Tag: critics

Film Critics: You’re Doing it Wrong


I wonder how many decisions go into making a movie? A hundred, a thousand, ten thousand, a hundred thousand …..more? Casting alone would present a thousand questions with multiple outcomes. Just to make it a little more complicated; let’s introduce a well established canon with a built in fan-base, but at the same time try to branch out and create something altogether new. Oh ya, and there is also potentially billions of dollars riding on the decisions you make. I think those last few factors may have some influence on the way you go about things. So what do you do?


You go out and make Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and Rogue One a Star Wars story,……. then you market the crap out of all the decisions you made, then collectively hold your breath and see what the fans think, and then check your receipts, and then … maybe see what the critics are saying. So what are the critics saying? In the case of the two movies mentioned above: the consensus for both of them is that ‘they are both at home in the universes they inhabit with a welcome cast of new characters that create an enjoyable chapter to expand their canons but are not without their flaws’. Highly serviceable to borderline satisfactory. Wow brings a tear to the eye!


As of this moment we have yet to create the perfect blockbuster movie that satisfies everyone. The reason being; there are too many specified factions to appease. How do you cater to the hardcore fans and the uninitiated simultaneously? They both require two different things that often run in direct opposition to one another. Now that we reaffirm all our own beliefs and opinions on social media, we can pick and choose the reviews that suit our experiences. If you want a nostalgia based Easter-egg laced review you’ll get it for the nod and wink crowd. If you’re more into the opportunity missed, what I would have done differently review, they’re multiplying like rabbits. If middle of the road, should I spend my money on this is more to your liking than just glance at the overall percentages or box office receipts.

A few things that need to be considered: what do you want to get out of the movie going experience? We all want to be entertained, ideally through our heads and our hearts but how high are our standards? Is anything short of (insert your favourite movie here) passable. Can a movie even come close to the character development and long range storytelling that we are spoiled with in the Golden Age of television? How much ownership do we have to these worlds and why do we take our entertainment so personally?


Everyone’s a critic, myself included. I watched both films discussed and was happy with the results. The kid in me was tapping myself on the shoulder exclaiming “did you see what they did there?” more times than my inner critic poking me in the back saying”did you see what they did there?”.  I will probably get the DVD’s when they come out (because I’m a Philistine that loves dated technology) and watch them over and over high-fiving my inner child the whole time. Mission accomplished.

How’s that for a review?

Paging Doctor John “Basil” Disco


So sometimes, I don’t think I’m a particularly smart individual; scratch that, I know I’m not. I gave up on trying to predict things a long time ago, not because I couldn’t do it, but because it kind of ruined things for me. Now, I’m more content to be in the moment. I would make for a lousy weatherman. So it came as a big surprise that after watching last night’s Doctor Who episode I was left with a small theory about our favourite Gallifreyan (more on this a little later). See, I have this annoying habit of watching television programs and movies and enjoying them for what they are and not for what I want them to be. I think I can see the larger themes, allegories and pick up on some of the hidden references that are there for the initiated, but then again maybe a lot of it is going over my head. In the Whovian world I’m definitely a light weight. I’ve watched all the new Who and some of the old Who but am in the dark about most of its mythology and I’m OK with that. I read reviews and recaps and think, I didn’t see it that way. Why are so many people dissatisfied with certain show-runners, companions or Doctors or lack of action or too much of this and not enough of that. Fandom in some cases has ruined being a fan. Doing something well is really hard, but doing something well consistently well for over 50 years, well that’s near impossible. I guess I like Doctor Who no matter who’s steering the ship.

Do I have a favourite Doctor? Sure …….who is it? Depends on what day of the week you ask me.I like them all, all for different reasons. The thing I like the most is that they are all the same person but different incarnations of that same person. The different actors bring a different personality trait to the surface, but it’s still the same character underneath it all. It would be hard to show that much range with one actor, there would be too many cries of inconsistency. We love the Doctor because the Doctor is always the smartest person in the room who will always come up with the right plan and cracks wise while doing it …… which leads me to my theory. (spoilers)

The thing with being a light weight fan is that I haven’t put the time, effort and research into the science fiction and mythology of the show. So my theory is probably not a new one, I don’t know, I haven’t googled it. For those of you who have thought this since the seventies I apologize, but as I mentioned earlier I never do this so I am curious about it. So here it is: The Doctor works with the Groundhog Day principle. He repeats the same series of events over and over again until he gets it right and we as viewers only get to see the correct version. Ok ok I can hear the rebuttals already.What I do know of the mythology is this seems to go against a set of rules set by the show that pertain to time travel, but what I also know about the show is that rules routinely get bent out of shape.


