Impeccable Timing: 5 Classic Films That Contemporary Critics Would Have Hated

Last December, I had the pleasure of watching Christopher Nolan’s The Prestige. Although I didn’t like it quite as much as Memento, I definitely think it’s a great film well worth watching. Unfortunately, critics at the time didn’t agree, for the film’s initial reception was lukewarm. The critics who enjoyed it were in the majority, but the writing was on the wall; it paled in comparison to his earlier efforts. When the decade came to a close, something unexpected happened. Suddenly, this film that currently sits at 76% on Rotten Tomatoes began appearing on various “best of” lists regarding the most exemplary efforts of the 2000s.

Because of this development, one of the greatest weaknesses of aggregate review sites was revealed – it only provides a snapshot as to what critics thought of a film the minute it debuted. If a film is subject to retroactive vindication, the score does not change accordingly. This is also evident in how Charles Laughton’s The Night of the Hunter achieved 100% on the same site despite being so poorly received upon its 1955 release that it completely ruined his chances of ever directing another film.

Seeing these two films got me thinking about how works are received. How many critical darlings are going to stand the test of time? How many masterpieces are the critics of today letting fall by the wayside? Critics have proven over the years to be masters of tooting their own horns, but as the late, great Orson Welles once proposed in his excellent swansong effort, F for Fake, they can be hoodwinked just as easily the audience they look down upon. If critics could make this mistake as recently as 2006 when the rules of the medium had been firmly established, I expect there will be many more instances of such a thing occurring to come.

Even with an educated guess here and there, I don’t have any way of determining what films considered mediocre or even outright bad now will receive their vindication in the future. Therefore, I will instead talk about the opposite phenomenon. As a result of the various think pieces ostensibly professional critics and journalists have written in the past decade, which range anywhere from woefully misbegotten to condescending to their audience, I’ve found them to be increasingly untrustworthy. Consequently, I can believe they would have hated many classic, undeniably good films had they been released today.

Now, to be clear, with this editorial, I’m not talking about films such as D.W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation or Leni Riefenstahl’s Triumph of the Will. Though critics continue to praise both works, it’s clear they have nothing to offer most people, promoting obviously outdated values among other problems. Instead, I propose that there are films considered to this very day some of the greatest ever made – but only because the current wave of critics took their predecessors at their word. I feel that if you were to somehow beam present-day critical sensibilities into their predecessors’ collective headspace, they would have dropped certain objectively great films like a hot potato. They fly in the face of present-day critical sensibilities to the extent that they would have lambasted them on principle alone. There are plenty of films I feel fall into this category, but five in particular struck me as the kinds of works contemporary critics would loathe with every fiber of their being.

WARNING: This editorial will likely contain unmarked spoilers for the films highlighted.

5. In the Heat of the Night by Norman Jewison

The classic film:

With the Civil Rights movement in full swing, it was only natural that a film would help the African-American population break barriers in the media. One of the works spearheading this change was Norman Jewison’s In the Heat of the Night. Sidney Poitier turns in an unforgettable, charismatic performance as homicide detective Virgil Tibbs, who reluctantly helps the small town of Sparta, Mississippi with the heinous murder of one Phillip Colbert.

So, what’s the problem?

What I found to be the most shocking twist of this film was that the rampant racism plaguing the town of Sparta, Mississippi ultimately turned out to be the mother of all red herrings. While the narrative dropped many unsubtle hints that the victim’s murder could have been racially charged, the reality was much simpler. Colbert was murdered in a mugging gone wrong; his killer merely wanted money to pay for his 16-year-old girlfriend’s abortion after accidentally impregnating her.

One of the defining flaws of contemporary satires is that the stories thereof aren’t allowed to exist on their own terms. Every single story beat must, in some way, contribute to the message. This often means that characters don’t really exist for a deeper reason than for throwing the author’s viewpoints into sharp relief. An especially egregious example of this was Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman, which captured universal critical praise. This was in spite of the piece taking so many creative liberties with a real-life operation that it became a blatant work of fiction.

Tellingly, when Peter Farrelly’s Green Book won “Picture of the Year” during the 91st Academy Award ceremony, Justin Chang, writing for the LA Times, penned a think piece that declared it to be the least deserving of the lineup – within twenty minutes of its victory being announced, no less. Indeed, many other journalists joined in, believing it to be the worst film to have ever won the award since Paul Haggis’s Crash in 2004. While I do think BlacKkKlansman was the superior film, its lofty status does indicate to me that critics are not looking for subtlety or nuance in their sacred cows.

It is for this reason that I can extrapolate modern-day critics would have hated In the Heat of the Night. While it certainly pushed the envelope and got into serious discussions about how damaging racism is, the film’s primary purpose was to tell a story. The premise that an anti-racism piece’s central crime wasn’t fueled by bigotry at all would be considered a sign of a fainthearted writer unwilling to go the extra mile and allow the message to hit home. To be fair, the stigma against abortion present in this film is an aspect that would ring true with modern critics, but I feel my point still stands.

