticism - 7/6/2007 8:22:41 PM   
Mason Verger


Posts: 4724
Joined: 13/1/2006
From: Bombing the storage depots at Daiquiri
On The Arts: In Hollywood, they put their money where their hype is
 
http://www.post-gazette.com/magazine/19990530onarts5.asp



_____________________________

Mind like parachute - only function when open.

Be excellent to each other.

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Post #: 16
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