Film critics: Are they relevant?

There is such a huge gap between the average film-goer and the film critic today, not only in the amount of films that they watch on average, but also the way in which films are watched and the reason they watch them.

The film critic watches hundreds of films a year, a lot of which they’re not interested in seeing but they have to see as part of their job. Because they see so many films, they will often get enthusiastic about a film just because it is somehow unique and unusual; different from the average Hollywood mainstream that they see so much of.

But the average film-goer may only see 5 to 10 movies a year, and he will only see the ones that interest him or her. And what may be considered old hat or mainstream to a critic, may be quite new or interesting to the film-goer who has not seen that type of movie before.

The majority of film-goers are watching movies only for entertainment purposes. They just want to laugh and have some excitement or an adrenalin rush to temporarily distract them. They are not going to a film to be educated or exposed to new ideas or cultures, whereas the critic is always analyzing the film for something deep and meaningful underlying the surface, although many times it may not always be there.

The average film-goer will never read a review to determine if he should see a movie. The only criterion for him that matters is the Ad Campaign for the film. If the Advertising Campaign (Poster, or Trailer) draws his attention and it caters to his interests, he will see the film regardless of any reviews.

Even if the film-goer does inadvertently run across a movie review the only thing that will get his attention is the Star rating it was given. But even that may not influence his decision to see a particular film. Film-goers are probably more influenced by their friends and relatives who have seen the film, than by a film critic.

The other reason the average film-goer will not read a film review is simply because they don’t want to spoil the experience of being surprised while watching a film. Reviews give far too much information about a film that is not relevant to know before seeing the film and can spoil the experience.

Film-goers on average have a taste for a particular type of film and they seldom stray from their preferences. For example some people are only interested in seeing romantic comedies, and also have preferences for particular actors. Some people are only interested in suspense crime thrillers, and others are into musicals. A film review will not change that preference.

I believe that the only time the film critic has some influence with the general public is at the end of the year, when every critic announces their TOP 10 Best films of the year list. During this ritual the film critic has the ability to bring some good films to light that may have been overlooked or ignored by the general public. Some good examples of such films are Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Head-On, United 93, Pan’s Labyrinth, The Queen, Babel, No Country for Old Men, and There will be Blood.

At other times film critics may have an influence only when they are unanimously giving an overwhelming endorsement of a film that the media picks up on and starts to drive the momentum. The public then becomes more aware of the film as something special to see even if it doesn’t quite fit their preference. Some examples of this type of situation are My Big Fat Greek Wedding, The Full Monty, Chicago, Lost in Translation, Hairspray, Little Miss Sunshine, or Juno.

Other times that the film critic has an influence is when they are unanimously and overwhelmingly negative to a particular film. Then the film becomes known through the media as something so bad, it should be avoided at all costs and is a complete waste of time. Victims of overwhelmingly bad publicity are films like Alexander, Battlefield Earth, Gigli, and Elektra to name a few.


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