If you have been reading any of my stuff over the years, you know by now that I am a massive movie geek. I love all kinds of movies – classic, sci-fi, westerns, sports, animated, you name it and I bet I can rattle off a few of the genre that I am a fan of (except rom-coms – no way, no how – just find them incredibly boring and formulaic). I find movies the last “great escape” from reality we really have left. TV is so non-committal – you can get up and leave any time or just change the channel. Books? Love them but you can stop and start whenever you please – just dog-ear a page and off you go. Same goes for my beloved Interwebs. Movies, though, are an investment. You buy your ticket, get your snacks and hole up in a dark room with strangers invested for at least a few hours. You literally go somewhere else and pay to do it. Movies literally allow us to separate from the world for a few hours and suspend our disbelief to live in other worlds or lives. OK – now that I have established why the movies rule I am now going to go on a classic “I am old/bitter” rant. Fuck Rotten Tomatoes – and for that matter movie critics too.
I am old enough to remember when the extent of “critics” was a column the day a movie came out in the “newspaper” (for those unaware, this was a bunch of paper with words typed on it that we used to read in the dark ages) or the “Siskel and Ebert” TV show “At the Movies” – which again was usually reviewing movies the week of release. Here’s the thing – because the internet (gasp) did not exist back then, if you missed the TV show or didn’t read the paper today you had a blank slate of what to expect going in to any movie. There was a real feeling of excitement and unknown going to the movies that simply does not exist today. And that sucks – big time. Look – I am the first person to bless the internet for all its awesomeness, but the fact is that today’s scenario with sites like Rotten Tomatoes and others has ruined movies for all of us. Let me explain.
First off, you have sites like Rotten Tomatoes, where not only critics review movies, but everyday Johns and Sues too. The site aggregates movie reviews from all over the country and then “scores” them before a movie release. OK – fine in theory, but what ends up happening is that we know FAR too much about a movie before it even comes out, and even worse are peppered with these scores that taint our perceptions before we even decide if we want to see it. If you think for one second that sites like this don’t affect our buying choices and box office sales you are gravely mistaken. We are also fed plot synopsis’s, fanboy/fangirl online social posts and the end result everyone is a fucking critic before a movie even premieres to the general public. We consume this stuff, and if the review are really bad – it even becomes NEWS. Example – Suicide Squad. The movie had amazing trailers and fans were excited. A few weeks before premiering to the public, the critics and fanboys/fangirls got to see early viewings and proceeded to rip it to shreds. The excitement amongst the audience then quickly turned into cautiousness, along with a jaded perception before they went to go see it. Even worse – some people, because of these reviews, decided to just not go see it at all. Let that sink in for a second – because of other people’s “opinions” on an art form, people decided to let other people they never even met decide for them what they would or would not enjoy. This really pisses me off. I get it – we live in a “Yelp” age where everyone is a critic and “transparency” is the buzzword of the day in business – but in movies and entertainment or art (for that matter) – is that a good thing?
In art – I think not. On a plane ride home from a conference recently I was watching South Park and they had an episode about Yelp and how Cartman basically used this to his advantage as a threat/blackmail over all the restaurants in town. They basically fall over themselves to please him, and even change what they serve or what they do to make sure no negative Yelp reviews from Cartman happens. While hysterical, this episode really touched a nerve with me because, while it is parody, it really its home in this day and age where everyone is a frigging critic. Rotten Tomatoes and its ilk are too popular now to ever go away, and their influence so strong that what has happened is what should be an art form is now consciously, like in South Park, trying to please critics first – audiences second. This undoubtedly affects the end product and ruins it for all of us. For what it’s worth – I loved Suicide Squad. Was it amazing? No – but it was fun entertainment that let me escape reality in a world that is completely unlike my own. Isn’t that what movies are all about in the first place? There will always be critics – but when critics drive the art is when the art starts to suck. After all, they are not artists or filmmakers but rather people who critique them. Call me crazy – but I would like to decide for myself. So – to Rotten Tomatoes? Bite me.