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The Reviewer’s Fallacy - When critics aren’t critical enough.

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The Reviewer’s Fallacy - When critics aren’t critical enough

#1

Post by monty » January 13th, 2018, 3:24 pm

"I have not seen A Quiet Passion, the Emily Dickinson biopic starring Cynthia Nixon. The film is a fixture of top-movies-of-2017 lists, including those of both A.O. Scott and Manohla Dargis of the New York Times. According to Rotten Tomatoes, 92 percent of critics liked the movie.

And those who paid for a ticket to watch it? Only 48 percent gave it a thumb’s up.

Note that almost everyone who’s seen A Quiet Passion or read To Rise Again at a Decent Hour belongs to a self-selected, inclined-to-like-it group, not random citizens plucked from the people standing in line for an Auntie Anne’s pretzel at the mall. The discrepancy between their estimation and the critics’ is an example of a persistent phenomenon. In my viewing and reading life, I’ve been repeatedly victimized by it, in a Charlie-Brown-and-the-football way. I call it the Reviewer’s Fallacy. One of its root causes stems from Sturgeon’s law, named after its originator, science-fiction author Theodore Sturgeon, who once observed, “It can be argued that 90% of film, literature, consumer goods, etc. is crap.” The “It can be argued” part usually isn’t quoted, and the figure is very ballpark. But it’s inarguable that the majority of what comes down the pike, in any medium, is mediocre or worse. It would be tiresome for critics to constantly be counting the ways that the work under review is crap, nor would their editors and the owners of the publications they write for be happy with a consistently downbeat arts section. The result is an unconscious inclination to grade on a curve. That is, if something isn’t very good, but is better than two-thirds of other entries in the genre—superhero epics, quirky or sensitive indie films, detective novels, literary fiction, cable cringe comedies—give it a B or B-plus.

A sign that the Reviewer’s Fallacy is in effect is copious attention to acting and cinematography... Manohla Dargis’s blurb for A Quiet Passion says it’s “exquisitely directed … with delicacy and transporting camera movements”; A.O. Scott’s says it has “poetic compression and musical grace.” There’s of course nothing wrong with those things, but for most potential consumers they’re not very high on the wish list. And what’s above them? The answer wildly differs for different people (a big reason why it’s so hard to be a good critic), but in our own way we’re all seeking what the Latin poet Horace termed “delight.” In books, films, and TV, that often comes down to a story to which we gratefully suspend our disbelief and that carries us along like a well-tuned sports car...When a reviewer goes on about a brilliant performance, or cleverly transgressive lyrics, I think of Paul Reiser’s bit about a friend who shows him a picture of his extraordinarily ugly baby. Reiser finds there is nothing he can say except, “Nice wallet!”

As a friend of mine suggests, critics fall prey to a sort of hermeneutic Stockholm syndrome. They experience so much bad work that they get inured to it. They are so thankful for originality, or for a creator’s having good or arguably interesting intentions, or for technical proficiency, or for a something that’s crap but not crap in quite the usual way, that they give these things undue credit. You see this in reactions to Coen brothers films, whose inside-baseball intricacies and references and sometimes distended cynicism set some critics’ hearts aflutter. Inside Llewyn Davis got 93 from the critics and 74 from the public on Rotten Tomatoes. For the brothers’ latest offering, Hail, Caesar!, the ratio is 85 to 44.


I hate to sound like a philistine, but audience-critic discrepancies often occur when a work is less than pleasant to sit through, whether because of The Sorrow and the Pity–like length (a growing problem, pun intended) or grim subject matter. Take last year’s Best Picture winner, Moonlight, which has a 98 critics’ and 79 audience score on Rotten Tomatoes, and which I haven’t seen. The Rotten Tomatoes blurb calls it “The tender, heartbreaking story of a young man’s struggle to find himself, told across three defining chapters in his life as he experiences the ecstasy, pain, and beauty of falling in love, while grappling with his own sexuality.” I can get that at home.

