As my title suggests, this blog post is going to be a brief defense of being critical about movies. This is a defense of film criticism, because I myself am admittedly a big secret film critic, which means that I am pretty selective about the films I choose to see, and I am somewhat obsessed with Rotten Tomatoes, a website that gives you the reviews for most films. (Metacritic is good, too.) Why am I selective? For the same reason that I am selective about the books I read. We only have so much time on this earth. I don’t want to have to sit for two hours in a dark room and watch moving images of a movie that I don’t like, whether the character development is weak, the plotting is implausible or not in keeping with the logic of the characters, the acting is poor, etc. Of if the plot is implausible, I want the movie to have earned it. If I sit through a bad movie, I feel it is wasted time, and it kind of upsets me. I also don’t feel challenged by bad movies. I feel that if not a lot of thought has gone into them, then I don’t want to invest my own energies in sitting through them. Hence the secret film critic.
I also don’t think, I should say, that opinions about films are only subjective. I really think there are better and worse films. Critics definitely sometimes disagree – and sometimes films that are intensely disagreed about are definitely worth watching – but there is also often a consensus among critics about what film is worth seeing and what film isn’t. You can see this pattern on Rotten Tomatoes. So I think it’s possible to be somewhat objective about films.
Why am I saying all this? Because recently I have found that there is this amazing company, with quite a few films in Rocky River’s collection, that is kind of made for all the secret film critics out there. It’s called “The Criterion Collection,” (the logo is at the top of this post), and it is a film distribution company that, as its website says, is “dedicated to publishing important classic and contemporary films from around the world.” In other words, it is a company with an enormous library of critically acclaimed movies. Recently I have watched a few Criterion films from Rocky River’s collection, including “Safe,” directed by Todd Haynes, “Breaking the Waves,” directed by Lars Von Trier, and “Fish Tank,” directed by Andrea Arnold, and I was completely blown away by how good these movies were. Everything about them, from the filming to the acting, showed such a deep and real care for telling a story well. I left each film somewhat shaken, but with a strong sense of an emotionally satisfying story well-told. So I left with a sense that my own experience had been deepened and enriched.
Of course, Criterion Collection does not have a monopoly on well-told stories in film. But they are a great place to look. So if you are at Rocky River Public Library, and you are a secret film critic, look for the “C” on the spine of the film (see picture below). Then, if you look at the cover and read the synopsis on the back, and you’re still intrigued, I encourage you to borrow the film and watch it. For all you know, you too will be amazed by a story told with deep care.