What got me thinking about this were two comments from last night’s episode: first when the Doctor mentioned this was the 16th time Kate had said a certain phrase after realizing there was nothing in the Osgood box and second that the Doctor had been worried for a month when Clara perceived it as only five minutes. Both these comments lead me to believe that the Doctor can go back and change the course of events if he so chooses. This goes a long way to explain how he always comes up with the right solution; he has had the luxury of trial and error. If this theory holds water, how does it effect our opinion of the Doctor? This is also where it gets sticky, especially for Clara. If he can go back and change things why didn’t he prevent the death of Danny? Is this the reason why Clara and the Doctor part ways at the end of this season?

I’m sure none of this is new and I hope that I’m wrong on all accounts, which I probably am; because I’m sure its all been disproved ages ago and I just wasn’t paying enough attention to notice. So I’ll just get back to letting things wash over me and leave the predictions to the meteorologists.

Clever Monkey


In the Chilean rain forest lives a species of coniferous tree  called Araucaria araucana, it is more commonly known as a Monkey Puzzle tree. It received this peculiar moniker due to its sharp scale like leaves and twisted limbs that would present a challenge for any fool who would attempt to climb it.

People and monkeys alike, are very attracted to all things puzzling, and in our enlightened electronic age we certainly have no shortage of fools who are willing to cut their hands on all manner of topics, including at this time the phenomenal puzzle that is Breaking Bad. As the show approaches its final two episodes, the internet is ablaze with  theories, comments, praise and especially analysis and interpretations.

It seems that people are in shock, both from the events of the show and the finality of it coming to an end. We have become a TV nation of addicts and are already going through withdrawal as we see our supply dry up. We are already making alternative plans to fill the void; courting other eligible suitors to start a whole new love affair with. You hear people casually mention at parties, “Have you seen Broadchurch, House of Cards or Luther?” You’re always on the look out for the new fix, but you don’t want to get burned again. You’re still bitter from the fizzled passion of Dexter. “Dammit, how long until Game of Thrones is back?” American Horror Story season 3 may momentarily ease your shakes and you just found out that they are turning the final season of Mad Men into another two year long goodbye, but the affection you have for Walt and Jesse is special: tattoo special. You never thought you could love another show this much, not after the hole you were left with by the Sopranos, The Wire and Six Feet Under. Breaking Bad restored our faith that it could be that good again and for some, even better.


(slight spoilers ahead)

The monkey cage that is the internet has already thrown out phrases like “Better than… or Best Show of All Time.” It is true Vince Gilligan has created a five part character study that has slowly sunk its hooks in and not let go from the first season  onwards. It is really hard to find a single misstep. Everything works; from the cast, to the setting, to the premise to the intrigue. It is rare nowadays, to have a show that can genuinely create tension for a desensitized ‘seen it all before’ audience and constantly keep them guessing and surprised. A quick simple example of this would be; the shot in S5 ep. 14 where Skyler is looking at the kitchen counter and choosing between the phone and the knife. The beauty of this show is that it constantly lets the audience into the characters’ heads to weigh the decisions they are making. We get to watch as the problems arise, assess their possible options and more often then not be shocked at the outcomes. The ethical waters are constantly being muddied. The audience has to question its own belief system to reject or have empathy for the characters. We can be sickened by the actions but have to appreciate the logic surrounding their circumstances.  We as an audience are encouraged to participate in the puzzle.

In order to solve any puzzle you must first be sure you have all the pieces. There have been a lot of busy monkeys out there combing through every show/scene/shot to assemble the most complete box they possibly can. Perhaps it’s the withdrawal symptoms surfacing, but in many cases people may have started to lose perspective on the whole thing. The monkeys are rattling their cages and flinging their sh*t at one another vying for monkey superiority. A  recent article by  a TV critic over at New York magazine’s  Vulture really laid into other people’s analysis of our beloved show. Vulture generally does TV very well, their recaps are some of the best on the net, but this particular piece may have been a little too close to its subject.


Using a smart show to make yourself appear smart by association seems to be a negative side effect of our comment on everything society.  ‘Look how smart I am, I figured out that Walt was trying to get Skyler off the hook with his tirade on the phone’ etc.. We definitely need thoughtful analysis of our art to help deepen its appreciation and revel in its nuances but this is neither a race nor a contest. How we watch TV is more telling than what we watch. We can only relate to anything by comparing it to our own experience. Not everybody is going to arrive at the same page and that’s a really good thing. Art should be liquid and be able to fill a thousand spaces in a thousand ways. Breaking Bad is one of the great shows because it allows you to spin your own moral compass and doesn’t present any one clear cut way to look at it.

monkey puzzle

monkey puzzle

In two weeks time I’ll definitely be a little sad that the opus of Walter White will have come to a close. The internet will be clogged with failed predictions, I told you so’s and analytical fallout that will continue well into the winter. Eventually the cleverest monkey will come forward to receive their Breaking Bad crown  and the rest of the world will be lamenting that they are again back on the market.


