In his Garbage Day newsletter, Ryan Broderick wrote about film criticism and how it has fallen in quality and been replaced by aggregated review scores:
Every fandom has some online leaderboard they obsess over and if their favorite artist or franchise gets a bad score on it, they react extremely violently. You can see this attitude really clearly in recent tweets from pop artist Charli XCX, who recently lashed out at Pitchfork writer Laura Snapes, who wrote in the Guardian that she was wrong about her initial review of Charli XCX’s Vroom Vroom EP. “This is why reviews are kind of silly in my opinion…,” the singer tweeted. “Like if the sway of culture and popular opinion is the thing that’s forcing a journalist to reconsider their review with hindsight then what’s the point of even reviewing in the first place?”
Which, yeah, what is the point when your review gets aggregated into unmovable score? But it’s the platforms that got this wrong, not the critics. Criticism is WWE. It’s a fluid conversation that’s meant to rile you up. I still hold grudges against certain critics and I actually think that’s fine. I can’t even remember why I’m still angry at the Boston Globe’s former film critic Ty Burr, but I knowhat t (sic) I have beef with him. It’s all meant to be debated and reassessed. It’s not a product review.
The only (living) film critics I know from memory are probably Mark Kermode and Dom Griffin. I don’t have any strong feelings towards the former but Dom is a friend and I respect his opinions on film and wider popular culture. Much like Quentin Tarantino, who Ryan quoted at the start of his piece, I don’t really know what other critics are saying or what they think of movies. The difference is I don’t really seek it out so I guess that’s on me.
But I do agree that there’s an obsession with numbers, whether its aggregated reviews on Rotten Tomatoes or box office figures on opening days, followed by weekends, then weeks, months, and then when it goes to streaming platforms or digital download. None of it really matters to the viewers but the general media force an imagined importance on everyone so we end up quoting it and using those arbirtrary figures as a proxy for success and quality.
How many older films have you heard got panned upon release, only to become “cult classics” and then “reevaulated” by critics (sometimes by the ones who panned them in the first place). It’s all nonsense. Yeah, we can all change our minds but not so often, and not if its guided by a social media campaign (echoing Charli XCX’s sentiments above).