DON’T BE KEN TURRAN – A Humble Request to Film Critics from a No-Name Blogger
A discussion recently popped up on The-W.com (a message board) regarding Darren Arnonofsky’s film “The Wrestler,” starring Mickey Rourke as an aging professional wrestler on the independent circuit trying to scrape together something resembling a living (and maybe even a comeback).
I’ll make no secret that as a…I guess I’d say former fan of the product, I’m interested in seeing it. Not just because I was such a huge fan, but that many of the aspects of the industry that ultimately drove me away from my enjoyment of it are, if the trailers are any indication, at least partially on display here. Also, the reviews I’ve read for both Rourke’s performance and the film have been positively glowing.
Of course, one can’t expect every single critic to agree on a film. If anything I’m always a bit skeptical when critics seemingly all lay down in unanimous praise of a film, since more often than not it’s indicative more of a desire to like the film than it is based on the actual enjoyment of it or appreciation of what the filmmakers have accomplished.
But there’s something about Ken’s review that doesn’t sit right with myself and a lot of other folks. Trunzo noted:
“After watching the movie twice in the past 2 days, I can say that this LA Times review is horribly misinformed, inaccurate, and just generally in the dark on the movie, its premise, what makes it work, and the realism it portrays.”
I can tell you the same without even having seen the film myself, especially since this isn’t the first time reading Turran’s critique of a film left me scratching and/or shaking my head. But it was a follow-up comment that really caught my interest, from another fellow poster, Oliver:
“Most reviewers can be that way. I generally ignore reviews: they’re, for the most part, opinion pieces about the movies, and the people reviewing them don’t have a personal investment in them. In that, I mean, they’re being paid to watch movies, as opposed to those who invest $12 for a movie ticket or something.”
I’m going to go a little beyond calling “bulls***” on that comment. If he’s reading this, I hope “Oliver” doesn’t take personal offense – it’s not an indictment of the individual making the statement but of the statement itself, which I’ve seen repeated ad hominem by folks whenever they find themselves disagreeing or simply not wanting to agree with a film critic.
I don’t know why this is the case, but I find myself more and more often having this strong desire to jump to the defense of film critics. Not specific critics mind you, but rather the large body of reviewers, analysts, and film scholars that often get lumped into one large group whose work, insights, and contributions to the medium are discounted for the sake of saying “they’re all wrong” or “this is the way most of them are.”
There’s some truth in what Oliver says – it’s all subjective, to be sure. However, to say that most reviewers can “be that way” in regards to Ken Turran’s woefully misguided attempt to even convey the basic premise of the film isn’t just unfair to a lot of critics who disagree with Turran, but with film critics as a whole.
The problem with Ken Turran is equal parts pretension and a burning desire to go against the grain for the sake of getting attention. Why else would the same reviewer who panned “The Wrestler” give such an enthusiastically positive review to a film like “W.,” which even I as an uneducated filmgoer saw as nothing more than a shallow and uninspired biopic whose quality wouldn’t even be worthy of a world premiere as a TNT original film?
No, my friends, most critics aren’t “like that.” Just guys like Ken Turran can be. At times.
I don’t want to throw poor Ken under the bus, since I’ve liked and/or took something out of prior film reviews he’s written. However, he can be a poor example when he has a pre-determined approach to how he’ll review a film even before he starts watching it, and as such forms the construct of his article during the viewing the film rather than allowing his viewing of the film to be the construct of the critique.
His other problem is, of course, his unabashed and unashamed pretensions. The fact that sentences like ““I’ve Loved You So Long” is the kind of film America’s moviemakers have all but given up on” appear in his reviews portray less of a desire to review a film as to use it as an excuse to completely discount an entire class or genre of filmmaker. You know exactly the type I’m talking about – they’re the critics/film buffs that will wax poetic about the bravery of foreign filmmakers and how it’s their adventerous spirit and dedication to film as an artform that separates them from mainstream American films. Which is fine, and apt. Except in doing so, they will completely discount the fact that every country’s film scene has its aueteurs and its hacks. Bollywood, anyone?
So for those of you reading this that are critics – profesionally, on an amateur level, or simply for fun’s sake – I beg of you not to fall into Ken’s trap. It’s folks like Ken that end up creating the moviegoer that views critics as nothing more than elitist snobs whom aren’t deserving of a passive glance, let alone serious consideration.