How the hypothetical review would probably read:

“The biggest failing of In the Heat of the Night is that it lacks teeth. With its big twist, it absolutely mutilates its own message, shooting itself in the foot multiple times. It was the perfect opportunity to allow the message to hit home. But nope. Mr. Jewison had to back out at the last minute. Can’t offend anyone, after all. How he thought he could change the world by playing it safe is truly beyond me.”

4. Pulp Fiction by Quentin Tarantino

The classic film:

When it comes to the art of cinema, the 1980s is kind of in a state of quantum entanglement. It was a decade that spawned many fan-favorite films and critically acclaimed art pieces with little overlap between them. Thanks to the rise of a new studio system from the ashes of New Hollywood, many auteurs from the 1960s and 1970s ended up dropping off the radar screen when their passion projects inevitably bombed. Because of this, it’s common to hear the average filmgoer cite the decade as a solid period for medium while buffs consider it a dark age. Which assessment is closer to the truth is debatable, but it can’t be denied that this shift proved to be a gigantic boon for independent cinema. Before the 1980s, indie efforts were a springboard for directors, actors, and actresses alike to break into the mainstream. After the 1980s, independent creators would stay in these bubbles and be better off for it.

Enter Quentin Tarantino. His debut film Reservoir Dogs enthralled audiences when it debuted in 1992 with its homage to classic Hollywood moments and in-your-face style. He then proved he wasn’t a one-hit wonder two years later with Pulp Fiction. This sprawling crime film was quickly considered one of the greatest triumphs in independent cinema. It was a distinction well-deserved considering just how thoroughly Mr. Tarantino experimented with non-linear storytelling and various other standard tropes. Complemented by its excellent, snappy dialogue that is still quoted to this day, and you’ve got yourself one of the greatest films of the 1990s.

So, what’s the problem?

One of the nominations for the 90th Academy Award ceremony was Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water. It was easily my favorite film of the nine nominated, but I accepted that the Academy would have been far more likely to award the prize to something such as Paul Thomas Anderson’s Phantom Thread or Martin McDonagh’s Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. After all, The Shape of Water was an unapologetic dark fantasy. Fantasy itself is a genre often snubbed by film buffs, but a dark fantasy had no chance at all to win. I was then happily proven wrong when it pulled through. I later learned that I wasn’t the only one caught off-guard by Mr. del Toro’s upset victory.

Strange. The last time I checked, you’re supposed to be at least thirteen to register for Twitter.

Unfortunately, said victory caused a disturbance on social media when film fans complained about how Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird left the ceremonies emptyhanded, going as far as committing libel against those who enjoyed it. It should be noted that this was after they, along with the professional journalists, hounded a critic who had the sheer audacity to give it a negative review a few months prior.

“Actually, it’s about ethics in film journalism.”

These backlashes demonstrate to me that the current generation of film critics suffers from a shocking lack of conviction. If they had even the slightest bit of real self-esteem, they wouldn’t have felt the need to lash out at those who didn’t agree with them.

However, I feel the more important takeaway from these incidents is that modern-day independent films are not defined by their ambition. Lady Bird, despite its rapturous, overwhelming praise, presented a very safe, predictable narrative. Art should be about taking risks, and in dismissing The Shape of Water so quickly, these fans actively rejected creativity.

It says something that one of the defining influences of independent cinema in the twenty-first century was the mumblecore movement. While the writers of old would craft thoughtful dialogue, their successors simply had actors talk exactly like people do in real life with all of the “wells”, “uhs”, and “likes” firmly intact. Because of this, I can safely say that if these kinds of fans were around in 1994, they would have rejected Pulp Fiction. Its stylized dialogue and larger-than-life performances would have been considered hokey in the face of the naturalistic dialogue that defines Lady Bird.

How the hypothetical review would probably read:

“Mr. Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction is the quintessential example of a film that chooses to place style before substance. That so many people could buy into his sophomoric brand of macho posturing truly has me, as a professional critic, worried about the future of independent filmmaking.”

3. Brazil by Terry Gilliam

The classic film:

In 1985, Monty Python alumni Terry Gilliam put the finishing touches on Brazil. It’s exactly what you’d expect from such a person – a film about a horrifying, manmade dystopia that is assuredly hell on Earth. It’s a world that wouldn’t feel out of place in the works of George Orwell – though it’s distinguishable by its incredible sense of dry, British humor. Nonetheless, it’s every bit as pessimistic as 1984 given that its protagonist is completely and utterly doomed. There is no happy ending awaiting viewers – the only way out of this world is to die or go insane.

So, what’s the problem?