The Reviewer’s Fallacy isn’t going away. Just look at television, where the number of scripted series has now surpassed the number of books crossing Orwell’s reviewer’s desk. I need more than two hands to count the number of recent shows I’ve read high praise for, then been disappointed by. I don’t claim that I’m always right. I acknowledge it’s possible that by objective measures, if such exist, The Good Place is a wonderful entertainment. I can certainly enjoy reading a smart critic making that case. But when it comes to my precious dollars and time, I have come to realize that I’m on my own."

- SOURCE
Last edited by monty on January 13th, 2018, 3:27 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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#2

Post by Onderhond » January 13th, 2018, 4:06 pm

monty on Jan 13 2018, 08:24:13 AM wrote:“It can be argued that 90% of film, literature, consumer goods, etc. is crap.”
I'd say he is about 10% off.

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#3

Post by insomnia » January 13th, 2018, 4:16 pm

Why would you repost the worst article of the year so far?

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#4

Post by monty » January 13th, 2018, 4:31 pm

insomnia on Jan 13 2018, 09:16:57 AM wrote:Why would you repost the worst article of the year so far?
So what's your beef with the article? He does have a valid point, doesn't he?

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#5

Post by monk-time » January 13th, 2018, 4:32 pm

That's a punchable article if I ever saw one.
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#6

Post by monty » January 13th, 2018, 4:32 pm

monk-time on Jan 13 2018, 09:32:07 AM wrote:That's a punchable article if I ever saw one.
Why?

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#7

Post by insomnia » January 13th, 2018, 4:44 pm

monty on Jan 13 2018, 09:31:42 AM wrote:
insomnia on Jan 13 2018, 09:16:57 AM wrote:Why would you repost the worst article of the year so far?
So what's your beef with the article? He does have a valid point, doesn't he?
He has a point that he's a philistine and should probably never publish another word.

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#8

Post by monty » January 13th, 2018, 5:09 pm

insomnia on Jan 13 2018, 09:44:41 AM wrote:
monty on Jan 13 2018, 09:31:42 AM wrote:
insomnia on Jan 13 2018, 09:16:57 AM wrote:Why would you repost the worst article of the year so far?
So what's your beef with the article? He does have a valid point, doesn't he?
He has a point that he's a philistine and should probably never publish another word.
Why is he a philistine? Because he dares raise the issue of the gap between critical and popular opinion? Are you a Moonlight fanboy by any chance?

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#9

Post by monk-time » January 13th, 2018, 5:21 pm

monty on Jan 13 2018, 09:32:54 AM wrote:Why?
In a nutshell:

90% of any art is not crap, it's harmlessly average. Even if you start counting works that don't aspire to greatness and those created for purely personal reasons as art, you won't get to such a high figure unless the author thinks they can impress the ladies/gents with their world-weary negativity (hint: they can't, everyone's sick of it already). And that doesn't even take into account all that "the eye of the beholder" stuff.

You don't need to misuse five-dollar words to explain why people become more discerning with experience ("hermeneutic"? really? in a populist article? boy I'm glad it's attributed to the reviewer's 'friend'). That's literally what every single human goes through in almost every single facet of life, not only movies.

"Undue credit" is a very sneaky way to smuggle a suitcase nuclear bomb past the readers' puny "objectivity-in-art" detectors. It's great though that the author has it all figured out.

Every time I start feeling paranoid about the honesty of opinions of those who liked something I didn't, it's a sign that I need to figure out which particular insecurity of mine got randomly triggered by some trifle today. The author should too.
Last edited by monk-time on January 13th, 2018, 5:25 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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#10

Post by insomnia » January 13th, 2018, 5:43 pm

monty on Jan 13 2018, 10:09:52 AM wrote:
insomnia on Jan 13 2018, 09:44:41 AM wrote:
monty on Jan 13 2018, 09:31:42 AM wrote: So what's your beef with the article? He does have a valid point, doesn't he?
He has a point that he's a philistine and should probably never publish another word.
Why is he a philistine? Because he dares raise the issue of the gap between critical and popular opinion? Are you a Moonlight fanboy by any chance?
He hasn't even seen the movies he's complaining about and he's quoting aggregate website scores. This is cultural vegetables 2.0.
Last edited by insomnia on January 13th, 2018, 5:46 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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#11

