September 23, 2008

Roger Ebert on the Critic's Purpose

Not really a new piece, but Roger Ebert posted a column called "Critic" is a four-letter word. It is a fantastic piece that anyone who aspires to be a critic, thinks they are a critic, or wants to get into writing should read. It offers insight into how Mr. Ebert approaches the job, where he gets his inspiration, and how important the job can be to the art world.

In the column he references the great critic speech at the end of Ratatouille, using it to point out the importance of seeing and defending the "new." I found this to be a telling portion of the article. Think about it. Many think that critics only exist to tear films down and/or to promote an elitist agenda. I do not doubt that this may be true in some cases, but it is far from the whole truth.

I wonder how many great films, creators, performers would have slipped by unnoticed if not for the critic. Critics take their accumulated experience and use it to help recognize what is good, what is not, and offering their educated opinion on it. This includes new voices, the things that are different and push boundaries in the medium. There is also the ability of the critic to explain their positions, not allowing themselves to be content with saying "I like it" or "It's terrible." That is no way to go about forming an opinion. On top of that, reading critics and their thoughts will help the non-critic get in touch with why they like or dislike something, making them confront themselves and formulate taste.

I can only hope to be the tiniest bit like Mr. Ebert. The man is a treasure. Do yourself a favor, go read his column and then stick around to read some of his reviews.


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