I have to admit I was going into Brazil expecting to hate it. One of the other major problems with modern-day satire is that it does not have any faith in the human spirit. Many writers – particularly those participating in the science-fiction genre – don’t really enlighten their audience as much as they romanticize a life free from any kind of technology. When I heard about exactly what kind of film Brazil was, I expected to think of it as a rough precursor to things like Neill Blomkamp’s District 9, Leigh Whannell’s Upgrade, Ari Aster’s Hereditary, or Alex Garland’s Ex Machina in how it tricks critics into accepting weak writing and flawed concepts by appealing to their misanthropic, Luddite predilections.

However, that’s not what I got. What I got was a darkly hilarious film that has plenty of applicability. It is doubtlessly cynical, but in the classical sense of the term rather than the modern interpretation, which conflates it with nihilism.

Even so, it sounds like the kind of film present-day critics would love, doesn’t it? Not quite. You see, while Brazil is a great example of dystopian fiction, it’s also a subtle critique on the genre. Whereas works such as Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror are hell-bent on proving humans are beyond hope, Brazil takes a step back and by painting a world whose corruption stems from gross incompetence rather than malice. Indeed, plenty of comedians have noted that real-life dystopias bear more similarities to the rundown world of Brazil than the indisputably evil Oceania from 1984.

This is important to know because if it’s one thing present-day critics hate, it’s having their sacred cows scrutinized. If someone has the sheer audacity to say that they feel differently about a work, you can count on a professional journalist to pen a think piece rebuffing them every single time, which amounts to petulant whining more often than not.

Consequently, and given how critically successful the genre has been in the 2010s, I can safely bet that anyone daring to deconstruct it would be met with scorn. The best track record in the world wouldn’t save you from a panel of critics if you were to offend their sensibilities badly enough.

How the hypothetical review would probably read:

“Mr. Gilliam’s Brazil presents one of the most naïve narratives to ever grace the genre of dystopian fiction. The very idea that humankind’s worst actions are could be explained by Hanlon’s Razor is laughable. Humankind has proven time and again that they are completely beyond redemption.”

2. Star Wars by George Lucas

The classic film:

In a lot of ways, George Lucas’s Star Wars is the film equivalent of Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon LP. It’s a film that won the hearts of critics, cinephiles, and causal moviegoers alike, and became the talk of the town overnight. What differentiated it from contemporary works was its sheer staying power. Even as societal attitudes shifted many times over the years, Star Wars never lost its popularity. George Lucas’s ode to the works of Akira Kurosawa and classic science-fiction serials was destined to be beloved for many generations to come.

So, what’s the problem?

I can envision many contemporary critics harboring a strong amount of antipathy for Star Wars as a result of the impact it had on the medium. Film scholars will be the first to tell you that the widespread success of George Lucas’s monumental work signified the beginning of the end for New Hollywood – one of the medium’s most beloved periods. Its success taught investors to care more about a film’s ability to spin off merchandise than its artistic merits. Combined with the rampant egotism shared by many auteurs, the inflated budgets of their projects, and the many box-office bombs that ensued, the New Hollywood movement died an unglamorous death, paving the way for a stronger studio system. This coincided with the rise of multiplexes, which ensured only the most heavily promoted films could stand a chance.

However, the purpose of this editorial isn’t to point out why today’s critics would hate Star Wars based on its legacy, but rather to make the case that had their predecessors in 1977 been imbued with their sensibilities, they would have dismissed it. Story notwithstanding, I can declare they would have rejected Star Wars for one simple reason: it was a box-office smash and they cannot accept the reality of the general public latching onto a quality work.

Throughout the 2010s, there was a distinct divide between critics and their audience. As the decade came to a close, critics became increasingly hostile to their audience to the point of outright belittling them and insulting their intelligence.

Now, there are many theories as to how this divide was created in the first place. Hearing it from the horse’s mouth would inevitably bring up certain political events in 2016. Once that year came to a close, it was suddenly very, very uncool to have populist leanings. You seriously couldn’t give the common person credit for anything – let alone having good taste in film. If you did, your peers would consider you unclean and toxic for having fratrenized with the unwashed masses.

However, it’s important to know that any critic who uses 2016 as a justification for their attitudes is absolutely lying. Maybe they’re being willfully blind or they’re woefully misinformed, but they’re not telling the truth when they present this conclusion. All 2016 did was allow them to act upon the elitist attitudes they had held for a long time. Want proof? Just one year prior, many of those same journalists turned a blind eye when A24 had the bright idea to catfish single men on Tinder with bots to promote Ex Machina.

Moreover, the aforementioned Bob Chipman once made a poorly received video wherein he defended the controversial Metroid: Other M. You would never guess that he made said video in 2011 because many of the problems he campaigns against didn’t exist then, yet the same unbridled hostility towards the audience he and others of his ilk exhibit today is there on full display. There is something to be said for being ahead of the curve, but in this particular case, he has nothing to be proud of.

I can imagine some people bringing up the existence of the internet as to why criticism has become more infantile. I personally think the service is, at worst, guilty of exacerbating an existing problem rather than having created a new one. As mentioned before, if you go back to 1955, you will find many critics letting their emotions get to them in how they rejected Charles Laughton’s The Night of the Hunter.

