Film criticism is the analysis and evaluation of films. Unknowingly, several film reviewers consider themselves to be film critics. A film review is related to recommendations for specific consumers. A film reviewer can recommend an action movie for the audience of the Genre by reviewing the interesting elements of the film, while a film critic emphasizes only on critical analysis of a film in every aspect and evaluates it on a whole. Read complete article to understand the problem with film criticism in India.
Arrival of web criticism:
Earlier, we only had print media and academic film critics. The print critics would write film reviews through Newspapers, Magazines and Journals. The academic critics would write detailed articles on films for books or research publications. The arrival of web criticism has changed it all and we are witnessing tons of reviews for each film. Several review writers use standard templates which are slightly modified for each film. This method works perfectly for out-of-the-mill scripts which contain similar plot structure, songs and dances. Many critics lack basic understanding of film theory. On the flip side, web criticism offers opportunity for audience to share their views and write personal reviews.
Obsession to publish reviews first:
The audience mostly visit websites for opinion on the commercial success of the movie. The visitors to these websites will be enormous on the release day and there will be a sudden drop from the next day onwards. So, the popular websites race to publish the reviews before others do. Some of the popular websites are posting audience reviews from Twitter, some are publishing reviews from other websites while some others are publishing reviews based on public opinion without even watching the movie. Nowadays, many web critics are traveling to USA or Dubai to watch movies, so that they can publish reviews before the movie gets released in India. This trending is growing in India and is resulting in drastic fall of collections after the first day or the weekend.
The media publishes ratings to instantly attract the audience. The fans of popular actors favor higher ratings even for their average movies. Many websites provide higher ratings so that their ratings trend in social media. The fan pages in social media share such ratings to promote the film, so these critics seize the opportunity. The cast and crew of the movie share positive reviews and ratings as a part of promotions, so some websites publish 4 or 5-star ratings to get noticed. The ratings are ridiculous as they indirectly compare movies and are highly biased. Some critics intentionally write negative reviews and give low ratings to movies with positive buzz in order to draw attention. These ratings rarely match with that of popular websites like IMDB. The audience should always keep in mind that ratings are always biased, whether given by a single person or a community.
Being judgmental about the taste of the audience:
A film critic has no right to criticize the taste of the audience. They shouldn’t even suggest the audience to develop certain taste for the movies they consider superior. But the critics have an influence of popular beliefs. Several critics always rate the experimental, offbeat and art films high while criticizing the commercial movies regardless of content. Irony is that some of these offbeat films contain regular commercial elements such as over the top action scenes, item songs and separate comedy tracks. The critics who praise these movies criticize audience who watch commercial movies for their poor taste. When movies with poor content gets commercial success, the critics blame audience for encouraging bad movies. Some critics suggest film makers to stop making movies as a part of the review. The critics never bother about the diversity of genres. The themes related to apocalyptic fiction, spirituality and dreams are rarely touched.
Approaches to interpretation:
The analysis or review of films should follow an approach depending on the Genre, theme and presentation of the film. Many filmmakers persuade audience to their point of view while some others point out various issues for audience to think about. The films generally present one view point but sometimes depict opposing viewpoints each having valid concerns. Some films express socio-political viewpoints through their characters while still entertaining the audience. The film critics should assess a film for its effectiveness at achieving some or all of its intentions. Analysis from multiple approaches can help audience to better appreciate the film even if they don’t agree with the views expressed. Different approaches examine different aspects of a film for different reasons.
While the status of film criticism in India is bad, the status of awards is terrible. Many award committees perceive films as nothing more than story telling tools. Some art filmmakers of the country ridicule the technical aspects of the films. Many critics and art filmmakers consider the use of visual effects as bad filmmaking. Many award committees consider films with realistic approach regardless of their quality and technical standards. The critics generally give positive reviews and praise art films and experimental films regardless of their content. The commercial movies are never encouraged even if they offer philosophical insight into life. While some awards are plagued with lobbying, several others are influenced by film critics. The realistic approach of most film critics has led to the award committees favoring realism over other aspects of filmmaking.
Form of the movie:
The form of the movie is the least of the concerns for any film critic in India. The critics rarely talk about the preference for a certain shot size, aspect ratio or sound design. They consider all of these things to be uniform for all films. While some significant elements like using handheld camera, avoiding background score, long sequences of action are instantly noticeable, critics rarely talk about other aspects. The form is the primary difference between a script and a film and the critics should review it for better understanding of the film.
The critics equate the technical aspects with production values of a film. The high budget films are praised by many critics for their high technical standards which is not always true. Many of the high budget films have good standards because they rope in experienced technicians and provide them with best available equipment. Several critics consider high resolution visuals to be good cinematography, twists and turns in the script to be good screenplay, trimming boring scenes as good Editing. While we can’t say that they lack basic understanding of technical aspects, many critics don’t spend much time to analyse them.
The film critics need to experiment with different approaches and methods of film analysis to write better reviews. While it is not necessary for audience to understand all aspects of a film, the critics should examine them for detailed analysis. A good film critic can challenge the filmmakers to come up with path-breaking films. Some critics are providing great insight into the films. Audience need to encourage them in order to improve the standards of Indian cinema.