Dr. Toon: The Animation Critic's Art - Part II
Taste is the culmination of education, conviction, and solid opinion. Without taste you will never achieve the critic's goal of telling That Which is Good from That Which Sucks, nor will you be able to analyze the great in-between (where you realize that 'Sucks' might have been 'Good' if only they had…). Worse, you will not be able to credibly express these insights to readers or listeners.
"Oh, yeah?" you say, "Prove it, you big-mouthed elitist egghead!" Fair enough. Go to the website www.rotten tomatoes.com There you will find a "Tomatometer" that calculates the percentage of positive reviews for a given film thusly:
1. A community of professional critics and reviewers
2. A community of "top critics" who have earned their chops
I used the date at which I was working on this column (Jan. 25) for an example. The following movies currently in release are up for appraisal. See if anything jumps out at you from the following set of statistics:
Movie Critics Top Critics Audiences
No Strings Attached 49% 52% 72%
Green Hornet 46% 20% 61%
The Dilemma 22% 31% 48%
Little Fokkers 10% 4% 49%
Yogi Bear 15 % 18% 43%
Tron: Legacy 49% 29% 69%
There are, as you can see, whopping differences in the way general audiences see a film and the way professional critics see a film. This is not because critics are more brilliant than anyone else is (they aren't) or because the critics are more mean-spirited that the rest of us (also not true). When we look at the scores for the highly acclaimed films The King's Speech, True Grit and Black Swan, the public and the critics are pretty darn close, up in the 90% range.
This appears to indicate that general audiences appreciate a good film but aren't nearly as critical of poor ones. In sum, about half of audiences (or more) are content with whatever studios toss in front of them regardless of quality. Why? They're not ignorant by any means, merely unschooled (and thus have underdeveloped tastes). That, my readers, is why I am so insistent on you developing a sense of taste.
Many audiences, for example, seem to base their reviews on whether a movie makes them "feel good" or not. I saw Megamind and freely admit that the film made me feel good. That does not distract from the fact that there were major plot holes in the movie that stopped it from being, in my consideration, a truly good animated film. Your emotions, while important, are not a consistent basis from which to evaluate a film.
Think you're finally ready to tackle the job of animation critic? We are much closer, but we're not there yet. It's not enough to love animation; you need to study its: