Here is one of the initial problems of criticism of the arts: it’s almost entirely subjective.
When you watch a comedy that makes you genuinely laugh out loud, that’s your own personal experience with that film. To you, that’s an effective comedy and you had an enjoyable time. Someone else could watch the same film, and never laugh once, and to that person the film wasn’t funny and they didn’t enjoy themselves.
As such, how can a critic rate his single experience and explain it to others as if they’re trying to describe how it will work for others? Everyone has different tastes and preferences. What maybe enjoyable to some could be unbearable to others and vice versa.
So how can a critic review something when it’s just their subjective viewpoint? The answer is to embrace that.
A critic should know that what they’re saying in their review is nothing more than their opinion. If it’s a weak opinion with no support or basis, then suddenly it’s a review that becomes unnecessary and bland. When a critic is passionate and heartfelt about what they’re saying, suddenly their opinion has power. People are interested in what you have to say just because of how much passion is behind the words.
Look at this image very closely. Observe it and analyze it. Now, tell me, what to do you see?
Do you see a young woman? Do you see an old hag? Do you see something else? Why am I even bringing this up?
This optical illusion helps to demonstrate what art critics set out to do.
Let’s assume that when you look at this picture you see the old hag. A critic would ask, do you only see the old hag? Do you see more? Look at it from this angle, notice the structure of her jaw or the way her face bends. Now do you notice that it could be a young woman?
When it comes to this illusion, there is no right answer. It is neither an old hag or a young woman, yet both at the same time. It all depends on the person looking at it and how they interpret it.
What a critic would do with something like this is to point out how there is more than one way to notice it. How to look at something from a different angle, to step back for a second and think of something in a different way than you normally would. To at least give yourself the possibility of seeing it from that new angle, and see where everyone else who doesn’t agree with you is coming from.
One thing that someone new to art exploration and criticism might ask is if art criticism has actually changed anything to the world at large?
The answer to this question is that if you look within the fields of that particular art, criticism has changed their worlds very much.
In particular, film criticism has set the bad films apart from the good ones. If it weren’t for critics like Leonard Martin, Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert, we wouldn’t hold films like “Citizen Kane,” “Vertigo” and “Casablanca” in such high regards. There would be no guidelines that set films like “Jaws” apart from other films like “Freddy Got Fingered.”
It is because of the words and passions of critics that make classic works of art what they are. If there was no one praising the work of the Mona Lisa, would the painting be nearly as influential and famous as it is today? Would the painting even be in a museum in the first place?
Hell, would there even be art museums at all if it weren’t for critics to point out which ones are good and bad?
On April 3, 2013, Roger Ebert, often regarded as on of the greatest film critics ever, passed away. Although his life has ended, he has left behind a legacy that will continue to resonate for quite a while.
While there was film criticism long before Roger Ebert was born, Ebert helped to make film criticism interesting and exciting through his reviews and television show with Gene Siskel, entitled “Siskel & Ebert.”
Week in and week out, Siskel and Ebert would watch around five new movies, sometimes even more, write their own reviews, then come on the camera and then make a show about it, arguing with one another over which movies were good and which ones were bad. To do this for so long and to continue to have heated discussions with each other shows just how this meant to people like Ebert and Siskel. And if they didn’t continue to get the support and followers, then there would have been no show.
Obviously, people enjoyed watching these two argue about movies. So why did people keep watching? I think they came to watch their most defining characteristic: Their passion. Passion for films, passion for talking about films, passion for writing about films and simply a passion for life.
If I take away just one thing from Roger Ebert’s life, it’s that everyone should find that one thing they’re truly passionate about in life and follow it. Follow it and center your life around it. That passion will not only bring you happiness, but a purpose.
Below is a link to one of my favorite internet critics as he bears his heart out to everyone about his feelings with Roger Ebert and the legacy that he leaves behind him.
Here’s the thing about criticism of the arts: It is all the thoughts and opinions of the person writing these reviews. When it comes to opinions, it’s important to remember that they’re often biased and only seen from one perspective, especially when it comes to criticizing the arts. It’s impossible for a critic to be absolutely objective with their opinions.
Here is one way to differentiate what critics do from others: Criticism of the arts is almost entirely a subjective experience and practice, while science and math is almost entirely an objective experience. I say this because an objective experience is rooted in truth and fact. That you can calculate and measure out something to experience it. Two scientists can look at the same equation and come up with the same results. That’s science and being objective. Art criticism, on the other hand, has no truth or facts to it. Two critics can look at the same painting and have two entirely different impressions of it. That’s just having an opinion and being subjective.
Some people like to think that there’s a science behind breaking down art and analyzing what makes them work and what doesn’t, when there never has been and there never will be. People only need to watch “Siskel & Ebert” to understand why there is no equation to truly great art. The closest thing people will find to that is the passion and heart that critics put into their work, and the passion critics have for their respective art form.
Have you ever read a review of a book, play, film or music album and completely disagreed with it? To the point where you stopped and thought about wether this review has changed anything and if it was even necessary to point out? These kind of thoughts can lead to an entirely different way of thinking that some people have adopted: Is criticism of the arts even necessary in the first place?
This is the kind of question that my blog will explore in detail. Many critics have labored over reviews and ways of describing why certain works of art are either good, bad or somewhere in between. Yet, it seems that these reviews and the work of critics does not change anything, or even if does change something it’s more often for the worse, not the better.
Overall, I hope that this blog would help to not only let others gain a deeper appreciation of the arts, but also to help me gain a deeper respect for those who work in arts and to better understand the work that I hope to do one day.