We Need A Collective Noun For Film Critics

Christopher Fowler
Victoria 'An exit of film critics'? 'A pretence of film critics'? 'A sneer of film critics'? Judging by the latest poll of the best 100 films of the 21st century according to 177 film critics it should probably be 'a wankfest of film critics'. Film polls are notoriously subjective, of course, but dear God in Heaven, what a dismal collection this turns out to be. As someone who has (shamefully) seen every single film on the list but one (No.48 'A Goodbye to Language' - Godard) it's easy to spot what they all looked for in a film; a sense of alienation, an unbearable lead character, an obscure and glacial narrative, boredom, pointlessness, experimentation (a good thing, that last one). How else to explain the presence of 'Inside Llewyn Davis', 'The Tree of Life', 'The Master', '12 Years A Slave', 'Fish Tank' and 'Boyhood' (all of which I had to be restrained from walking out of) but no 'Birdman', 'White God', 'Hannah Arendt', 'Nightcrawler', 'We Are What We Are', 'Philomela', 'The Artist', 'Victoria', 'In Bruges', 'Barbara', 'Tangerine' or 'The Revenant'? And 'Inside Out' over 'Frozen'? The list feels as outdated as the Tate Modern's permanent collection, and includes films that have aged horribly, like 'Lost In Translation', with its offensive view of the Japanese. In the No.1 spot, 'Mulholland Drive', a reasonably interesting bad dream of a movie from David Lynch with titillating lesbian scenes and a deliberately disjointed narrative, but hardly the best film of the century so far. The problem is the homogeneity of critics is every bit as limiting as the consensual taste of, say, architects. The choice of arthouse over populism is to be expected, but to pick endless neorealist cameos over a set of epics as genuinely game-changing as the 'Lord of the Rings' films is all a bit Corbynist. If I have seen one alienated teenager standing in a field at sunset I've seen a thousand. What I'd never seen was a war between good and evil that melded passion, drama and effects on the scale of LOTR. The list exhibits a real terror of innovation. It's shockingly safe and boring, constantly choosing naturalism over artifice. Time to forget critics and decide for ourselves. I would pick an alt. top 20 including all the films I mentioned for a start. How about 'A timidity of critics'?


chazza (not verified) Wed, 24/08/2016 - 08:46

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

How about "A cancer of critics", "A smugness" or "A rectum"?

DC (not verified) Wed, 24/08/2016 - 10:18

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Crisis of critics?

Much of the "best" and most interesting stuff is on the small screen these days. However:

Toy Story 3. How to do a children's film in an adult way.
Whiplash. Really! Critics not choosing this?
Senna. We are short of sports films and documentaries (and I loved F1 in those days).
Casino Royale. Not necessarily a great film bit it showed how to reboot a series in an effective way. JJ Abrahams take note.
Mystic River. I just enjoyed it.

I do wonder how many of the films in the "Best 100" list, actually will be watchable more than once.

Ken Mann (not verified) Wed, 24/08/2016 - 11:58

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Corbynist? He likes Casablanca.

Brooke (not verified) Wed, 24/08/2016 - 12:49

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Collective nouns for critics: Une cage aux folles. And to continue the bird (brain) theme: a peep; a chattering; a deceit; a pitying; an ostention; a conspiracy; or a murmuration.

Louise Carlson… (not verified) Wed, 24/08/2016 - 14:37

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

A "flogging of Film Critics" perhaps?

Vivienne (not verified) Wed, 24/08/2016 - 15:36

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Would also include Whiplash as a great film - no fields or sunsets there. Walked out of Lost in Translation it was so racist, but I don't think I missed any character development

Does anyone remember that old film review of I Am a Camera: 'Me no Leica'. Sorry, sorry.

Steve (not verified) Wed, 24/08/2016 - 19:19

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Sp where does Carry On Up the Khyber appear in this list then?...
I like Mulholland Drive as a film quite a lot, but never in a million years would I have exoected it to be named the best film of the 20th century!!!
Btw it always used to be Intolerance that was the film you "had to have watched" which for me falls in a similar category.
A murder of critics, if we're doing the bird thing.

Ian Mason (not verified) Wed, 24/08/2016 - 20:41

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

An opine of film critics.

Imagine, if you will, in the voice of John Cooper Clarke:

"An opine of film critics gathered,
and began to whine,
picking over the celluloid bones of the latest epic, ..."

Stuart (not verified) Wed, 24/08/2016 - 22:02

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

it could be a "scathing" of critics ?

Christopher Fowler Thu, 25/08/2016 - 08:23

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

It was shocking to read the comments to the original announcement article - 'Where's Star Wars?', 'Where's The Godfather?' etc until someone pointed out the brief again.

Peter Dixon (not verified) Thu, 25/08/2016 - 21:04

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Oh, so many good movies have been traduced by dim reviewers; Get Carter, Flash Gordon, Blade Runner just to start with.

It strikes me that the duty of a film reviewer in the UK and probably America is to look down upon words like 'entertainment' and 'popular'.

How about 'A pomposity of Reviewers' or maybe 'A superfluity of Reviewers' or else 'A disappointment of Reviewers'?

Brian Evans (not verified) Sun, 28/08/2016 - 20:04

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

As none of them contain the immortal 1937 Will Hay comedy classic, "Oh! Mr Porter", why bother about any of them?