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July 15, 2009: "Out of Touch" 
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Post Re: July 15, 2009: "Out of Touch"
Dragonbeard wrote:
So to conclude... the people who like Transformers 2 are one of the following:

1) Obsessive fanboys of the franchise.
2) People with little or no ability to make their own opinions or points of view.
3) People who don't realise the value of money.
4) People who know nothing about what makes a good movie.

This is NOT an attempt at causing friction, I just want to know where I stand as none of the above but as someone who will see the movie when presented with the oppertunity (most likely when a friend buys it on DVD and we watch it as a group at someones house).


One key sentence to note in conjunction with this: "To a degree, this reflects the simple fact that we all see a slightly different movie, shaped and informed by our life's experiences."

Why people love some movies and hate others is almost more an issue of internal alchemy than of logic. Memories and preferences play a bigger role in movie preference than many are willing to admit. That's why declaring an opinion to be "right" or "wrong" is ludicrous. It can be said that some movies are better crafted than others, but that's about as far as it can go, and even then there's room for subjective judgment to be brought into the equation.


Thu Jul 16, 2009 12:14 pm
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Post Re: July 15, 2009: "Out of Touch"
5wivesofbergman wrote:
What is an "ADD society"?


ADD=Attention Deficit Disorder


Thu Jul 16, 2009 12:16 pm
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Post Re: July 15, 2009: "Out of Touch"
Quote:
The question remains: Why is a movie that has been universally panned by critics achieving such success? This necessitates discussing two issues: the role and relevance of critics in an ADD society and what lies at the foundation of the movie's triumph.


I don't think James' aim was to say who can/cannot enjoy a movie. I, like most here, read everything the guy writes, and he doesn't seem to be in the business of stereotyping/pigeonholing. He was pointing to the fact that, as a whole, Transformers 2 seems to be viewed as average/below average. It's illogical for a movie that's consensus seems to be one of mediocrity (at best) to end up being one of the highest grossing movies of all-time. There is more to it than the quality of the movie. James gave possible reasons as to why certain segments of the population were going to see the movie, and why some enjoyed it. That doesn't mean you can't see/not see or enjoy/hate the movie if you don't fall into the category mentioned. It's just reasons why the movie is performing well at the box office when, again, the consensus isn't very flattering. He is attempting to explain the part I bolded, and I think he did so quite well.

Unke wrote:
Just a thought: Is it not also the role of the critic to inform the reader whether or not the reader might enjoy the movie, irrespective of whether the reviewer does?


I would argue, no. It is simply impossible to attempt to inform each individual reader as to whether or not he/she might like a movie. Without a personal knowledge of your fanbase, doing so would only end up with generalizing who your audience is and, ultimately, narrowing that audience down to a specific segment of the population. It is up to the reader to attempt to deduce if they have interest in a movie based on the opinion the critic gives.


Thu Jul 16, 2009 12:18 pm
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Post Re: July 15, 2009: "Out of Touch"
Unke wrote:
Just a thought: Is it not also the role of the critic to inform the reader whether or not the reader might enjoy the movie, irrespective of whether the reviewer does? Arguably, a lot of critics have indeed been out of touch in this respect, because the film has been universally panned by critics and a large number of people seem to enjoy it. This doesn't mean that a review should be favourable, because there is a large inherent fanbase for the movie or because it is an event. But perhaps a critic should qualify his judgement by stating something along the lines of "a fan of the Tranformers toys might get more enjoyment out of the film, because he/she will have less problems distinguishing the robots and might enjoy the romp".


No, it isn't.

To quote Roger Ebert, with whom I agree on this matter: "It's not a critic's job to reflect box office taste. The job is to describe my reaction to a film, to account for it, and evoke it for others. The job of the reader is not to find his opinion applauded or seconded, but to evaluate another opinion against his own."

I cannot speak for anyone other than myself. As I have said when discussing star ratings, they are representations of how strongly I recommend a film to someone whose tastes closely match my own.

The pitfall in guessing what other groups might think of a movie is obvious. Take Harry Potter, for example. Die-hard fans are already broken into two groups over THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE: those who hate the film because of what it left out and those who love it because, well, they love it.