Post by 3eyes » January 13th, 2018, 5:46 pm

Having been ignored on the other thread, I don't want to get into this. I'll just say that A Quiet Passion is a rare movie about a female artist that focuses on her art, not her love life or her dissolute brother or whatever. If that's crap, so be it.
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#12

Post by monk-time » January 13th, 2018, 6:12 pm

3eyes, your argument about how personal human interaction with art can be was very on-point, and part of the reason why I dislike most of the attacks against film critics.

The overwhelming majority of people have enough ways to choose what to consume without any guidance from film critics, and we often forget that those ways and reasons are very often indeed very personal (and hence subjective) in nature. It doesn't make critics irrelevant; but it does make it strange to treat them as some kind of powerful gate-keepers that prevent people from seeing what they would like. Critics are very helpful to enthusiast viewers who have exhausted other resources and haven't yet developed their own selection tools; this segment is sizable but not as overwhelmingly large as articles like this one paint it to be.
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#13

Post by 3eyes » January 13th, 2018, 6:46 pm

Thank you, Monk.
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#14

Post by St. Gloede » January 13th, 2018, 7:25 pm

I think this is interesting as it is the opposite of Onderhond's argument a week ago, i.e. "Critics must explore everything, regardless of value to the viewer" vs. the now: "Critics loving films that audiences don't appreciate as, is a fallacy - they should only give me what I'm sure to love".

The article is clearly deluded, as the author is thoroughly confused and lazy. A great critic would let you understand what type of film it is, and if you are interested. This guy seems to check the RT score and then see things randomly, and then be mad if it's well made, long or bleak ...

Can someone actually explain to me what the fallacy is? Is the fallacy that critics promote films audiences won't love? And who's fallacy is it? The author seems to imply it's the critic's fallacy. It is not. It is the audience's fallacy.

And it is an old one.

Ben Yagoda uses Daddy's Home 2 as an example of a film showing viewers as dumb, and in this case disrespected - but if he is a lazy "philistine" (as he requests to be called), then he is a-ok. There is no difference between complaining that critics didn't love Daddy's Home 2, and what this guy is doing. The difference lays only in pretension.

Edit: It is also worth noting that he's another one very close to the absurd notion that art/quality is objective - with the distinction that he seems to believe objectivity is RT thumbs ups and downs.
Last edited by St. Gloede on January 13th, 2018, 11:31 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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#15

Post by Onderhond » January 13th, 2018, 9:53 pm

St. Gloede on Jan 13 2018, 12:25:35 PM wrote:"Critics most explore everything, regardless of value to the viewer"
I'm not going to go whine about the nuances, but I do think you meant "must", which makes it at least somewhat more along the lines of what we discussed :)

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#16

Post by mathiasa » January 13th, 2018, 10:59 pm

The article makes some valid points. Very interesting read. But I don't think the issue is the gap between popular opinion and expert opinion. We don't need reviewer's to reproduce popular opinion, that would be pointless.

Also good choice of movies to exemplify his arguments, Inside Llewyn Davis and Moonlight are indeed ridiculously overrated with critics.

Another problem, not mentioned in the article, is that reviewers can become biased when they get to personally know filmmakers, that was my impression seeing Life Itself.
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#17

Post by St. Gloede » January 13th, 2018, 11:31 pm

Onderhond on Jan 13 2018, 02:53:36 PM wrote:
St. Gloede on Jan 13 2018, 12:25:35 PM wrote:"Critics most explore everything, regardless of value to the viewer"
I'm not going to go whine about the nuances, but I do think you meant "must", which makes it at least somewhat more along the lines of what we discussed :)
Haha, thanks for catching that!

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#18

Post by matthewscott8 » January 15th, 2018, 12:36 am

I think gloede has hit the nail on the head the job of the reviewer is to give you an inkling of whether you would like the movie. That doen't mean that he/she should try and emulate the star rating they expect the public to agree with. A good review is one where you understand that the critic loved the movie, but that you won't, or other permutations. A bad review is I like it so you'll like it.