The Pittsburgh Press - The Night of the Hunter Review

Was this written by Owen Gleiberman’s dad or something?

Even the well-known critic Gene Siskel isn’t immune to this endemic form of madness, as he went as far as doxing Betsy Palmer for the crime of starring in Sean S. Cunningham’s Friday the 13th. For good measure, he also called Mr. Cunningham “one of the most despicable creatures ever to infest the movie business”.

So the takeaway is that the audience doesn’t matter unless critics need a personal hate mob. Got it.

One of the most respected critics of all time dehumanized a person who made a film he didn’t like and incited his audience to harass one of the actresses who starred in it. Words cannot describe how trashy this is. Granted, this was in 1980 when the dangers of doxing and stalking weren’t well-known or taken seriously, but there is no excuse for what he did.

The point I’m trying to make is that, to some extent, this divide has always existed. Before, they at least had to make a token effort to hide the large chip on their shoulder lest they risk unemployment. The only thing that changed is how critics justify causing it – and once they had the perfect excuse to treat audiences like dirt, they embraced it wholeheartedly.

Getting into the actual content of the film, Star Wars would have been left to fall by the wayside because of its unapologetic optimism. A Galactic Empire has a stranglehold on the galaxy, but a scrappy rebel force puts up a fierce fight, and strikes a blow against tyranny. As alluded to before, today’s critics have thrown in the towel. Anything that evokes positive emotions must be the film equivalent of junk food and if a large audience likes it, it must be populist garbage.

While it’s true that Star Wars films continue to get good reviews along with the installments of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I feel they were grandfathered in. By establishing their brands before critics as a whole turned away from idealism, they could continue to offend their sensibilities unabated. Even then, there’s the sentiment that they like these films in spite of being major hits with audiences. You always find conditional statements you don’t see when they’re talking about divisive works they enjoy. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if when they caught wind of the backlash against The Last Jedi, they defended the film solely to denounce those behind it. To be clear, the people behind the backlash deserved every bit of negative press they got; if anything, the mainstream media went too easy on them. Still, it’s not good for a critic to let a backwards-looking faction dictate their own taste in art.

How the hypothetical review would probably read:

“Mr. Lucas’s work is the very definition of lowest-common-denominator, pandering schlock that has no business gracing the silver screen. That this many grown adults could willingly become enraptured by the cheap platitudes and unrealistic dialogue Star Wars has to offer demonstrates just how far we, as a society, are to true enlightenment. It truly is debased to the point of being a ritualized celebration of our immaturity.”

1. Citizen Kane by Orson Welles

The classic film:

Some may disagree with what I have to say, and that’s perfectly fine because I fully admit it’s a daring – probably mad – claim. Nonetheless, I firmly believe in the principle of going big or going home, and I don’t think there’s a better way to wrap up this list than by insinuating that, with modern-day critical sensibilities, journalists would have let Citizen Kane rot.

This isn’t just considered one of the best films ever made; its very name has become a standard that denotes an exceptionally high quality. If something truly impacts a scene to its core, you can expect writers to, often without irony, call it the Citizen Kane of its genre. And you know what? For all of the people over the years who claim it’s an overrated, boring mess, I thoroughly enjoyed Mr. Welles’s lauded directorial debut when I finally got around to seeing it. Those who call it the greatest film in existence are only barely exaggerating – if at all. Even today, it’s remarkable how much it plays around with basic storytelling tropes – to the point where you can’t even pigeonhole it into a genre. You want mystery, political intrigue, and an extensive look into how the media impacts our lives? You will find all of those things and more in this film.

So, what’s the problem?

As I’ve touched upon in this article, the film critical circle is deeply flawed. However, what I truly believe to be their fatal weakness is that they can dish it out, but they can’t take it. Time and again, they fail to realize that criticism is a two-way street. Getting paid to pen your opinions doesn’t make every single one of your conclusions an irrefutable truth immune to being challenged. Everyone is allowed to have their own opinion, but if a journalist steps out of line, the public is well within their rights to call them out on it.

Unfortunately, that’s not how the critics themselves see it, and to demonstrate this problem isn’t necessarily endemic to films, I deem it necessary to delve into a different medium for my last point. Back in 2017, an independently produced game called Cuphead was about to be released. Veteran game journalist Dean Takahashi writing for VentureBeat uploaded footage of himself playing through the tutorial and part of the first stage. His video made for a decidedly tedious watch; he ignored basic cues and attempted to play a shoot ‘em up as a Mario-style platformer. The internet wasn’t impressed either, for they proceeded to downvote the video en masse.

Mr. Takahashi responded to the negative reception in a way that attempted to delegitimize his detractors rather than admit his video was terrible. Although his calling the video shameful in its description would normally denote some degree of self-awareness, the original title made no such reference, merely calling the game difficult. In other words, he only thought to retroactively make it a self-deprecating video after being told it was terrible.

