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Discuss the role played by a film critic

Film is a story or event recorded by a camera as a set of moving images and shown in a cinema or on television. Film criticism is the analysis and evaluation of films and the film medium. A film critic therefore is a person who analysis and evaluates films. Film criticism is often used interchangeably with that of the film reviews. A film review implies a recommendation aimed at consumers, however not all film criticism takes the form of reviews (Wikipedia).

Film criticism can be divided into journalistic and academic categories; journalistic criticism appears regularly in newspapers, magazines and other mass-media outlets while academic criticism by film scholars is informed by theories of film and published in academic journals. Academic film criticism normally analyses a film and its place within the history of its genre, or the whole of film history. Film criticism gained its popularity in the 1920s when critics started analyzing film for its merit and value as more than just entertainment, giving viewers a place where they could better understand the stories.

Why is criticism so important? Is it a killer of dreams or of the film fraternity? Jonathan Rosenbaum respond by saying that film criticism aims ‘to facilitate a discussion’ (McWhirter, 2013). Criticism is a form of communication between the director and their audience. If someone has criticism it means they want to give you feedback on your film. It therefore becomes an opportunity to learn more about the audience who you’re working for and how to convert them into a satisfied customer or audience member. Hence it is critical to take a moment to think before responding to the feedback. It is the reason why directors need to receive feedback, criticism or commentary in a graceful manner.  Being patient and able to receive and act on criticism ensures both director and audience can work towards a better outcome. In other words, criticism opens you to the hearts and aspirations of the audience.

Film criticism helps film producers to create stronger products that will meet the demands of the audience. Directors must listen to critics and use that information to build better characters, great plots and other elements that makes a movie. Critics play a significant role in consumers’ decisions in many industries (Austin, 1983). The role of critics may be most prominent in the film industry (Eliashberg and Shugan 1997). More than one-third of Americans actively seek the advice of film critics (The Wall Street Journal, 2001), and approximately one of every three filmgoers say they choose films because of favorable reviews. Realizing the importance of reviews to films’ box office success, studios often strategically manage the review process by excerpting positive reviews in their advertising.

Critics can both influence and predict outcomes. The impact of critical reviews is strongest in the early weeks of a film run and can fall over time as studio buzz from new releases takes over. Raving reviews about the Black Panther saw many moviegoers in Zimbabwe trooping to Ster Kinekor movie houses. The Zimbabwean film audience continued to talk about it on social platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and Whatsapp groups for almost two months. It is interesting to note that Black Panther performed well on the box office with a USD1,2 billion beating Thor: Ragnarok which had USD854 million. Eliashberg and Shugan (1997) wrote that film criticism affects box office performance. According to them, critics play two potential roles of actively influencing the decisions of consumers in the early weeks of a film exhibition and also predicting consumers’ decisions and behavior. Negative reviews can hurt box office performance more than positive reviews help box office performance. Movies such as Baywatch (2017), Alexander (2004), Sahara (2005), Mars Needs Moms (2011), John Carter (2012), The Lone Ranger (2012) and 47 Ronin (2013) were huge flops as a result of bad critical reviews (Coates 2015 & Quartz Index 2017).

Constructive criticism can guide you away from bad practices and towards good ones. It challenges producers with an objective introspection at what they provide as though it’s not their work. Oftentimes producers and other content makers get carried away thinking they are the best storytellers ever and their way is the best way ever, however criticism is the barometer to challenge self-aggrandizement as the critics can decimate a work of art extolling the good and castigating the bad. Good directors learn from their mistakes and address their shortcomings in subsequent works. Failure to hid the advice of critics will result in you making films to a non-existent audience and that is career suicide.

The quest for positive film criticism has seen Sony Pictures being sued by Omar Rezec and Ann Belknap in a Los Angeles courtroom as a result of a staged film critic. According to the court papers, Sony Executives created a fictional character to write positive critical reviews to influence box office performance of the movie A Knight’s Tale (2001). After watching the movie, which many described as not worthy, Rezec and Belknap sued Sony Pictures on behalf of all film fans tricked by the ads. Sony responded by apologising and suspending two senior executives for a month without salary (Irish Examiner, 2001). Many people were tricked by the positive reviews and Sony Pictures made a killing at the box office.

In as much as film criticism can be great to have as a producer of film, it is also detrimental when handled carelessly. It can lead to stress to people who are being criticized as they might not be able to handle it. The use of derogatory statements can be demeaning and difficult to handle. Criticism is supposed to be constructive and an analysis of a work of art and not the character of the producer. Many people may fail to distinguish between the producer and the product and instead of critiquing the product they critique the producer thereby creating discord and portraying the producer in bad light. Other film critics forget that everyone makes mistakes and mistakes are necessary tools of wisdom and growth. The other problem with film criticism is that it is mainly done by academics who have never done any project that has seen the light of the day and these have become evangelists who advocates for perfectionism. The worst case with academics is they are never satisfied.

Film criticism has developed over the years and websites such as Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic, seek to improve the usefulness of film reviews by compiling them and assigning a score to each in order to gauge the general reception a film receives. Such websites have become commanding and authoritative voices in film criticism and many people consult them for in-depth analysis of movies and research.

References

  1. Basuroy Suman,2014. How Critical Are Critical Reviews? The Box Office Effects of Film Critics, Star Power, and Budgets. Accessed from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/237401649 Accessed on 8/5/2018
  2. Andrew McWhirter (2013) Film criticism, film theory, and the middle range, International Journal of Jungian Studies, 5:2, 177-180, DOI: 10.1080/19409052.2013.773631
  3. https://qz.com/index/996838/baywatch-flopped-and-now-movie-studios-are-blaming-rotten-tomatoes/
  4. Basuroy Suman,2014. How Critical Are Critical Reviews? The Box Office Effects of Film Critics, Star Power, and Budgets. Accessed from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/237401649 Accessed on 8/5/2018
  5. Tyler Coates, 2015. ‘Waterworld’ And Beyond: Looking Back At The Biggest Flops Of The Last 20 Years Accessed from https://decider.com/2015/07/28/biggest-flops-of-the-last-20-years/ Accessed on 8/5/2018
  6. https://www.irishexaminer.com/breakingnews/world/sony-faces-lawsuit-in-phoney-critic-debacle-15043.html

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