Personally I don't think that reviews are the best way to find a good film. I tend to go by the pedigree of the creative individuals involved, any non-spoiler plot scene setter, and the movie trailers.


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#20

Post by Pretentious Hipster » January 14th, 2020, 3:15 pm

I have some beef with this article. This year gave us The Lighthouse, and Vitalina Varela. We still don't even know if other foreign films that came out that will be available this year. I would hardly call it a weak year.

I'll get this out of the way, yes... there is plenty discrimination with filmmaking for marginalized communities, women, other races, and intersectionality. Brushing off Little Women because it's a "woman's film" is also ridiculous (I'm skeptical of its praise because Lady Bird was so by the book). However, some of it does scream a false wokeness. People who feel woke for seeing Star Wars having two minorities, but won't watch anything groundbreaking with feminism like Hindle Wakes, and the works of Germaine Dulac, Chantal Akerman, Yvonne Rainer, Marguerite Duras, Alice Guy-Blaché, and PLENTY of others. Hell, they won't even watch a film that isn't made by western culture. This is what I believe will fix a lot of these problems. You know what made me huge into feminism and anti-colonialism? Expanding my horizons and seeing more stuff than insincere Disney films for insight. It'll never happen, but the Oscars turning more into something like Locarno will be a great start into becoming more inclusive.

I don't discriminate, but don't actively seek out films made by marginalized communities. For a start, I could mention that 2 films made in my all top 10 are by women, and 5 are foreign (haven't updated mine yet, but Vitalina Varela will make my top 10). My top 100 albums of the decade list has more variety than that. A trans woman, multiple non-binary people, and music from Africa and Asia. I mean hell, I know this comes across as snob-like behavior, but this is more inclusive than people who TRY to seem woke.

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#21

Post by Onderhond » January 14th, 2020, 6:52 pm

Pretentious Hipster wrote:
January 14th, 2020, 3:15 pm
I have some beef with this article. This year gave us The Lighthouse, and Vitalina Varela. We still don't even know if other foreign films that came out that will be available this year. I would hardly call it a weak year.
I think that quote is in relation to the extreme hype that was spread by reviewers/critics this year. Every years it seems to be getting a little worse too. About Joker, The Irishman, Parasite, Little Women, ...

As for the rest of your post, I fully agree, although I'd cite other recommendations of course :)
The funniest thing right now is the critics quest for more Asian representation, when they'll hardly willing to even touch an Asian film, apart from the ones that are force-fed to them.

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#22

Post by blocho » January 14th, 2020, 9:17 pm

It wasn't until the very end that I realized that the post was an excerpt from an article and not something written by Monty. Shame on me for not noticing the opening quotation mark.

So here are my four principal reactions, in order of importance:
- I like Auntie Anne's.
- There are some things in the article I really agree with and some things I really disagree with. I could explain further, but why bother?
- If you click through to the whole article, you will see that the author begins by discussing how he bought a book because the pull quotes on the cover were very positive ("Brilliant" - Washington Post), but when he read the book he didn't think it lived up to the praise on the cover. As a former journalist, I love this lede so much. It's the platonic ideal of a grumpy old columnist's lede. What kind of a life does this author live? Does he go to movies, and then say afterwards, "That wasn't nearly the 'edge-of-your-seat thrill ride' I was promised," and then spend the rest of the day fuming?
- Kudos to Monty, who has been quieter of late, but clearly has not lost even a modicum of his ability to get people flustered.
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#23

Post by fori » January 14th, 2020, 10:06 pm

Pretentious Hipster wrote:
January 14th, 2020, 3:15 pm
I don't discriminate, but don't actively seek out films made by marginalized communities. For a start, I could mention that 2 films made in my all top 10 are by women, and 5 are foreign (haven't updated mine yet, but Vitalina Varela will make my top 10).
When I look at it though, I see overwhelming whiteness. The only film in your top 25 not directed by a white person is Japanese, which is extremely common. Seems like half the film lists I see are 90% white and 10% Japanese.