To be clear, in no way did this slight warrant an internet hate mob bombarding him with death threats and various other obscenities. Anyone who did so should be ashamed of themselves. However, at the risk of sounding insensitive, I must point out that he would have saved himself a lot of grief had he, his bosses, or any of his peers looked over the footage and correctly deemed it unwatchable. This isn’t even a case in which it would only have been obvious in hindsight – those unfamiliar with the medium could tell you his footage isn’t entertaining. However, rather than admit his footage ran the risk of misrepresenting the experience, Mr. Takahashi went on the offensive, attempting to cut his detractors off at the heels instead.

When keeping in mind Dean Takahashi’s mishandling of the situation and the misbegotten think piece Owen Gleiberman wrote after Hereditary failed to resonate with audiences, Citizen Kane is not the kind of film that would get praise in this kind of environment. We’re talking about a film that openly criticizes the press for distorting the truth even when it claims to be unbiased. Because of how they present things, they ultimately forget important details, causing their subjects become less and less human. Having random people on the internet disagree with the critical consensus is bad enough for these kinds of writers. Could you imagine what would happen if someone with actual clout pointed out their myriad shortcomings?

Coupled with the rampant confirmation bias plaguing film journalism, Citizen Kane, despite rightly being considered one of the best ever made, is the perfect example of a work that would not stand a ghost of a chance against contemporary critics’ sensibilities.

How the hypothetical review would probably read:

“Mr. Welles’s haphazard, directionless directorial debut is perhaps one of the most irresponsible films ever created. The very idea that any journalist worth their salt would distort facts to this extent is completely disingenuous. It’s almost as if Mr. Welles is trying to discredit any potential critics before they have a chance to do their job. Shame on you, Mr. Welles, for being such a coward.”

37 thoughts on “Impeccable Timing: 5 Classic Films That Contemporary Critics Would Have Hated

  1. That is a very interesting concept and a unique list. I agree with a lot of these. Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic are so flawed. They’ve given movies in the 80 and 90 percent range, and there are some that I loathe without trying to be contrarian. Good thing I have my Iridium Eye Review blog to voice my own critiques on obscure media. I do agree that the plot twist didn’t go the extra mile with In the Heat of the Night. The producers must have played it save given the sociopolitical state then. Citizen Kane has it’s place in movie history, but I’m not going to say it’s the greatest movie ever (heresy, right?). How is it that they knew about Rosebud when no one was in the room or within earshot when Kane died? Sorry, that plot hole gets me and I can’t believe people ignore it. Haha!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’d say Metacritic is handy for video games, somewhat handy for music, and utterly worthless for films. For all of the problems game critics have, they are better at demonstrating their case than their film-loving counterparts (to the point where if they say something is good, the work in question is, at the very least, passable – usually) and music critics generally do value innovation, which is more than what can be said of film critics. Film critics, on the other hand, have the worst of both worlds, consistently being unable to demonstrate why a work is good while also having a toxic, elitist attitude towards those who don’t agree with them. And if the art of film criticism is taken less seriously in the future, they’ll have no one to blame but themselves (not that they won’t try, of course).

      Ah, you see, I would argue the fact that the central crime in In the Heat of the Night wasn’t racially charged actually allowed the narrative to go the extra mile in a different way. Considering what a hot-button issue it is these days, the film talking about abortion in such a frank manner was really ahead of its time. Sure, it inspired the central crime, but the stigma against it is the reason why the perpetrator suddenly had to make a large sum of money appear – and fast. Had it not been stigmatized, this plot wouldn’t have happened as it did.

      And the plot hole you describe is actually a very common misconception about Citizen Kane. Kane’s butler, Raymond, mentions having heard his boss’s final words, suggesting the scene in which the latter dies was shot from the former’s perspective. Granted, it is a bit of a “tell, don’t show” moment, but the fact remains that there is a diagetic explanation as to how Kane’s final word was accurately reported.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I can see where you’re coming from with Metacritic. While I’m not a fan of the site, I did find the reviews for music to be much more sound (no pun intended). As a musician myself, I know I value innovation as it’s one virtue I hold onto in multiple disciplines that I actively do with music and fiction. That makes sense about games, too. While I’m not as active in videography as I used to, I still value innovation and creativity in what I watch (don’t get me started on my thoughts on numerous film plagiarism controversies). I sure hope that’s the case with Rotten Tomatoes. It’s frustrating seeing commercials and DVDs posting the scores or “Certified Fresh” symbols all over the place like a badge of honor.

        Gotcha. I do agree that the abortion issue was certainly controversial especially for it’s time. There are times where a racially charged element can work like A Time to Kill, Black Girl, or Birth of a Nation (2016), but there are times where it’s not handled well in other films. Depends on the execution. There is the concept of the Deggans Test which has opened my eyes in that regard. Controversy can certainly work, but I would’ve liked it to go a different way. To each their own.

