As one reads a book, a film critic reads a film. Depending upon the intent of the filmmaker, a motion picture can be viewed as pure art form, social or political commentary, treatise on a particular topic or cause, or simple entertainment. The role of the critic is to determine if the film has done its job relative to its intent, and to relay his or her opinion on said film to the public in order that they may make a sound judgment whether or not to spend their money to watch it.
For as far back as I can remember, this has been my function, whether I have realized it or not. Sometimes I come away from having watched a movie with a new learned life lesson or having become educated on a new culture or way of thinking. Sometimes I come away admiring a certain technical achievement or particular directorial style. Sometimes I come away in awe of The Rock’s biceps. Whatever the case may be, I come away from a film having weighed all of its merits and deficits, and having come to a reasonable determination on whether or not I would recommend the film to others. There are times when I may even recommend a film to one person, while I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it to another. As with most art forms, movies are a matter of taste, and I find it particularly satisfying when I manage to match the right viewer with the right movie.
There are occasions, of course, when we are not seeking “art” so much as we just need to forget about our lives for two hours, check our brains at the theater door, and get lost in some pure escapist fantasy for a little while. These are the sorts of movies where one typically says to another, “You have to see it on the big screen!” When I walk out of one of these films – blockbusters, if you will – and I have a smile on my face, the film has done its job and I’ve gotten my money’s worth (and that’s saying a lot in these days of $14 or more admission prices).
The bottom line is: I want others to derive the same pleasures from watching movies as I do and have done throughout my life. I want people to recognize how a great performance can mesmerize a viewer, how a well-timed shock can provide a momentarily giddy thrill, how a searing drama can force a viewer to reflect inward on his or her own beliefs and values. It’s thrilling to uncover emotions in oneself that ordinarily don’t rise to the surface, or to discover truths about one’s own value system that a person may or may not want to admit. Therein lies the capacity of the motion picture, and the power of its effect can be staggering.