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#24

Post by Pretentious Hipster » January 14th, 2020, 10:13 pm

fori wrote:
January 14th, 2020, 10:06 pm
Pretentious Hipster wrote:
January 14th, 2020, 3:15 pm
I don't discriminate, but don't actively seek out films made by marginalized communities. For a start, I could mention that 2 films made in my all top 10 are by women, and 5 are foreign (haven't updated mine yet, but Vitalina Varela will make my top 10).
When I look at it though, I see overwhelming whiteness. The only film in your top 25 not directed by a white person is Japanese, which is extremely common. Seems like half the film lists I see are 90% white and 10% Japanese.
Couldn't go beyond 25? Practically right after that is a Iranian and then a Mexican film for starters. I don't have any women and only one person of colour in my top 5 albums out of 100 for my decade list, must mean overwhelming whiteness too.

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#25

Post by fori » January 14th, 2020, 10:18 pm

Its beside the point though. Ok 6/50, have we fulfilled our commitment to represent the vast non-white majority in the world? That’s allowing for Mexico as non-white, and obviously there’s more nuance there.
You can count through the whole thing, I’m sure it would be interesting. I forecast no less than 80% white.

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#26

Post by Pretentious Hipster » January 14th, 2020, 10:26 pm

And that was besides my point anyways? I mentioned people of colour, which could imply American films made or representing marginalized communities. I also mentioned non-western cinema which is what they always fall for. Really, are you gonna call like Hungarian or Romanian cinema western cinema?

I mean hell, my example of the false wokeness was the two people starring in Star Wars. Didn't even mention that it was made by white men (which is the cherry on top for their views), and then you missed my final paragraph. "I don't discriminate, but don't actively seek out films made by marginalized communities." " I mean hell, I know this comes across as snob-like behavior, but this is more inclusive than people who TRY to seem woke." I know I didn't see as many obscure films as you, but geez.

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#27

Post by fori » January 14th, 2020, 10:37 pm

I’m not trying to shame you, and it’s not about obscure films either. If you’re interested in supporting those who don’t get representation, it’s good to always be vigilant. I know that I have watched an uncomfortably small number of films from Africa. We can all do better.
(I actually didn’t understand what you meant by that sentence the first time round)

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#28

Post by matthewscott8 » January 15th, 2020, 3:38 pm

I don't think watching a load of festival circuit African movies that Africans themselves don't watch is an important thing to do from a conscientious perspective. If you have concerns about Africa maybe donate to the Red Cross or invest out there. I enjoy watching these films but it's not a virtuous or conscientious thing to do.

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#29

Post by fori » January 15th, 2020, 4:58 pm

Or we could all just watch superhero films ad nauseam. I happen to think it’s a meaningful and enriching goal to explore different voices around the world, particularly if we are interested in anti-colonialism. Why would you assume what types of films I’m talking about here, or assume what the massively diverse people of an entire continent watch?

I think the comments I made earlier came off the wrong way though. I’m not trying to take down pretentious hipster, and I agree he has done far more in this area than most, which is admirable and impressive. But the point is we shouldn’t dismiss the impulse to seek further diversity, even if a lot of “woke” people can be hypocrites.

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#30

Post by matthewscott8 » January 15th, 2020, 9:28 pm

fori wrote:
January 15th, 2020, 4:58 pm
Or we could all just watch superhero films ad nauseam. I happen to think it’s a meaningful and enriching goal to explore different voices around the world, particularly if we are interested in anti-colonialism. Why would you assume what types of films I’m talking about here, or assume what the massively diverse people of an entire continent watch?

I think the comments I made earlier came off the wrong way though. I’m not trying to take down pretentious hipster, and I agree he has done far more in this area than most, which is admirable and impressive. But the point is we shouldn’t dismiss the impulse to seek further diversity, even if a lot of “woke” people can be hypocrites.
if you watched some superhero films you might be expressing solidarity with the populace of africa as they are very interested in these movies. Or you could just do your usual and support the film industry of the new colonial power in Africa, China. :P

I think watching films to experience otherness is a minorly positive idea. But we shouldnt fool ourselves that we're anything other than aesthetes.

