There was a time when the thing in newspapers I was most eager to read was the movie review section. To me, the reviews then represented a true and infallible assessment of a movie’s quality. I even used to argue the merits and demerits of a movie with my friends based on the reviews I read. *Coughs* Sometimes without even actually watching the movie. *Coughs* But then I grew up. Two things slowly started to become clear. One- movie reviews and box office performance had little correlation with each other. Two- a movie review was hardly an indicator of whether I myself would like or dislike the movie. Although, I must add, I still check out movie reviews. Not so much to assess the quality of movies, but merely because I find it interesting to read how other people judge a movie.
Anybody and everybody can have an opinion on a movie and in today’s age of blogging, micro-blogging and other forms of social networking, anybody and everybody can broadcast that opinion to a wide audience. How much of that opinion is valid? After all, opinions are subjective things. Someone might find Chennai Express a lovely entertainer. Someone else might dismiss it as abominable crap.
The same goes for movie critics who get paid to write in recognized media- like newspapers, magazines, online reviews etc. Most of the reviews I have read till date just state an opinion. They just state how a movie has titillated or disgusted their entertainment taste-buds. How many of these movie critics are actually versed in film theory – the actual art of making movies? Do any of these critics realize the amount of painstaking labor and care which goes into creating a simple shot? Some of them might. Some of them might not. I, personally, prefer reviews which delve into the technical nature of things. That way, I have the specifics. And not a string of meaningless adjectives. And delving into the technical side of things means the critic has to know movie-making.
I understand, of course, that the knowledge of technicalities is not an essential requirement for writing a review. If that were the case, most reviews and critics would immediately be rendered meaningless. And obviously, most of us realize a review might have little bearing on how we personally rate the movie.
The above realization raises another question though- the validity of reviews and critics in today’s context. There are academic movie critics, of course. And as long as movie-making is recognized a subject of study, these academicians will continue to be relevant.
But what of the reviews and criticisms we are flooded with in popular media? Reviews on radios, TV, newspapers, blogs- are any of them really worth paying any attention to? There are no clear-cut answers to this obviously. I personally think they still are. A lot of movies would probably never have got noticed had it not been for good reviews. Take ‘The Hurt Locker’ for example. Or our very own ‘Hera Pheri’. These are movies whose success got buouyed through positive reviews. The depressing thing is- a lot of reviews are probably bought. So that again casts a cloud of suspicion on their validity. I guess I can’t blame the movie-makers for buying reviews.
Bad reviews have sometimes spelled the doom of a movie. With so much of money riding on a movie, who can blame them? All said and done, I don’t think I’m going to give up on movie reviews soon though. They are amusing in their own way. More than the movie they sometimes provide an insight into the reviewer’s own mind.