Thu Jul 16, 2009 12:23 pm
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Post Re: July 15, 2009: "Out of Touch"
spencerworth34 wrote:
The most obsurd part of this real thoughts is when JB suggests that Transformers has a chance to catch The Dark Knight in money.......its not even close. Didn't The Dark Knight make like 65 million more in its first weekend? Also, dark knight made like 80 million in its second weekend compared to the 35ish transformers made in its second weekend..and on the 3rd weekend transformers made 24.2 million.....Transformers wont come at all close to Dark Knight and I strongly believe Harry Potter will make more money than Transformers


Currently, TRANSFORMERS 2 is approaching $350K. TDK made $533K. Internal studio estimates project TRANSFORMERS 2 to top out around $450K, which would leave it some $80K short of TDK. Is there a chance TRANSFORMERS 2 could come close to TDK? Yes. Is it a good chance? No.

As for HP6, there's no particular reason to believe it's going to finish much above or below $300K. Look at the previous films - all of them have grossed in a tight cluster around $300K. The idea that HP6 could beat TRANSFORMER 2's current gross of $350K seems unlikely, and it's less feasible that it could reach toward $450K.


Thu Jul 16, 2009 12:28 pm
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Post Re: July 15, 2009: "Out of Touch"
James Berardinelli wrote:
Unke wrote:
Just a thought: Is it not also the role of the critic to inform the reader whether or not the reader might enjoy the movie, irrespective of whether the reviewer does? Arguably, a lot of critics have indeed been out of touch in this respect, because the film has been universally panned by critics and a large number of people seem to enjoy it. This doesn't mean that a review should be favourable, because there is a large inherent fanbase for the movie or because it is an event. But perhaps a critic should qualify his judgement by stating something along the lines of "a fan of the Tranformers toys might get more enjoyment out of the film, because he/she will have less problems distinguishing the robots and might enjoy the romp".


No, it isn't.

To quote Roger Ebert, with whom I agree on this matter: "It's not a critic's job to reflect box office taste. The job is to describe my reaction to a film, to account for it, and evoke it for others. The job of the reader is not to find his opinion applauded or seconded, but to evaluate another opinion against his own."

I cannot speak for anyone other than myself. As I have said when discussing star ratings, they are representations of how strongly I recommend a film to someone whose tastes closely match my own.

The pitfall in guessing what other groups might think of a movie is obvious. Take Harry Potter, for example. Die-hard fans are already broken into two groups over THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE: those who hate the film because of what it left out and those who love it because, well, they love it.


I think I didn't make my point very clearly. I didn't mean to suggest, that a critic should reflect box-office taste or pander to a certain demographic. And it is obvious that a critic will describe his or her own opinion of movie. How could it be any different?

But I also happen to disagree with Roger Ebert's statement to an extent, possibly because I read film criticism primarily in order to make an informed decision whether I will see a movie in the cinema, on DVD or not at all. I may misunderstand Ebert's statement, but it is not my job to evaluate his opinion on a film against my own, because that would require me to have seen the movie in the first place in order to form an opinion. And I don't read film reviews as an academic exercise.

Consequently, I expect from a film critic first and foremost to give a good description of the movie. But film criticism is more than a summary of the plot or shoehorning a film into a genre. I also want to know whether and, most importantly, why a critic likes or dislikes a film. And I appreciate it if a critic acknowledges that his personal opinion may not be shared by the reader for specific reasons.

To provide an example from the review for "Brüno" (emphasis added):

Quote:
Ultimately, Brüno does what it sets out to do: provide social commentary through the most violent of guerilla tactics, camouflaged by waves of laughter at highly "inappropriate" comedy. Those who have seen Brüno's segments on The Ali G. Show and who have experienced Borat will not be overly surprised by where this movie goes, but the demographic is limited. There are those who will praise this as brilliant filmmaking (Baron Cohen is ably assisted by Curb Your Enthusiasm's Larry Charles, who also directed Borat) and others who will demonize it as hateful, pornographic excess. Some, in fact, will use the latter reaction to justify the former. For my part, I was glad to find a movie that pulled no punches in its quest to generate laughter. For those of a non-Puritanical mindset, it's hard to deny that Brüno succeeds in being both outrageous and outrageously funny, and it's hard to damn a comedy, regardless of its faults, for those qualities.

In other words, readers of a puritanical mindset are warned that they would find Brüno offensive rather than funny. And that's just what I meant.


Thu Jul 16, 2009 1:03 pm
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Post Re: July 15, 2009: "Out of Touch"
Several Considerations:

1. The 30 second television commercials, movie posters, and marketing campaign for Transformers 2 was pure. This film is only about giant robots fighting giant robots. No one tried to dress it up with airs of maturity, sophistication, or social commentary. We were readily assured it would be more of the same.