        Is it that common? I seriously wasn’t aware of how many people said that. I’ve seen that movie before a few times a while ago. Maybe it was an oversight. I do think Citizen Kane is a good film, but it’s not my favorite to be honest with you.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Oh? You’re a musician? Which instrument do you play?

          And yeah, that’s one thing that film critics should learn from audiophiles: don’t take your innovators for granted. There have been a few times in which music critics were caught off-guard by a work, but they seem especially good at giving works their dues in hindsight. While I have come across a dud here and there reading a “best films ever” list, I have never come across an album that wasn’t at least good when reading a “best albums ever” list. With games, journalists are dealing with an audience often more versed in the subject than they, so trying to pull the wool over their eyes is very difficult (if not, impossible). I still feel Rotten Tomatoes is somewhat handy for finding interesting films to watch, but I’ve definitely learned to take it with a grain of salt within the past few years – particularly because it’s clear the standards for what constitutes a professional critic have greatly slackened over the years.

          Doing what you say in using controversy to your advantage requires a very specific kind of talent, and I’m not sure if the current generation of filmmakers has what it takes to make it work consistently. It’s one of those things where if you mess it up, the failure can be seen from space. I think it requires a combination of bravery, conviction, and empathy, and I feel many of today’s filmmakers are lacking in the latter two categories.

          It’s common enough that you’re not the first person to bring it up on this site (and even back then, I knew how to counter it, meaning I heard of it beforehand). And honestly, that’s fair. I would actually lean a little bit more towards Touch of Evil and The Lady from Shanghai if we’re talking Orson Welles. For that matter, I recommend seeing F for Fake as well; a lot of people consider it a spiritual successor to Citizen Kane.


          • My Ospreyshire project uses acousmatics, percussion, ukulele, and keyboards mainly. However, I can play guitar, too.

            Yes, and thank you! I’m with you 100% on not taking innovators for granted. That and filmmakers who do a lot but never get credit like Ousmane Sebene or Satoshi Kon to name a few. I think I’ve had similar feelings when it came to “best of” lists. One advantage to game journalism is that it’s a newer form of media and criticism compared to film and even music criticism. Gamers tend to be more open to updated technology and criticism of their chosen media and the fact it’s way more interactive than films and music certainly helps. Yeah, I seriously wonder how some of these professional film critics get their jobs and why I don’t have one with my opinions some times. Some of them are total shills for companies and some major movie companies don’t take kindly to reviewers who make negative reviews of their works no matter how reasonable they can be (I’m looking at you, Disney).

            That’s true and I do incorporate some controversy that is usually more subtle in some of my fiction projects. So many current filmmakers particularly in the mainstream are too complacent in that regard.

            Oh, wow. I wasn’t aware of that when it came to your blog, but okay. I can be the same way when it comes to some movies or series where I can counter information to prove a point. Thanks for the recommendations of Orson Welles’ other works.

            Liked by 1 person

  2. Great read! Movies like Casablanca or Gone With The Wind would be interesting when compared to modern sensibilities…

    I had completely forgotten about that Cuphead video…it’s a tutorial showing you exactly how to play the game!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think Casablanca has held up reasonably well. I haven’t seen Gone with the Wind, though.

      Yeah, it’s a pretty embarrassing video, isn’t it? How he thought that was even the least bit professional is beyond me.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. You make some good points here. All these movies are great in their own ways, but they certainly don’t match up with the weird, often contradictory standards maintained by modern critics.

    The most interesting out of these to me is In the Heat of the Night because of the political and social arguments it would stir up today. It’s not enough to just tell a story. No, it has to be a story that pushes a particular political or social stance, and the right kind of stance too. I get it — I’m a liberal, and there’s probably no worse, more frustrating time to be a liberal in recent history than right now, at least in the US. But it’s no good to write a story and characters that exist only to express a political view. The result might make for good propaganda, but it doesn’t make for good art.

    It’s still possible to express political and social views in a realistic and subtle way, like In the Heat of the Night does, but you have to be clever about it. Why risk it when critics are likely to just tear you apart over being too nuanced? And God forbid you try to just tell a story, to make “art for art’s sake” or to make a straightforward adventure like Star Wars. Art is never about escapism or fun; it always has to be about shoving your views down everyone else’s throats.

    The same goes for stuff like Pulp Fiction. I like the dialogue in Tarantino’s movies. Who cares if that’s not how people talk in real life? If I want to hear how people talk in real life, I can go outside and have a real-life conversation with someone. Nothing’s wrong with putting realism in your movies sometimes, but the whole mumblecore thing is irritating.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, one of the biggest problems with contemporary filmmaking is that creators are subservient to the liberal zeitgeist. The problems you point out are certainly valid, and I also think that doing so is really not going to give their works any kind of staying power. What would happen if they insist on following these political views so adamantly only for one of them to not stand the test of time? Their work would suffer in turn.

