On Critics

Speaking of wanky critics, here’s a piece from yesterday’s Guardian on Snakes on a Plane:

The most keenly anticipated film of 2006 is almost certainly going to be one of its worst. No possible cinematic good can come of a plot which revolves around an attempt to assassinate a mafia suspect, travelling under FBI protection, by smuggling several hundred deadly vipers, adders and constrictors aboard the aircraft transporting the miscreant to trial. This film – and nobody is pretending otherwise – will suck.

Excuse me while I gag. No possible cinematic good? Is there some magic scale of goodness of which I’m unaware? What is it about cinema that inspires people to take it so goddamn seriously?

The Snakes On A Plane hype, originated entirely by people with no financial stake in the film, and who know it will be atrocious, may well mark the point at which the internet age’s demented love of irony has mutated into active collaboration in the cretinisation of our culture.

I just can’t stand this kind of elitist preaching. The cretinisation of our culture? In the past I’d have lapped this up. It made me feel superior, that I understood things beyond the reach of the average person. I was full of crap, and so is this.

The point of any film is to entertain, and that’s it. Some may aim to inform, but this has to be done by entertainment. I personally like it when movies make me think, or create clever allegories to real-world problems, or have dialogue that sends shivers down my spine, but plenty of people aren’t interested in these things. I also like to be able to relax for a couple of hours and watch people saving the world. I’m damn well not going to be ashamed of this, but there are plenty of critics who appear to think I should be. The only reason to claim that one kind of film is objectively better than another is to make yourself feel superior. Cinema has the power to educate and to inspire, but no obligation to do so. It’s meant to be fun, for crying out loud!

Of course it’s fun to argue about the rights and wrongs of films, but the above goes beyond enjoyable banter into creating a superior clique that truly understands what is good and bad in cinema, and laughs at those who disagree. If the aim were to enhance people’s enjoyment, I wouldn’t have a problem, but it’s not. The idea here is to make people feel ashamed. “You liked Mission: Impossible: 2? What a prole!” And that’s appalling. There is nothing more virtuous in creating The Godfather than there is in creating Snakes on a Plane. The purpose of both is entertainment. It should be obvious that there is no right/wrong when it comes to art, and pretending otherwise serves only to drive wedges where society needs bridges. If you want to set your baseline so that anything made purely to entertain is worthy of your derision then go ahead, but please don’t presume to tell everybody else that they’re wrong.

I feel better now šŸ™‚