2. Any 5 year-old in 1985 with at least two or three of these toys and a healthy imagination already dreamed up the destruction, big-screen action, and kinetics of this movie in their own heads. It took the CGI capabilities and a Michael Bay budget to deliver that simple childhood imagination to us today. We are witnessing waves of 29 year-old fans attending this movie not because of the first film, or even the original toys, but because they still remember their own imaginations.

3. I wouldn’t stop a 12 year-old boy from going to this movie and fantasying about a life for himself in later years involving a girlfriend like Megan Fox, driving down the road in his own shiny, fast, talking car, living a life of adventure and action. As James noted, they – the intended pre-teen audience - sees more in the movie than we can. We've been to college. We can't afford nice cars. We never dated Megan Fox. They get more out of it – and good for them. Yes, the film is silly, immature, and deeply stupid and 99 times out of 100 those are awful attributes. But I found this film to have a dignified love of its own freewheeling style.


Thu Jul 16, 2009 4:25 pm
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Post Re: July 15, 2009: "Out of Touch"
As noted: A critic's role is not to reflect societal opinion.
As noted: A critic's role is to provide their personal reaction to something - filtered through the lens of experience/ knowledge/contrext.

However:
It is also a critic's role to effectively communicate the above in such a way that is able to be understood in reference to 1. Criticism without social resonance is pointless. Some critics are crap simply because they are unable to bridge the gap between their critical facility and why that treasoning has relevance.

Some of you may disagree and argue that 'as a review piece is [/a\]personal and [/b]]usually written with a specific audience in mind it's requirement to operate within a wider social context is pointless' - to my mind it is at this point that the critic starts to become bigger than their subject, even if only in their own mind, and that way lies doom.

----
Side note wrt James' reviews:
----
When I talk to people about film reviews either they, or I, often mention Reelviews as a touchstone simply because it doesn't forget that film operates within a social context and, as someone once noted to me: The reviews aren't pretentious even when the author is is taking a high-culture POV.


Thu Jul 16, 2009 6:53 pm
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Post Re: July 15, 2009: "Out of Touch"
[quote="iscariot"]As noted: A critic's role is not to reflect societal opinion.
As noted: A critic's role is to provide their personal reaction to something - filtered through the lens of experience/ knowledge/contrext.

You hit the nail on the coffin. The fanboys considers the critics haters for not liking what they think the markertign is telling them "The biggest film of decade." If they can't understand the reviews are for mainly people who aren't fanboys/girls, then they should shut up.


Thu Jul 16, 2009 7:15 pm
Profile YIM
Post Re: July 15, 2009: "Out of Touch"
JB is right, the success of Transformers has nothing to do with the quality of the movie. I saw Transformers at the midnight showing, hated the film, but still had a blast. But then again I didn't go to the theater for the movie; I went to have fun with a group of friends. It is not a "viewing event" not even a "roller coaster ride" (The action shots were too poorly filmed for that title), it is a social event.


Thu Jul 16, 2009 10:18 pm
Post Re: July 15, 2009: "Out of Touch"
I don't think most critics can be accused of being out of touch. They are doing their job. They give critical evaluations of films so we can get a clearer picture out of the hype machine that surrounds a movie like "Transformers". I wonder if the critics of tomorrow will view films in the same way that they do today. It's been interesting to read James' year by year 80's retrospective. Did the films he saw and enjoyed back then affect how he sees films today? The film reviewer of my local newspaper retired 2 years ago after more that 30 years on the job. I always respected his reviews and he wasn't afraid to trash films that were truly garbage. The paper replaced him with a guy in his early 20's who seemingly gives good reviews to everything (Transformers got 3/4 stars). While I haven't seen many summer movies yet this year, I refuse to believe the cineplexes are currently filled with all 3 and 4 star films. Maybe growing up watching similar summer blockbusters in his youth has affected how he sees Transformers as well.


Fri Jul 17, 2009 12:10 am
Post Re: July 15, 2009: "Out of Touch"
"The objective criteria of excellence through which civilized man has learned to distinguish a work of art from trash, craftsmanship from shoddiness, scholarship from pretentious sophistication, a good man from a scoundrel, a statesman from a demagogue, greatness from mediocrity--those vital distinctions are blurred if not obliterated by the self-sufficient preferences of the crowd. Those distinctions tend to become altogether meaningless, and what the crowd desires and tolerates becomes the ultimate standard of what is good, true, beautiful, useful, and wise."

--Hans Morgenthau, The Purpose of American Politics (1960)

Morgenthau's point is that objective standards of excellence exist, independent of society. It doesn't matter how many people like Transformers 2, it still isn't a good movie.