Related articles:

State of Television

First Last for Everything

Lovin’ the Haters

hotel blueNothing can set off a firestorm of debate and ire like a good old televised picture show. Who knew the lives of a bunch of twenty something girls living in Brooklyn could be so polarizing or the supposed messing with a classic could milk so much venom.  It is just TV; it’s not like we’re talking about Shakespeare after all. …..But we could be.


God’s bodkins, sometimes you have to be cruel to be kind and the audience doth protest too much, methinks. (OK I’ll stop that) Here’s a thought; perhaps Girls‘ Hannah is channeling Hamlet: she is in a state of arrested development, paralyzed by a job to do, ostracizing her friends and family and slowly descending into madness. I don’t necessarily think she needs to kill her uncle, but who knows where Season 3 will take us. Cue the pitchforks and the flaming torches. How could you compare Lena Dunham to William Shakespeare? Umm.. well I didn’t, I compared the character of Hannah to the character of Hamlet. I think this is where TV watching has completely gone off the rails. Judging by the sheer amount of words on the internet and in print  devoted to picking apart, over analyzing and criticizing our so called entertainment, we as an audience need to take a collective deep breath.

a_560x0 (1)HBO’s Girls just ended its second season to another wave of critical bile from all corners of the internet. It seems that people really take this show personally. People are watching the show or in a lot of the cases not watching the show and then comparing it directly to their own lives. The criticisms range from hailing from a different part of the country/world -so this world seems too alien to me or the characters are too flawed. Ahh and that’s the rub, (I’m sorry I can’t help myself)  the characters are deeply flawed, but that’s what makes them interesting. One minute you like them and the next minute you hate them, kinda like real people. This is why we still study Shakespeare today; his characters aren’t pancake. Do we like Hamlet? If he was a real person would we friend him on Facebook? Probably not, but we would most definitely follow him on Twitter- his tweets would be fantastic. When dealing with three dimensional characters you can’t argue in absolutes. It feels like this is how a large portion of people are taking their television. “I hate Adam” or “I’m absolutely not going to watch this show again” are common sentiments. These are  completely legitimate opinions and actions but why has this turned into such a personal affront. It is one person’s vision and that’s all. Sure, Girls got a little dark ..so what if it doesn’t always want to be your lap dog? It will also make you laugh, cringe and thank god you are no longer in your twenties.

blue signOn A&E’s Bates Motel a young Norman Bates hasn’t even reached his twenties yet. The show is a re-imagining of a prequel to Alfred Hitchcock’s PsychoCue the pitchforks and the flaming torches,(slightly hyperbolic – the reviews are in and most people are kinda cool with it)- how can you mess with a classic? I’m afraid that ship has sailed: Psycho 4 anyone? The original Hitchcock film is an undisputed masterpiece and one of my favourite films of all time. Having said that; I’m not offended but rather curious to see how they will handle the subject matter. After viewing the pilot I was left with two impressions: great aesthetic but very thin on the suspense. I don’t mind that they set it in modern times but kept the look of the original. It seems although some  Psycho purists don’t appreciate the tinkering.

Fuseli_1790_Titania+Bottom_GGW-396Directors have been messing with the classics for eons. Shakespeare has been re-framed and reinterpreted more times than a James Brown sample. Oberon becomes the king of the hippies, the historical background of Macbeth starts to resemble the Russian Revolution and so on and on. Oberon may have changed jobs but Bottom will always remain an ass. Did Jar Jar Binks ruin Star WarsNo; Luke still blew up the Death-Star and we all cheered but Mr. Binks did make The Phantom Menace a less enjoyable watching experience. Although they are in the same universe, your opinion of one shouldn’t affect your appreciation of the other. So Bates Motel shouldn’t automatically be hated because you loved the original. Obviously, it has extremely large shoes to fill and will inevitably fail to do so. ( At this very moment,  the director Sam Raimi is in the curious position of being on both sides of this coin. He had the unenviable task of tackling one of the most beloved films of all time as well as someone else is reinterpreting his beloved horror classic.)

I don’t believe Bates Motel will become a horror classic but it might have a few surprises up its sleeve. I’ll give it a few more episodes before I make my verdict. When it comes to television shows: watch them or don’t watch them, like them or don’t like them, but please just don’t use them to feel self important and spew hate. Just change the channel.