Monday, June 13, 2016

What if you hate THE WALKING DEAD?

What must it be like for critics when time or circumstances make it harder for them to do their job? Most critics sincerely love the field they cover and perform a valuable (if sometimes necessary) service to their industry. There are only a small handful I would run over with my car.

But what must it be like to be a serious student of film – to have spent years learning cinematic theory, dramatic structure, and film history only to now be reviewing superhero moves every week or sequels of superhero movies every week? If your goal was to be the next Pauline Kael, how do you sit through NEIGHBORS 2 and write two incisive pages on it?

What if you’re a restaurant critic told by your doctor you need to go on a no-salt diet?

Or a longtime rock critic who just can’t stand hip hop?

God forbid you review Broadway and are baffled by HAMILTON. Don’t wait for the next Rogers & Hammerstein musical.

Trends change, tastes change, and what if that new trend just isn’t for you?

With the Emmys around the corner I’ve been flooded lately with DVD’s “for my consideration.” If I watched 24/7 I still couldn’t get through all these series and specials. How do TV critics wade through all this shit? Some TV critics I really admire like Maureen Ryan and Alan Sepinwall do detailed critiques of every episode of certain series. How do they find the time? Or stay married? (not to each other)

And how do you cover every genre? I personally hate zombie shows. I just do. THE WALKING DEAD and RETURN OF THE WALKING DEAD and THE HARLEM GLOBETROTTERS MEET THE WALKING DEAD might be exceptional shows – great characters, imaginative storytelling, top-flight production values – but I can’t watch ‘em. It wouldn’t be fair for me to pan these shows because of my own personal bias, but how can I just ignore them because they’re “not my thing?”

Do critics secretly worry that at some point they’ll be out of touch and can no longer perform their job effectively? The tough thing here is that critics need to be both objective and subjective? Can they separate their bias to determine whether something is a piece of shit on merit?

How influenced are critics by the zeitgeist? Is there public and peer pressure to like certain things? When GIRLS came out did the ones who hated it feel they had to be kind otherwise they’d appear to be dinosaurs? Do critics ever temper their reviews to present themselves in a better light? Is it really worth selling your soul over GIRLS?

From time to time in this blog I review movies, and TV, and concerts. But I just get to pick and choose. I’m not obligated to break down this week’s MINDY PROJECT or suffer through some Adam Sandler comedy. I also have no pretense that my reviews are trying to educate or provide perspective into the human condition or the environment. I give my opinion about whether I liked something and attempt to make my reviews as breezy and entertaining as I can. I’ve never studied film theory. I’m sure I’m missing out but I have no desire to sit through a retrospective of Bergman. Heaven help me, but I’ll never win a Pulitzer.

But I’m always left with a better appreciation for what the good critics do. Summarizing a movie or show, trying to determine what did and didn’t work and why is difficult (unless Keanu Reeves is in it and then it’s easy).

And finally, add in the awareness that right around the corner someone is creating a brilliant new product that you just won’t get to save your life and I could see why the one thing all critics agree on is Extra-strength Tylenol.


Stephen Marks said...

"Harlem Globetrotters meet the Walking Dead", LOLOLOL excellent Ken, how many times have we seen that? Didn't the Globetrotters even end up on a Gilligan's Island remake doing that Sweet Georgia Brown thing with coconuts? Along those lines Ken here is a question for you, how does a writer feel when he's hired to write a show like The Globetrotters meet Gilligan's Island? Proud? Starving? Embarrassed? Would you have done it just starting out? Would you have this blog if you were the head writer for Green Acres?

Congrats Pittsburgh, Penguins win the Stanley Cup!

Wendy M. Grossman said...

I suspect Seppinwall and his brethren have some say over which shows they recap in such detail. But yes, the critic's job is to have at least a passing acquaintance with the major happenings in their field. The best ones, like Roger Ebert, manage to find a way to tolerate things they don't personaly care for; I think in the knowledge that they're doing the public a service by telling them whether thhis particular piece is something they want to spend their hard-earned money/limited discretionary time on.

Personally, I'm grateful I don't have to sit through GAME OF THRONES.


Eduardo Jencarelli said...

Well, it turns out Alan Sepinwall just quit doing covering THE WALKING DEAD at all. After such an atrocious season, it's the least he could afford to do, focusing his energy on better show instead.

Herschel said...

Don't think you are out of touch because you don't like TWD. I gave it a season and a half and just got tired of the premise.

I believe in a situation that these human find themselves in, they would not respond with killing and fighting each other so much.

I think there would be a lot of banding together to fight the enemy and to survive as a species.

But that's just an opinion.

I guess I'm an optimistic at my core...

H Johnson said...

Thank you for this. In our house I'm the odd man out because I think the whole premise of 'zombies' is stupid. Oh and thirty-five year old ingenues while we're at it. I'm sorry. I like pretending as much as the next guy, but my brain still works. Watching those shows will eventually make us all 'zombies'. I guess they are real.


Thomas Mossman said...

Tying it back to movies, I've wondered how critics respond to films or movies that have achieved controversy in the public eye before they've been released.

The obvious example is the new Ghostbusters movie. This is the first time where I've wondered if a movie could be reviewed honestly given the bad (sometimes outright hostile) reception to the trailers and the producers' similarly hostile response. Could a critic feel pressure to temper their review if a negative one carries the risk of being labeled misogynist/racist?