Fri Jul 17, 2009 1:52 am
Post Re: July 15, 2009: "Out of Touch"
Tuco wrote:
I expect that if I had to sit through the 200-300 movies a year that James does (as he carefully pointed out in his column), I'd have less patience for the sort of crap that passed for a plot in that flick. As it was, the explosions were fun, and Jayne Cobb shot an alien.

Now that makes me interested in seeing the movie, as no amount of advertising has done. 8-)

thewatcher wrote:
JB is right, the success of Transformers has nothing to do with the quality of the movie. [...] But then again I didn't go to the theater for the movie; I went to have fun with a group of friends. It is not a "viewing event" not even a "roller coaster ride" (The action shots were too poorly filmed for that title), it is a social event.

Thirded, though personally I don't think it's such a bad thing. They're just completely different beasts, even if the media and manner in which it is presented is the same. Hence it's a mistake to go into and/or treat "event movies" like this the same way you'd treat, say, No Country For Old Men or Sunshine Cleaning.

I understand, and appreciate that critics review these 'critic-proof' for those who are not there for the film but the social event. I just don't like it when critics use generalisations like "it's difficult to imagine anyone over the age of eight enjoying film X", with the implication that anyone over the age of eight who actually likes it is functionally retarded. For example, while Van Helsing wasn't a masterpiece, I know quite a few people well past their pre-pubescent years who enjoyed it.

/offtopic


Fri Jul 17, 2009 6:15 am
Post Re: July 15, 2009: "Out of Touch"
I believe that Hollywood gives us the type of movies we enjoy seeing. They know how to present it to us in a way we want to see, and the films follow all the conventions required by the genre.

Furthermore, Hollywood is kind enough to provide us with films in several genres, so we can all watch our romantic love stories without giant robots stomping around in them (and vice versa).

So much for the entertainment industry.

Critics provide not criticism, but critical thinking on a movie. Although a critic will offer a personal opinion, his most valued skill is his ability to dissect the various attributes of a movie, and present them in such a way that his reader is educated, informed and entertained by the review.

Inevitably, formulaic movies that all can enjoy are rather boring from a critical perspective, and rightly get marked down by critics. And so I propose a very simple rule to all who believe in critical opinion:

If the movie is in a genre you like, add one star.

Problem solved!


Fri Jul 17, 2009 7:53 am
Post Re: July 15, 2009: "Out of Touch"
I don't remember exactly when I started reading jb but I know that I have always thought that his opinions of films were right on par with mine. I also enjoy his formula for writing reviews; overall summary, plot/storyline, cast performance, and final conclusion. Whether or not you agree with the review you should at least have an idea of what you are going to see. Below is just a test if the spoiler tag works on my blackberry.
[Reveal] Spoiler:
this is a test


Fri Jul 17, 2009 10:40 am
Post Re: July 15, 2009: "Out of Touch"
Critics - I never read them to reinforce my own opinion. I read them because they have an intellectual rigor and make me think about movies I might see or a movie that I just saw. I agree with Ebert's point of view on his site that it's not his job to reflect taste.

Onto Transformers - Anyone with a jot of marketing knowledge will know that markets are segmented and targeted with different products. the studios do it us with movies. The largest movie going segment is young kids. Since day one they have had a love for movies with lots of action and explosions. We queued for Earthquake in 1974, Stallone through the late eighties. Schwarzenegger and now Transformers. It's no great surprise that a film amped up to the max will do so well.

My suspicion is that a forum built on the back of readers of JB will not be the same as the Yahoo movies area or Twitter. We've self selected and segmented ourselves. James writes long, articulate and thoughtful reviews - not one line twitters etc. As a group we're no surprise.

As for me. I'll be watching TF2 when it comes out on DVD and like the first i'll be watching it multiple times. Not because i really want to. I have two young sons (10 & 13) and they are the perfect consumer target. Throw in a big screen and projector and ....

Rob


Fri Jul 17, 2009 2:31 pm
Post Re: July 15, 2009: "Out of Touch"
russilwvong wrote:
"The objective criteria of excellence through which civilized man has learned to distinguish a work of art from trash, craftsmanship from shoddiness, scholarship from pretentious sophistication, a good man from a scoundrel, a statesman from a demagogue, greatness from mediocrity--those vital distinctions are blurred if not obliterated by the self-sufficient preferences of the crowd. Those distinctions tend to become altogether meaningless, and what the crowd desires and tolerates becomes the ultimate standard of what is good, true, beautiful, useful, and wise."

