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We Don’t Do “Reviews”

Here at Geek Juice, we don’t do reviews – we do something else.

Saying a sentence like “We don’t do reviews,” automatically sounds snobbish, I’m sorry.  I totally don’t mean it to sound that way, it’s just the nature of the internet – there’s some context missing.  “We don’t do reviews,” at first sounds condescending, as if reviews are somehow below us, when what I really mean is that the proper art of media review and criticism is beyond our current means and ability (though not our potential).  We are amateurs, at best.  Just a bunch of friends who like to joke about movies, tv shows, society, etc.  We talk about the things we like or don’t like and others are welcome to participate in that conversation.  We are not experts – nor should we be thought to be so.

Still more professional criticism than a lot of YouTube shows or podcasts.

Still more professional criticism than a lot of YouTube shows or podcasts.

Once upon a time there were film critics I had an absolute respect for, men and women knowledgeable in their field and able to provide an expert opinion on cinema.  I have a lot of love for the late Roger Ebert, but there were (and still are) critics like A.O. Scott (New York Times), Owen Gleiberman, Leonard Maltin, Peter Bradshaw and many others.  Heck, I even have respect for a snob like Pauline Kael. These were/are people that went to school, had years of film-going experience and education and have applied that expertise to help us.  Then came Web 2.0, the “democratization” of media and a complete  flattening of our culture.  There are countless blogs and sites dedicated to “reviewing” movies – not experts in their field but amateurs given a voice.  As a culture, we’ve given more acknowledgement to the amateurs than the people who actually know what they’re talking about.  The mob rule of the internet has overthrown the dictatorship of expertise to replace it with a million-mouthed dictatorship of idiots.  If sites like Wikipedia teach us anything, its that one no longer has to be an expert in their field, you can write whatever you want and then you’re an expert.  Roger Ebert once said:  “Film criticism at its best is nothing more or less than the practice of literature.”  It’s pretty shameful that criticism nowadays is Film criticism at its best is just typing 140 characters.

Won a Pulitzer for his work in film criticism.  No blogger can claim that.

Won a Pulitzer for his work in film criticism. No blogger can claim that.

That probably makes me sound like a Luddite.  Please, allow me to clarify.  The gist of my argument can be summed up better by Roger Ebert who made a similar statement in 2004 under the guise of a review for A Cinderella Story.  Ebert quotes from an article about a fourteen-year-old boy who swore off movie critics because he gets better information from the internet.  The review is as a letter to this boy, as Roger Ebert not only explains why this boy would dislike A Cinderella Story but why we need to value the erudite voices of film criticism over the opinions of bloggers.  Ebert states:

“…you use the Internet as a resource and no doubt know about movie review sources like rottentomatoes.com, metacritic.com and even (pardon me while I wipe away a tear) suntimes.com/ebert. Even when a critic dislikes a movie, if it’s a good review, it has enough information so you can figure out whether you’d like it, anyway.”

Director David Cronenberg has stated similar things about the nature of film criticism.

“There are legitimate critics who have actually paid their dues and worked hard and are in a legitimate website connected perhaps with a newspaper or perhaps not … Then there are all these other people who just say they’re critics and you read their writing and they can’t write, or they can write and their writing reveals that they’re quite stupid and ignorant.”

When it comes to anything, not just criticism, the internet has destroyed the dividing line behind “professional” and “just anyone with a keyboard.”  Once upon a time, people earned respect in their chosen field by being the best at what they did – it was a Darwinian “only the strong survive,” kind of professional world.  The internet has created a monstrous chimera of commentary which, as author Andrew Keen phrased it: “the law of digital Dawinism, the survival of the loudest and most opinionated.”  Online film criticism has grown away from the educated recommendations of professionals and expertise is now seen by how many fans they have, how many views their YouTube video gets.  Sites and shows such as CinemaSins, Channel Awesome, every single person on YouTube, is simply amateur nitpicking wearing an unqualified label of “critic.”  Doug Walker (Nostalgia Critic), of Channel Awesome, did go to a University for a degree in communications – so he CAN call himself a critic – I don’t really like his work but I respect his opinion far more than most of the other people on the internet that just tack on the word “critic” to their name.  Instead of the work of talented writers and performers with years of experience, the most watched person on YouTube is PewDiePie, a kid that just shouts at stuff.  Entertaining? Perhaps.  Talented? Not in the slightest.  They are charismatic, yes, but charisma is NOT a substitute for education or professionalism.  Charisma does NOT equate to talent.

