There is a common misperception that film critics enjoy bashing movies–salivating at the chance to collectively jump on the next blockbuster and declare it trash while we judge it from our ivory towers. The idea that I might enjoy watching, analyzing, and writing about a bad movie strikes me as incredibly asinine. Even if I once thought there might be a kernel of truth to this assertion that the critical community waits for the next Michael Bay film with figurative knives and forks in hand, I only need to look at my viewing habits since the end of The Parallax Review to see how wrong that belief is.
During the brief but distinguished run we had at The Parallax Review, I watched a ton of movies I never would have bothered seeing. From Grown Ups to Powder to Sommersby and many more, there were films that I had not one bit of interest in watching, but I manned up, opened my mind, and did my damnedest to write a thoughtful, informative review. While I was doing this, I never stopped to consider the effects of watching one mediocre movie after another. The main reason I put on blinders when it came to my movie consumption is that the site was a labor of love for me. I wanted so badly for the site to succeed that I threw every moment of my free time into it, never allowing myself to question my commitment.
When it became apparent that the site was not going to succeed in the way that I wanted, I had a moment where I was able to take a look at my life and decide which way I wanted it to go. I could either continue on with being a “traditional” movie critic, watching every new release and reviewing it, no matter if it deserved a review or not, or I could do what I’m doing with this blog and only watch and write about films and filmmakers that interest me.
While it was a difficult decision to walk away from The Parallax Review, I feel it was the right one because I had reached the point where watching certain films had become a chore. This was a discovery that shocked me since I’ve always loved movies. Obviously, it was always a fun experience to watch a good movie, but I was even able to find something worthwhile about even the worst movies I’d watched over the years that I could apply to my own screenplays. But I never intentionally watched a bad movie until I started writing film criticism on a full time basis. Before the site, if I saw a bad movie, it was because I was let down by a film that I believed to have potential. I can’t say that was the case with some of the films I watched for The Parallax Review.
This constant submitting of my time to watch mediocre and just plain bad movies led me to actually burn out on films. Once the site had ended, I found myself being extremely selective about what I watched. I no longer was willing to take a chance on a suspect looking film just because I admired an actor, writer, or director associated with it. If I was watching a film at home and it didn’t show signs of improving after twenty minutes, I turned it off. And I was brutally selective about what I watched in theaters. Since the end of The Parallax Review, I have watched exactly four films (Super, Hanna, 13 Assassins, and Source Code) in current release. Four films! In three months! A year ago, such a thing would have been unthinkable.
To shorten a post that has the potential to run on to infinity, seriously thinking about bad movies has taken its toll on me. At the time that I wrote every bad review that I posted over the last year, I didn’t enjoy the experience one iota. As a movie fan, I want every film I watch to be amazing. As a critic, I wanted that to be true even more. I only wanted to write positive reviews because then I wouldn’t feel as though I had just wasted hours of my life. The fact that I was only able to last less than a year at such a pace before burning out deepens my admiration for critics like Nathan Rabin, Roger Ebert, and A.O. Scott. These guys have endured one bad movie after another for years, but they soldier on. They must have a stronger constitution than I do for the dreck that Hollywood continues to foist on the movie going public, but that doesn’t mean that they enjoy watching crap and writing bad reviews any more than I do.
Sorry, I just had to get this off my chest.
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