--Hans Morgenthau, The Purpose of American Politics (1960)

Morgenthau's point is that objective standards of excellence exist, independent of society. It doesn't matter how many people like Transformers 2, it still isn't a good movie.



Actually I think what he is saying is that a majority opinion becomes an established truth. However due to the fact that he has made a subjective observation of society, his opinion is as meaningless as anyone elses when it comes to an individual's view of "art" and "trash" etc.

Thankyou James for clearing up my confusion. I wasn't entirely sure if you were suggesting the lack of subjectivity in the issue of Transformers 2 or not. I certainly like to think that I make my movie going desicions based on some sort of free will (another topic there perhaps?) and not as a result of a chain of events that led to my desicion...meta.


Fri Jul 17, 2009 5:57 pm
Post Re: July 15, 2009: "Out of Touch"
No one has ever lost money underestimating the intelligence of the general public.

The difference between the idiots who go see Transformers 2 and the critics is simple. The former want entertainment (or as one might say, pretty explosions and music that tells them when to cry). The latter look at a movie as more than entertainment, but as a complete package.

Corporations spend more than 2 trillion dollars on marketing every year, and a great deal of that is poured into making you want to drag yourself to the theater to watch movies. However, I think the marketing campaigns only makes one dumb Hollywood movie more popular than another dumb Hollywood. They haven't created the desire to watch stupid movies.


Fri Jul 17, 2009 6:21 pm
Post Re: July 15, 2009: "Out of Touch"
aameen wrote:
this whole transformers thing -- its too much. i mean, ok. first of all - i may drift. now, this is how i judge a movie(for this argument). first - what is its aim? what is it trying to do? second - is it good at achieving said aim?

now, those people even looking for an interesting plot or character development in transformers are just kidding themselves. its been repeated that the movie doesn't even try. its just a "150-minute toy commercial". its one case if it tries and fails. then its ok. but its a roller coaster ride. as opposed to..say Bad Boys II. that movie had some scenes trying to actually develop something. those caused it to be vomit inducing. that and the "comedy". so the main thing, what im trying to and maybe failing to say is ...remember the 2 things? you can't judge a movie's quality with the 1st one. sometimes, its just a demand and supply thing. movies are not an art form all the time. sometimes its a roller coaster and should be treated as such. i can't walk into KFC and complain they don't have Chicken Pulao. sure i can dismiss KFC as a place to eat on saturday because they dont have it and i want chicken pulao, but to actually say its a bad restaurant is only stupid on my part.

but critics, well...they're forced some fried chicken by their job when they want chicken pulao. so i understand the whole 200-300 movie thing james was talking about.

i did drift, didn't i?


I don't think you drifted at all. This is one of the better arguments in this thread. Post more often when you've just woken up. ;)

However, Transformers 2 is no KFC. Rancid KFC maybe. The first Transformers was KFC. For the most part I liked that one. I see why most people hate it, but overall it was still dumb fun. That can't be said of the sequel which was just plain dumb.


Fri Jul 17, 2009 6:52 pm
Post Re: July 15, 2009: "Out of Touch"
Grant Wood wrote:
Several Considerations:

1. The 30 second television commercials, movie posters, and marketing campaign for Transformers 2 was pure. This film is only about giant robots fighting giant robots. No one tried to dress it up with airs of maturity, sophistication, or social commentary. We were readily assured it would be more of the same.

2. Any 5 year-old in 1985 with at least two or three of these toys and a healthy imagination already dreamed up the destruction, big-screen action, and kinetics of this movie in their own heads. It took the CGI capabilities and a Michael Bay budget to deliver that simple childhood imagination to us today. We are witnessing waves of 29 year-old fans attending this movie not because of the first film, or even the original toys, but because they still remember their own imaginations.

3. I wouldn’t stop a 12 year-old boy from going to this movie and fantasying about a life for himself in later years involving a girlfriend like Megan Fox, driving down the road in his own shiny, fast, talking car, living a life of adventure and action. As James noted, they – the intended pre-teen audience - sees more in the movie than we can. We've been to college. We can't afford nice cars. We never dated Megan Fox. They get more out of it – and good for them. Yes, the film is silly, immature, and deeply stupid and 99 times out of 100 those are awful attributes. But I found this film to have a dignified love of its own freewheeling style.


Good points! The movie has not tried to be anything more than exactly what it is. Are we talking about Kenneth Branagh's Hamlet here? No. Let's stop pretending that's what Bay was going for and failed to do and just admit that he has a five year old inside him (please dont go there, really!).


Fri Jul 17, 2009 8:09 pm
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