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02 August 2015

Cover Story (Part One): "The Critic as a Predator"

A year ago, my schedule for the month of August was full. It was Cinemalaya time, and I was excited. However, since I quit reviewing films regularly, I find it so liberating to focus my energy on being creative than reviewing the works of other creative people. I dare say; I was able to strip away another layer of my hypocrisy. The fictional critic Anton Ego was right. Some critics (and the operative word is “some”) risk so little but creative people risk so much more. Certainly, there are filmmakers who masquerade as artists, but upon careful scrutiny, they are really peddlers of mediocrity. I think the real job of a “genuine critic” is to massacre mercilessly hawkers of dreadfulness.  Based on the experiences of many critics, dreadfulness comes in many forms, even resembling art. 

Critics must aim at the jugular because that is the only way to wake viewers and producers up. (I am sparing the directors because producers hold the real power in our film industry as one filmmaker confided in me one time.)  However, like a good predator, a critic must meticulously spot the weakest in the flock. Like an astute detective, the critic must be able to distinguish the criminal in disguise amidst the crowd. Once spotted, a critic must attack and devour. Definitely, this kind of critic will be despised but the best critics are always hated. However, the loathing will soon be superseded with respect, especially if you do not compromise and if you do not sell yourself for a mere free ticket or a chance to hobnob with celebrities. A critic earns credibility if he or she presents his or her arguments flawlessly.  This is a tough call but nobody says criticism is easy. It is easy to criticize but to elevate criticism to an art form; you need an artist and not just a person with a computer and a grudge. This is one reason that I temporarily quit until I get credibility. That is a long process and I am not in a hurry. A film critic is also like a director. It is not the early works, but the body of work that really counts. 

From time to time, I am tempted to review a bad film but I realize that ignoring a film is the worst review one can possibly give.  Most importantly, some films do not deserve to be reviewed at all because they do not contribute to any debate. There are films that are well made but that is all. They are just well made. Some films may be dreadfully outrageous but they reveal so much about our society and our “film manufacturing industry.” Nonetheless, once in a while, an artist comes along, defying all odds, and produce something spectacular and new. To reiterate Anton Ego, “There are times when a critic truly risks something, and that is in the discovery and defense of the ‘new’. The world is often unkind to new talent, new creations. The new needs friends.”

Along with fellow critics, I patiently wait for rebel filmmakers. What is a “rebel filmmaker?” That is the subject of my next article. Soon.

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