Thursday, March 29, 2007

Opposites attract

I picked a half decent book up the other day, it's title caught my good eye since it's something I've often thought fairly often (pretty much most of the time when either playing poker or drinking too much, it has to be said) anyway, it's entitled Whatever you think, do the opposite.

It's certainly a bloody good rule for Perudo and I think it's also a rule for film reviews (amongst other things) as for life, I'm not so sure and my personal rule is actually Whatever you think, if it takes more than five seconds then do the opposite, otherwise do whatever your instincts tell you.

Go to watch any movie that's highly rated, people have raved about and so on - and the chances are you'll think it's OK at best, but generally it'll be shite. If somebody tells you a film is the embodiment of curdled milk on your best shirt collar and it'll most likely turn out to be just fine when you sit and watch it, if not genuinely great - so much so that this paragraph will end up on an endless infinite loop of self-fulfillment.

The point of this seemingly random tightrope walk? Well, I have just sat through, admittedly after a nice couple of glasses of red and the rest of a 12yr old malt I happened to receive for my 40th, "Pan's Labyrinth" - a film, last time I checked, notched up an astonishing 98% on meta-critic, a film so good that it's almost 5-10% better than anything else ever filmed or released.

Now don't get me wrong, Pan's Labyrinth is a great, fine, beautiful film. It's a work of art and an uplifting experience - certainly worth snapping your head around watching a subtitled Mexican film in a way that made the Italian It's a Beautiful Life wonderful, be you a parent or not, Italian or not, or hesitant about facism in anyway. Come to think of it, it seems to me anything about facism circa the late 30's, early 40's gets you a cultural 60% score off the bat.

But really, does this films beauty, script and emotion eclipse the story and script of The Shawshank Redemption? The inner glow that The Great Escape still gives me? The thrill that a number of others almost do? It just hit home - not for the first time, about subjective opinion, a topic that's a bit hot on my mind for a few days - again.

Reviews eh? What's the (and sorry about this) fucking point.

Watch it. Read it. Listen to it. Play it. But only if you wish - and leave it at that. I'm not sure why there's a crusade of weak-minded uncreatives who feel they are being creative by criticising or discussing the artistic talents & merits simply because they can co-ordinate fingers and minds and somehow consider themselves wrapped up in the industry they critique; particularly in a world where setting yourself up to be heard, read and seen is as easy as 1-2-3. For Christ's sake someone is even reading this....

I've spent a week getting very angry at a review of a game we did that's generally been really well accepted - but one bad, nay disappointing review - actually not even the review, but one especially bad (and unjustified, which is the key) comment was enough to get me really (and I do mean really) down about not only the review, the magazine/site (especially when I know the group really well), the Internet and whole social community that subscribes to read that shit. But I'm better now, must stay calm...

I either stop caring or continue. I know what my kids would rather have me do and that's what makes it all worthwhile.


Ashley Day said...

Sorry to hear about your bad experience, Martyn.

But I think that if you really believed reviews were pointless then you wouldn't be so upset about poor criticism.

Funnily enough. I met an executive producer from a big US publisher last week and he took every opportunity to remind me that what we write has a deep effect on developers and I guess he's right.

I'm not in any way suggesting that I'll be holding back on criticism for the sake of not hurting somebody's feelings but I do think all writers should take the time to consider what they're saying is fair or not.

I guess it comes down to the objectivity versus subjectivity debate. There's room for both but you need balance. Personal opion is fine as long as it's justified through a reasoned argument and I'm willing to bet that the review which upset you didn't strike that balance...

...unless it was written by me then you're wrong, wrong, wrong. ;)

Martyn "Spadge" Brown said...

We've obviously had thousands of reviews over the years and I certainly don't get excited about every critique. I do flare up when I believe there's something unfair, unjustified or just plain wrong.