We also shouldn't overestimate the moral benefits. It's perfectly possible to cry watching Brokeback Mountain or The Crying Game and still act as a homophobe or transphobe in real life situations.

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#31

Post by fori » January 15th, 2020, 10:45 pm

Thanks for painting 1 billion people with the same brush of a stereotype that verges on racist. Again. Yeah I'm sure non-white people don't watch art films, they all just watch lowest common denominator superhero trash, but as a white man you know better. And did I say this was a great moral victory? I'm not arguing that doing your bit for diversity is equal to say, going vegan, but it's worth pursuing. Sure plenty of homophobes have seen Brokeback Mountain, just like plenty of white people have seen African art films and just assumed that the people of that continent are ignorant of those films. But if we engage with them genuinely, there's an opportunity to learn something.

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#32

Post by matthewscott8 » January 16th, 2020, 5:53 am

fori wrote:
January 15th, 2020, 10:45 pm
Thanks for painting 1 billion people with the same brush of a stereotype that verges on racist. Again. Yeah I'm sure non-white people don't watch art films, they all just watch lowest common denominator superhero trash, but as a white man you know better. And did I say this was a great moral victory? I'm not arguing that doing your bit for diversity is equal to say, going vegan, but it's worth pursuing. Sure plenty of homophobes have seen Brokeback Mountain, just like plenty of white people have seen African art films and just assumed that the people of that continent are ignorant of those films. But if we engage with them genuinely, there's an opportunity to learn something.
your accusations are verging on the ludicrous and don't deserve a response, as usual

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#33

Post by flavo5000 » January 16th, 2020, 3:41 pm

Can I just continue to watch both superhero films and obscure foreign films in equal measure because I like both?

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#34

Post by matthewscott8 » January 20th, 2020, 10:54 am

flavo5000 wrote:
January 16th, 2020, 3:41 pm
Can I just continue to watch both superhero films and obscure foreign films in equal measure because I like both?
Gotta check 'em all!

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#35

Post by St. Gloede » January 20th, 2020, 2:14 pm

Just to add into the above: If you want to tap into the American zeitgeist/what the American public cares about, watching Jon Jost is probably not the way to go, and there shouldn't be anything anti-American or racist in saying that.

I think it is the same way Samlion will get mad at us for talking JLG when discussing French Cinema, or how others get frustrated when we talk about Jia as the standout Chinese cinema - ignoring their massive action scene (which I just have to say does not interest me in the slightest).

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#36

Post by fori » January 20th, 2020, 3:31 pm

Mmm for sure, but that wasn’t the point I was making. For instance, Jia Zhangke is not obscure in the slightest in China. On the IMDb equivalent Douban (which has a far smaller user base than IMDb) Ash is Purest White alone has over 200000 ratings. To suggest that non white nations don’t watch the art films that we, the educated elite prefer - isn’t it obvious how this borders on (if not enters into) racism?

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#37

Post by St. Gloede » January 20th, 2020, 5:29 pm

Matt never said that people who aren't white don't watch art films, he rather made the suggestion that most people do not watch "art films" - but fair point re-Jia (and of course JLG is also quite famous in France).

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#38

Post by matthewscott8 » January 20th, 2020, 6:18 pm

Firstly I don't know how anyone could get the impression I was implying something racist, genuinely baffled at how what I said could be interpreted that way; oppressed people enjoy superhero movies because they engender hope, and also spaghetti westerns were hugely popular in Africa for the same reasons. Secondly the idea that the educated elite watch art films is absolutely ludicrous. Hardly anybody watches art films, whatever stratum of society you want to look at. If I could draw a hugely generalised and weakly applicable stereotype of people I have met who watch art films, it would be the sad eyed loners of low to middle income backgrounds (the reverse doesn't work, the same person I described would be highly unlikely to watch arthouse movies). Thirdly, how is anyone involved in this conversation part of an elite? I don't know your biographical info fori, but I don't think anyone else here I know qualifies. Fourthly, Ash is the Purest White has got viewings due to lowest common denominator ingredients, Jia went the "girl and a gun" route.

