By offering an alternative deluge of fans’ notes, angry sniping, half-baked impressions, and clubhouse amateurism, the Internet’s free-for-all has helped to further derange the concept of film criticism performed by writers who have studied cinema as well as related forms of history, science, and philosophy. This also differs from the venerable concept of the “gentleman amateur” whose gracious enthusiasms for art forms he himself didn’t practice expressed a valuable civility and sophistication, a means of social uplift. Internet criticism has, instead, unleashed a torrent of deceptive knowledge — a form of idiot savantry — usually based in the unquantifiable “love of movies” (thus corrupting the French academic’s notion of cinephilia).
— Armond White, chairman of the New York Film Critics Circle
This is our mission statement: We love movies. We love everything about the process of making them, the history of the industry, the endless variety… Mostly, we love watching them.
To our minds, too much Internet-based film criticism relies not on love, as Mr. White asserts, but on hatred. There’s less criticism of the film itself than how well it fits into the pop-culture zeitgeist — and a great deal of derision directed toward the actors, filmmakers, studios, even the film’s genre, without doing much to criticize the film itself. These authors — or the sites they represent — have an agenda. What that agenda is may remain a mystery, obfuscated under the shroud of alleged impartiality. However, the plain fact remains that the reviews end up tainted by vitriol — authors too preoccupied with how much they hate Ben Affleck (for instance) focus on that hatred instead of whether or not the movie is any good. (And no, you writers of such tripe: the mere fact that somebody you dislike is involved with a film does not make it inherently terrible.)
Internet film criticism has become a soupy mire of negativity, which in too many cases seems to come from a place of genuine hate. We can’t say for sure why this hate permeates so many online film reviews. As bad as the hate is the transparent, sycophantic ass-kissing of “critics” more interested in hobnobbing with stars and industry players than determining a film’s merits based on his or her well-informed opinion.
We writers of The Parallax Review strive to approach all films with open minds and love in our hearts. Lest we get on Armond White’s bad side, we consider ourselves legitimate cinephiles — we have passion for the medium of film. We care less about who a star is wearing than what lens was used to capture their image on the screen. We appreciate the difficulty and great expense of making films, the artistry and craftsmanship of a well-made movie (even if that well-made movie is not actually good), and the complex theories about the elements required to produce a great film.
Those of you reading this site might be thinking, “Wait a minute. You keep talking about love and the joy of watching a film. Why are there so many negative reviews here?”
We writers of The Parallax Review want all films to be great. Not all films are. We won’t pretend everything that’s released in a given year is a masterpiece, but we also won’t hate a film for the simple purpose of spewing bile at an industry that we fear has cruelly rejected us. Not everything needs to be a comma-splice-filled rant indicting the entire film industry for ignoring us. Conversely, not everything needs to be effusive praise heaped upon a film because the studio gave us an all-expense-paid set visit followed by an invitation to the gala premiere and after-party.
That’s the key difference between our “gentleman amateur” approach and others’ “angry sniping”: we love movies. We love the art of cinema, we have a deep understanding of the medium’s history, we can contextualize a particular film and review it on its own merits… A negative review of a film should not come from a place of bitter rage, impotent jealousy, or any of the other nasty byproducts of a blackened heart — it should come from a place of steadfast disappointment. Less “This movie sucked balls and anybody involved in making it should be killed,” more “Why couldn’t this movie be better? What went wrong?”
The Parallax Review was launched in 2010 by D. B. Bates and Matt Wedge, graduates of Columbia College Chicago’s film program. They have a simple goal: to restore film criticism to its rightful place in the realm of critical thinking, reminding readers that critics can knowledgeably and articulately express opinions. Not everybody needs to resort to petty name-calling and holier-than-thou screeds against Hollywood.