A Certain Critical Fry

August 8, 2008 at 13:56 (Rants) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , )

I just have this feeling that these people are going to go – when they’re dead – and St Peter’s going to say:

“And what did you do with your life?”

“Well I looked at things other people did and I said “That doesn’t really work. It works on maybe two levels but not satisfactorily on either, and to me it wasn’t as good as the thing you did before.”

“I’m sorry, that’s what – I gave you two legs and two arms and a soul and you did that for all your life, you told people what was wrong with the stuff they were doing?”

And you know, I think it’s just a terrible waste of a life.

(From an old Room 101, if you’re interested – and interesting, if a little opinionated, is something Stephen Fry has never failed to be.  I will watch anything he’s had a hand in; mancrush anyone?  More like a mindcrush…)


Predictably enough: I fear, Mr Fry, that we disagree.

Simply put, the act of criticism isn’t necessarily negative.  There are good reviews as well as bad ones, although I’ll make no promises as far as which of the two turn more heads.  To criticise is simply to look at something as objectively as you’re able and offer an educated opinion on its worth.  In life, there’s criticism at every turn.  It mightn’t always be pleasant, or indeed valuable in any real sense, but if Stephen Fry hates critics, he has to hate teachers too, and parents.  But of course he doesn’t.  There’s a posh latin name for what I’m doing here, but I’m going to resist temptation for once.

In all seriousness, though, unless something is so awful it leaves me outright offended or appalled, I’ll tend not to review it.  Most of the reviews I’ve had published have been pretty positive – often there’ll be mention of a token few problems, but that’s the game critics play, and you can hardly change it from the outside.  And even if you could, I don’t know that I would.  I appreciate that even the worst films – the trashiest novels and the most derivitave music – I appreciate that however shitty something might end up being, someone out there created it, and very probably took pride in it; loved it a little, even.  And everything about art is subjective.  I might not have enjoyed Brutal Massacre: A Comedy, but it’s plainly a labour of love, a poem (however misguided) to the horror subculture, and there are people out there, I’m sure, who will enjoy it.  I wouldn’t want to dissuade those people from starting something that might well give them pleasure.  There’s a line somewhere that I don’t feel I’ve any greater right to cross than anyone else.  If it’s for you, fair enough.  I’m having more trouble than usual at the moment with an article about Tana French’s sophomore novel – I loved In The Woods despite myself, but The Likeness is outright ridiculous at times, cheap and contrarian.  And yet, most readers are enjoying it.  I know what the average Amazon rating is, and in my mind, let me say this outright: it’s wrong.  But do I want to insult all the people that have obviously enjoyed it?  Not in the slightest.

The exceptions are your Hostel Part 2s, your Prince Caspians and so on.  When I feel I’ve been condescended to, or treated like lowest-common-denominator trash, you’re damn right I’m going to express my opinion about it, scathing or otherwise.  When you build something not to be art or even entertainment, but very deliberately to be nothing more or less than successful, I start feeling a little off-colour.  When there’s nothing redemptive at all in your book or your movie, when there’s nothing besides calculated crowd-pleasing, I’ll put aside my usual respectfulness and tear your eyesockets clean out.  Critically speaking.

Yes, Eli Roth, I mean you.  And that fucker what thinks Shrek makes him by any stretch a filmmaker – you too.  Keep your eyesockets close, gentlemen.





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