Gloede is correct that my main suggestion is that hardly anyone watches art films. I live in hope of being wrong, but when I speak to Iranians they have never watched Kiarostami, my Portuguese friends have never watched Oliveira, Polish friends don't even know who Wajda is; I have a Lithuanian friend who has at least heard of Jonas Mekas, but not Sharunas Bartas, etc. (oh and my American friends don't know who Cassavetes is or British friends Dwoskin in case you think there is some Anglosphere exemption from my commenting). People don't give a crap about this stuff which is why we are here talking to each other across the world on an obscure low membership forum.

Also to reiterate, being a cinemaniac, sat around all day watching arthouse movies, has no moral dimension, it doesn't make you a good or bad person. It's time spent apart from human contact, and it's wishful thinking to believe that it will cultivate empathy, a dangerous illusion.

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#39

Post by fakeusername2 » January 20th, 2020, 8:56 pm

Who actually reads movie reviews? Seriously, who is the target demographic? Exactly zero people who stumble into the theater to watch the latest Hollywood movies reads reviews, so it's not exactly surprising that reviewers don't cater to this audience. My guess is that most reviewers work for rags like 'The New Yorker' that need something to fill up their culture sections other than bad poetry. And since nobody reads The New Yorker straight through like a novel, most people who thumb to the culture section for reviews want something to make conversation with other people who pretend to read The New Yorker: "did you hear about this new arthouse film from Africa" -- I know Africa's not a country, please excuse my malignant racism k thx -- "it's really [insert paraphrase of vacuous TNY quote.]" People who actually watch a lot of movies know how to pick what to watch using their own heuristics, and for everyone else algorithms are the future.

I don't know -- in my fifteen years of watching movies I never once read a review. Actually, that's not true; I read a bunch of reviews of 'Once Upon a Time in Hollywood' a couple weeks back because I had some spare time and was looking for some suckers to pay me ninety bucks for my thoughts. All of them were terrible. Without exception, they were vapid, poorly written, and lacking any insight beyond the caliber of social commentary you'd get from the journalism department's monthly periodical. I think this makes sense if nobody is actually reading the reviews. Rags need the culture section, MFAs need to eat, and New Yorkers (the people, not the magazine) need something superficial to talk about in the checkout line: a nice equilibrium.

And that's why this article, "The Reviewer's Fallacy," also turned into a waste of time. Yagoda tells us that reviewers and the general movie-going public have different priorities. My God, you don't say, did anyone tell The New Yorker?! (NB: It's surprising -- sorry, I mean not surprising at all and completely and utterly predictable -- that Yagoda wrote a book fawning over The New Yorker.) The whole function of this article is to get people to remember the clever little "reviewer's fallacy" until it's part of the culture. I imagine that this article is making bigger rounds on Twitter than the usual piece from the Slate culture section. Slate wins, Yagoda wins, wannabe aristocrats win, and everyone else still has nothing interesting to read about movies.

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#40

Post by fori » January 20th, 2020, 9:24 pm

matthewscott8 wrote:
January 15th, 2020, 3:38 pm
watching a load of festival circuit African movies that Africans themselves don't watch
Spare me your indignation, when I say highly educated elite, I'm being facetious, and am talking about film rather than power structures of the world. The objection to the above phrase which you never acknowledged and frankly doubled down on is that you are generalising about a billion people of extraordinarily diverse backgrounds in a way that could imply disdain for their intellect. I never said this was racism, but that it's getting toward that territory. It's ironic that you say that consuming diverse media doesn't build empathy; I would said the exact same things you have here a few years ago. Of course it's not a moral good or bad to watch endless films, even ones that have something important to say. But there is a small but meaningful positive if you take something good away from those viewings.
And sure, "hardly anyone" watches art films. Anecdotally I know many people who fall outside this trend but I agree broadly. But would you have said "festival films that the Europeans themselves don't watch"?

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