      And I get it too, being a liberal myself. As you say, half the time, you really have to wonder if these films are getting good reviews because of their artistic merits or because they’re effective propaganda. I do realize I’ve spent more time criticizing the left, but that’s because I know there’s a chance they’ll actually listen. At the end of the day, the left is merely pretty bad at taking criticism. When they get challenged, they tend to just whine about it. They’re not homicidally hostile to taking criticism like the right is. Either way, it’s unfortunate that the medium is so creatively stifled; it almost makes it difficult to appreciate what made it so special in the first place. Despite having a leg up on video games from a cultural standpoint, there’s no getting around that as a medium, films are long past their prime.

      The mumblecore movement has had an unequivocally negative impact on filmmaking. It’s a lot like the walking simulator movement in gaming, though thankfully, game makers eventually steered away from that. That’s the reason why I can’t support films like Gloria Bell or Eighth Grade; they seem really backwards looking in how they actively shun innovation and creativity. Not to mention that no matter how realistic you make your dialogue and how mundane your scenarios are, it’s always going to be a work of fiction – even if it’s based on real events. I just don’t get why the current wave of critics and filmmakers find that so objectionable. Choosing not to have any imagination in art is like deciding that breathing is overrated.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I had some superhero film loving colleagues once who’d not seen the original Star Wars. I lent them the DVD set and they were very excited and thrilled to finally catch up with it all. They watched the first one and the bloke fell asleep, his girlfriend didn’t get it. They simply don’t “do” old movies like that, it has to have modern special effects.

    Just thought I’d regale this story here.


    • I don’t really blindly buy into the notion that old works are better than new ones, but there’s no getting around that, when it comes to films, the medium’s peak is long behind it. Then again, I kind of think that between all of the creative mediums, video games were the only ones that benefited in some way from the Internet’s presence whereas other ones were severely hurt by it. It’s a shame your friends fell asleep; the loss is theirs, truly.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I’ve often wondered about film critics and overall “cultural critics” and their merit these days. To be honest I rarely read film reviews from critics. I think bloggers have much more sway in my mind because like me they might pick a part a film or a character what worked and what didn’t after but in the end of the day I just go to the movies to be entertained, moved and forget about the real world for a couple of hours.

    And I do think the last couple of years especially if the story doesn’t fit a certain point of view or go the way the critics think it should it works against the film. Lots of interesting stuff here to think about in terms of the future of film criticism (and other things of course!)

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think that the internet was responsible for an overall lower barrier to entry in most creative fields, including criticism, which really caused most mediums to suffer in some way. Indeed, I feel the only medium that truly benefited from the lower barrier to entry is video games because now anyone can pick up the resources to make them, yet a poor effort can’t fool people versed in the medium. After all, it’s probably the only medium in which the audience is more versed than the critics. Gamers generally know a bad game when they see it, so anyone who tries to pull the wool over their eyes is doomed to fail.

      However, because anyone write on a site and call themselves a critic, you get a lot of weak writers who are bolstered by confirmation bias rather than their merits as a reasoner. Then again, this aspect has affected writers who became critics before the rise of the internet, so my guess is that once it was clear that they didn’t have to be civil, they immediately hung their audience out to dry. Naturally, this isn’t good because I guarantee that at least a few of these sacred cows express viewpoints that will not stand the test of time. With the only thing going for them being the narratives they’re trying to push, later generations will rightly drop them once they realize they have nothing to offer outside of that. It’s only natural; I’m sure I hold a few viewpoints that won’t age well. Almost all of us do – it’s just how things go.


  6. thanks for the comprehensive look at those five movies. I may need to rewatch them to see if my opinion of them has changed over the years. And as far as the Prestige is concerned, it was a good movie, but I preferred The Illusionist, which came out at the same time.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m sure there are plenty of other films out there they would have hated as well. For similar reasons, I can see them dismissing stuff like 8½ and F for Fake because they cast critics in an unflattering light and they would absolutely despise Memento because it was an independent film that chose to be an innovative story first. I’m glad that they tended to take their predecessors at their word because I’m sure they would have let many great films gather dust had they been left to their own devices.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I haven’t seen most of these (Star Wars only) but I enjoyed your discussion! I especially agree with your points about Star Wars and remember that time in the US anyway, when any commercial success was surely going to be hated by critics.

    I actually used to check what critics had to say back then. If they loved it, I usually avoided it. If they hated it, I was thinking- gotta go see it right now!

    I remember seeing No Country For Old Men with my dad, beloved by critics everywhere. A flaming dumpster heap of a film. We both hated it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks! I’m glad you liked this editorial. It took me awhile to write it because I had to come up with a cohesive argument using five very different films, but I like how it turned out.