Film Critic THEN

Film Critic THEN

Film Critic NOW

Film Critic NOW

Not many working on Geek Juice are professionals, we are amateurs.  There are some among us such as Mike White and Rob St Mary who host The Projection Booth that ARE professionals – both of them are educated men with published works; they’ve earned the respect that comes with being a film critic – and the quality of their podcast and discourses on film is evident.  Charley McMullen and mister X did complete film school and have worked in the field, so they have more expertise than I;  I didn’t complete film school – Most of my expertise is in other fields, film commentary is a hobby.  For most of us on the site, it’s a hobby.  We don’t review films – that’s what qualified professionals do.  We simply talk about them and encourage you to second-guess our opinions, consult a professional.  While all of us will talk social issues frequently – none of us are sociologists.  I don’t bring this up to say we’re better than others or to act humble – I could really list off the names of any site and discuss the credentials of all involved.

What I’m really trying to say is that hard working professionals still have a place in this world, and we need to value that place more than our voices as amateurs.  I used to read Entertainment Weekly until April, 2014 when they laid off all their staff writers to pursue content from the internet at no cost.  The result has been this horrible thing that just tweets positive nonsense about everything with often questionable authorship and I’m surprised that people still respect them.  Oh, it’s because they’re charismatic – they like the stuff you like so they MUST have authority, right?  They don’t review movies, they promote them.  Bloggers don’t review movies, though they say they do, they just give an opinion.  If you were diagnosed with cancer would you take the advice of a medical professional with a degree, internship and years of experience or would you value more the opinion of a blogger who read a few articles on wikipedia?  When it comes to our consumption of media, we’ve tended towards taking the latter.  If a homeless drunk on the street introduced himself as “Wino Willy DDS,” would you actually trust him to do dental work the same way everyone seems to hold stock in random people that call themselves “critics”?

This cat has life experience of seeing and critiquing cats.  I accept this cat's opinion more than MovieBob.

This cat has life experience of seeing and critiquing cats. I accept this cat’s opinion more than MovieBob.

So when I say we don’t “review” movies, I mean that we are not professional critics.  We’re just people that like talking about movies, we have our opinions based on our interests and not necessarily quality recommendations/condemnations of movies.  We like to write, but very few of us can say we do so professionally.  We hope to entertain, we hope to give some different voice on social issues, we like to comment on geek culture.  but we’re mostly amateurs.  Don’t use this site or any other site as a substitute for professional news reporting or opinion – this is a place to hang out and have fun.

And just remember…. every time I see an amateur (even myself) call themselves a “critic” I think this:

you-didnt-like-a-movie-and-commented-about-it-on-facebook-tell-me-more-about-your-experience-as-a-movie-critic-thumb

About The Author
Matthew Coats
Matthew Coats
Formerly known under the pseudonym of Alex Jowski. Site owner, movie aficionado, and film school grad. Matthew Coats presents reviews, some written, some as vlogs, and some as weekly shows, for a variety of different movies and television shows. After years of struggling to get his own projects off the ground amidst the normal routine of living, Matthew Coats decided to create a site in order to share and promote movie reviews, video games and much much more from talented and original people all across the internet.
2 Comments
  • Michael Riley
    October 23, 2015 at 9:44 pm

    Yes, indeedy. I’d say the proper term for those of us who have a hand in creating content on the site is either “content creator” or “producer.” I’ve probably stated at one point or another that “For FAQs Sake” or “The Invasion” were review shows, but I don’t so much… review things as analyze them and crack jokes about them. Sure, I can make personal recommendations about movies and video games, but to say that I’m a critic is flat-out wrong. The same thing could be said about most anyone who does contribute to this site, be it in an aural, visual or written capacity.

    Mike White and Rob St. Mary I have a lot of respect for. While I can gladly say that the MentalCast has improved in terms of sound quality and editing in the past few years, I can also say that we’re a ways away from being anywhere close to the level that The Projection Booth is at. At the same time, my goal isn’t to emulate them. My goal is to stand on our own as a product. Basically, the way I see it, if I or my castmates are entertaining, then we’ve done our “job.”

    Great article, Alex. Well said.

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