In which I question my existence

I find myself at a crossroads.

For the better part of my teenage years, I have been striving to become a film critic. At the age of 14, I began writing film reviews for a fledgling opinion site. The name of that site escapes me now, but I remember those few months as being the solidifier to my aspirations – I wanted to write about movies and, above all else, I wanted to inform people.

And now here I am, three days shy of 19. I have six years of review writing experience under my belt, with countless hours devoted to the art. I have worked on newspapers, magazines and several online publications. I’ve managed three blogs to date, including the humble site on which you currently reside. And though I don’t begin to consider myself a film critic, or even an expert on the subject of cinema, I feel as though I’m entitled, as a true lover of film, to offer my opinion to the public.

But recently, I have seriously come to consider the unbearable futility of being a film critic. For the first time in my life, I ask myself, “Is it even worth it?”

I blame my job, for the most part. As a video clerk, I rent out hundreds upon thousands of copies of films not worthy of anyone’s attention. Films lambasted by critics, hailed as horrible heaps of crap. And yet, day after day, they’re rented out by the hundreds to people who are just happy as can be that they managed to snag a copy of “The Marine.”

And good films, movies that are more than deserving of a rental, are left ignored and overlooked on the dusty shelves. Foreign, independent, art-house, lesser-known films – they all sit dormant and unwatched. And all the while, the masses clamber for the last copies of “Flyboys” and “The Guardian,” horrible movies that are most assuredly going to be forgotten in a matter of months.

It instills in me an overwhelming sense of despair. Clearly, the critics are being ignored. And I’m throwing myself into a business that shares its opinions with a public who plug their collective ears and instead judge a movie on “how cool the DVD cover looks.”

These absurdly depressing thoughts were spurred by a young man who, two days ago, asked for my opinion on the movie “Crank.”

“Well,” I offered, “I loved it. If you’re looking for a solid action flick, it’s awesome. Lot’s of car chases and gun fights. I mean, it’s somewhat lacking in terms of plot and character development—”

“Oh,” he interjected. “You’re one of those, huh?”

I was a bit taken aback. I eyed him quizzically. He had said “one of those” with such amusement, like I was something to laugh at. “One of those? How do you mean?”

“Well, it’s just that, you know, most people couldn’t care less about plot and character development and crap like that,” he said, grinning slightly.

I didn’t return the smile. “Crap like that?”

“Yeah, people just want to be entertained.”

Entertained. That's it. No fulfillment, no meaning. Films are simple entertainment and nothing more.

I finished the transaction quickly, sent him on his way with a halfhearted “Have a nice night, your movies are due back on Thursday,” and spent the remainder of my shift in a deep depression.

I’m not even sure I want to live in a world where things like plot are considered to be useless “crap.” I’ve accused the public before of using movies as convenient time-killers, as simple two-hour watch-it-forget-it entertainment, and it’s things like this that reaffirm my stance on the average moviegoer as a sheep-like idiot.

These sort of encounters, which happen disturbingly often, make me fear for the future of cinema. How long until the multiplexes engulf the art-houses and three-screens? How long until re-hashed, cliché garbage like “The Guardian” is all we have?

I sincerely hope it doesn’t happen in my lifetime.

But back to my original question: Are critics even necessary? It seems to me like many people watch whatever the hell they want, regardless of the reviews it receives. Why else would we have rented out any copies of “The Wicker Man?” What use is it, being a critic, if we’re viewed as elitist outsiders, mentally detached from the mainstream society?

I like to think that there are still those out there who listen to the critics. Not obey, mind you – the critics aren’t the great filters of film by any means – but simply heed them. I’ll continue to give my honest and true opinion of movies to those who ask, and supply my wry, sarcastic comments to those who don’t.

Even if critics worldwide are yelling at the top of their lungs to a crowd with earplugs, I’d be happy to yell alongside them. Because I am "one of them," and I'm proud of it. Call me a snob, call me an out-of-touch elitist. But at the end of the day, it's you who'll be talking to your buddies about how tight "Flyboys" was, and I'll ponder the possible symbolism behind the sunglasses in Frederico Fellini's "8 1/2."

And I'm just happy as hell to be doing that.


  1. Matt, the fact that you're 'mentally detached from the mainstream' and an 'elitist outsider' means that you are, by definition, 'not a douche". Be proud.

    You have a good opinion, but seriously, don't judge the whole world based on the people who happen to stumble into Hollywood while you happen to be working. The people who'll heed you are the people who already saw the good flicks on the day that they came out. If you do your job correctly, you'll never see your audience.

  2. A good point. I suppose that the sheer number of idiots who filter into Hollywood Video everyday isn't exactly a proper representation. There is a distinct difference between the theater crowd and the rental crowd. For the rental crowd, movies are more about entertainment. It's just the truth of it.

    I suppose being a critic is a bit of a thankless job. As you sit there, suffering through a movie, you think to yourself, "If people listen to me, they won't have to sit through this schlock."

  3. HEY GUYS!!!! WHAT'S GOIN' ON???

    Oh, and Matt. This was a good post. I think you ARE worthwhile and like when you talk about movies. That, I think, is when you REALLY SHINE. Anyway, you're good. I miss you and now that I see her post Katina.

    Come 'ere.



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