By the way, they showed a special preview (footage plus BTS stuff) at the screenings of the 1984 Ghostbusters last week. Sony should be thankful they got Chris Hemsworth for the movie. He was the only person to do anything funny in the footage they showed. The audience didn't seem to like or hate it, they seemed not to care about it at all.

tb said...

Some of the funniest things I've ever read are when good writers review a movie they hated

sumerlad said...

I seem to remember a NY Times film critic lost his job after he gave a very negative review for "Bonnie and Clyde" and his bosses decided he just didn't get the new wave of film.

Wendy M. Grossman said...

tb: Look up Ebert's review of Deuce Bigelow: European Gigolo. One of the funniest things I've ever read.


Jason said...

ugh, twd. So ludicrous. I can accept the premise of zombies, but not immortal zombies (who can sit in a room for no food for two years with no ill effects) who also inexplicably all wander through the Georgia woods, all the time.

MikeN said...

For all the attacks on Keanu Reeves, his body of work contains several more all-time classics than the vast majority of actors.

MikeN said...

I suspect you would like the Walking Dead. I hate zombie shows too, but this show is great without it. Indeed, lately they don't even seem to be making their token appearance. It is like how you can watch the Incredible Hulk show even if you hate big green men.

Greg Ehrbar said...

I've heard the same story as sumerlad. It was Bosley Crowther who refused to about face about Bonnie and Clyde, even when other critics did. From wikipedia:

Other critics besides Crowther panned the movie; for example, New York magazine's critic, John Simon, while praising its technical execution, declared "Slop is slop, even served with a silver ladle." Its distributor pulled the film from circulation. However, the critical consensus on Bonnie and Clyde reversed, notably with two high-profile reassessments by Time and Newsweek. The latter's Joe Morgenstern wrote two reviews in consecutive issues, the second retracting and apologizing for the first. Time hired Stefan Kanfer as its new film critic in late 1967; his first assignment was an ostentatious rebuttal of his magazine's original negative review. A rave in The New Yorker by Pauline Kael was also influential.

In the wake of this critical reversal, one of the most dogged critics of the film was Bosley Crowther, who wrote three negative reviews, as well as periodically blasting the movie in reviews of other films, and also in a letters column response to unhappy Times readers. The New York Times replaced Crowther as its primary film critic in early 1968, and it was speculated that his persistent attacks on Bonnie and Clyde had shown him to be out of touch with current cinema, and weighed heavily in his removal.Crowther worked as an executive consultant at Columbia Pictures after leaving the Times.

Charles H. Bryan said...

Speaking of reviews, Ken, will we see one for the Kings' BRAIN DEAD? I watched the first episode tonight and I think I'll go back for more.

D. McEwan said...

Zombie movies and TV shows bore me also, except when they are comedies. And boy, did I feel like an old fogie during the Tonys last night. I have loathed every musical number from Hamilton I've heard or seen. Sorry, I like MELODIES! I can't say if it's bad or good, but I can say I hate it with a passion. It's annoying because, the awful "Music" to one side, the show otherwise looks highly interesting. But two or more hours of all that monotonous chanting, sometimes shouted? Not for me. On the other hand, I saw A Gentleman's Guide to Love & Murder, which won the Best Musical Tony a couple years back, at the Ahmanson a month ago and loved, loved, loved it.

D. McEwan said...

But I Love Game of Thrones! it has zombies, ice called "White Walkers" (Or "The Others" in the novels, though that confuses them with Jacob's followers on Lost), but, important as they are to the story, they're not the whole story, just one element of it.

Anonymous said...

Hey Ken,

So true about TWD. I'm huge fan but after S2 the show went downhill-fast! I get it, that show alone keeps AMC in the black, they will milk it forever. I joke with other people who watch it that Carl will graduate dental school and the show will still be on.
Yes Keanu has done some bad movies but John Wick was fantastic. Also looking forward to The Neon Demon, don't know how big his role is in that. And FWIW, I always get a kick out of your Oscar & Emmy reviews, --LL

Milton the Momzer said...

I love Walking Dead and Sci-Fi in general but I have no use for FANTASY: Game of Thrones, Lord of the Rings. Not for me.

Andrew said...

I also wonder what critics do when they review something that has caught the zeitgeist, like Hamilton. What if they watch it and truly believe it's not that good? Do they temper down their distaste and try to give the public the benefit of the doubt? Do they try harder to find something good to say? Plus with something like Hamilton there's the PC issue - if you don't like it you just might be a racist. (I know a woman who believed that people who didn't like the recent Great Gatsby were racist because it included hip-hop music.)

Andy Rose said...

Good critics aren't about simply saying, "I like this, and I don't like that." That's useless since everyone's tastes are different. Instead, the good ones break a work down into its elements and provide analysis and historical context to those elements. Siskel and Ebert were not necessarily fond of "chick flicks," but they wouldn't have lasted very long if they refused to review them or automatically gave each one Thumbs Down. Instead, they accepted that genre on its own terms. Then they determined whether a particular film was still bad even in that context, or just lazy and uninspired, or predictable but had its moments, or a film that transcended or maybe even redefined that genre.

Loosehead said...

Think you're missing the point, Ken. Critics either like something, or don't like it, and then they say so. If you don't like The Walking Dead, and I have to say they lost me after the horse in episode 1, you just have to say so - its a review of sorts. If you have to vote on something, just tell yourself you just didn't like the stuff you couldn't watch, and vote for something you could watch.
We haven't had any grand-daughter pictures recently. Is she crawling yet? Has she written her first spec yet? Keep us up to date. More Rebecca-the-wrecker.