      While I think a divide between critics and fans has always existed, I think the critics of yesteryear had a leg up over contemporary ones in that they realized how important it was to get people interested in the films they like. After all, considering that the gigantic budget of the average New Hollywood film, they knew if their audience didn’t support them, then that was the end of that director’s career. Now, the problem is that they not only consistently fail to get people interested in their favorite works, they fail to understand why it’s important. I feel this is a problem exclusive to film critics because there is no external pressure that forces them to connect with their audience. Literary critics tend to be naturally articulate due to the nature of their preferred medium, music critics value innovation to the point where their shunning of mainstream pop is understandable, and game critics can’t afford their sacred cows to bomb lest their favorite developers go bankrupt. Film critics are in a position where they can collectively come down to an unsound conclusion and not suffer an immediate consequence, which has caused them to become as complacent as today’s filmmakers.

      I haven’t seen No Country for Old Men, but it sounds like one of those films that I absolutely would not enjoy. They’re quite revered amongst cinephiles, but in all honesty, I’ve found the Coen Brothers the filmmaking equivalent of the title character from the poem Casey at the Bat. They swing for the fences every time, but the results don’t always land. Of the films of theirs I saw in theaters, I found True Grit to be merely okay, Inside Llewyn Davis was kind of go-nowhere bore, and The Ballad of Buster Scruggs was wildly inconsistent in terms of quality. However, by that token, when they succeed, they *really* bring the house down; The Big Lebowski and Fargo are some of the greatest films of the 1990s.


  8. Don’t have anything useful to add to the discussion, but wanted to say that this was a fantastic read.

    Also, some clarification: the “event” in 2016 is in reference to the United States’ presidential election, yeah?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey, thanks! Glad you liked this editorial.

      I was referring to a number of things, but that is indeed one of them. I think a lot of critics use the election as a justification for the extreme hostility they display towards their audience. Considering how they handled the Ex Machina marketing scandal (which was long before the candidates were even cemented), I’m not buying it at all. All 2016 did was allow critics to openly act upon the deep-seated issues they clearly had for awhile. Even ignoring 2016, I just don’t think they would have turned on their audience as quickly as they did unless there was some kind of precedent.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks! To be honest, I’m kind of amazed I got such a positive response from this article because I thought for sure it would attract dissenters by the boatload. Looks like everyone else is tired of film critics’ nonsense as much as I am.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I’m one of those people who didn’t think Shape of Water should have won, but I wasn’t in favor of Lady Bird. Three Billboards outside Ebbing Missouri blew me out of the water (out of the “shape” of water). I thought it was a wonderful movie that told a very human story. And while I’m normally fond of the fantastical, The Shape of Water just didn’t grip me emotionally the way Three Billboards did.


    • Honestly, I would’ve been perfectly fine with Three Billboards winning (or Phantom Thread, for that matter). It helps that 2017 (the 90th ceremony) had a strong lineup in general – ironically, Lady Bird was the weakest film among them. That said, you have to admit that The Shape of Water winning was great for proving A24 fans have less maturity than the average preschooler. There’s no way fans like that would’ve appreciated Pulp Fiction when it was released, huh?


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  11. That’s a really thoughtful way of thinking of it. Yeah, people are weird, but some weird things all stay the same. We’re all overly invested in our own opinions, and pretending that they matter so much about such a subjective experience that by definition is going to vary depending on the consumer that we have to aggressively shut down anything that doesn’t line up with them. Subtlety often takes a good long while before communities will pick it up, trends ebb and flow, and expectations may change but they seem to determine impressions almost as much as the work itself.

    I would have thought, in a vacumn, that critics would be getting better with time, but it certainly doesn’t seem to be so. And as you pointed out, there was always a nasty streak running through them. I can’t believe Ebert riling up the mob like that, that is the kind of stupid viciousness I’d expect from the random internet losers around today. It’s been kind of fun watching critics lose weight in the video games sphere, as just going by feedback from your other connections seems to circumvent a lot of it while still leading to some good purchasing decisions.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, there is a lot of that. It’s kind of shocking that being a professional critic doesn’t assuage that kind of behavior. All I can say is that I really hope I don’t end up doing that in the long term because that would be a sure sign that I have well and truly switched off.

      The sad part is that I get the feeling that critics have not really changed all that much since the 1950s if that The Night of the Hunter review is any indication. Mediums have evolved and grown in various ways since, yet they’ve remained in the same place, though I do think they have gotten worse because of the rampant confirmation bias plaguing contemporary criticism – that and their extreme hostility towards their audience. And that was actually Gene Siskel, but your point stands – it really is the kind thing someone who has made nothing of their life would do, and really made me lose a lot of respect for him. And speaking as someone who began this decade adamantly pro-critic, they have no one to blame but themselves for their declining relevance. I remember one person making a video expressing concern that his viewers don’t really read the writings of traditional critics. I mused to myself that they haven’t done anything that would warrant being taken seriously in the first place. Indeed, as you say, I’ve made good purchasing decisions just hearing what the WordPress circle has been saying, and I feel I’ve been better off for it.


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