In the 2007 smash hit animated film ‘Ratatouille’ the character of the Chef Gusteau famously remarks ” Anybody can cook.” Something on similar lines can be said about the job of a film critic. Anybody can critique. As long as you love watching cinema. Sounds too simple? But this is indeed a fact. When you are writing a review or even two every week all through the year, that means having to watch fifty odd films of which perhaps just half a dozen stay with you after the curtains have come down. And of these even lesser number of films are worth revisiting. Even by way of a review. Having said that, regardless of whether a film is good bad or avoidable there is always a takeaway from it. And remember this. To critique a bad film is nothing short of social service. If the film viewing experience has not been a memorable one for you it becomes even more imperative that others cinephiles are given advance notice.
The job of a film critic comes with a quirk that is all it’s own. Where the ones reviewing a film neednot really have first hand knowledge of making a film themselves. And yet they are at complete libertyto trash a film that is not to their liking.One even personally knew of a film critic who took it uponhimself to give a thumbs down to all those films that he could not really understand. Besides cricket,cinema and politics are subjects where everyone in this country (read India) seems to anyway regardthemselves as experts.It is another matter altogether that when these film critics themselves triedtheir hand at making a film, the end results were nothing to crow about. Be it the legendary RogerEbert in far away Hollywood or our very own Khalid Mohammed in Hindi cinema.
Thanks to the internet explosion, the job of critiquing a film has all of a sudden become a viable proposition for those interested. Where earlier it was a pre requisite of sorts to have a degree in either journalism or even mass communication before one could start reviewing films for a newspaper, today there are hundreds of portals online related to films where you could start writing. All you have to do is to badmouth a big budget film featuring stalwarts and your two minutes of fame is assured. Earlier a smart alec filmmaker could rip off a film from the west (or the east if you like) adapt it to Indian sensibilities and walk away with all the plaudits. Not anymore. The audience has wisened up.
The new generation film buffs have access to cinema from all over the world making them so well informed that a lot of times, by viewing just the teaser of a forthcoming film they are able to figure out which European/Korean film is the ‘inspiration’ behind a film. So exposure to a diverse range of cinema from all over is one criteria paramount to becoming a film critic. And it does not hurt if as a film critic you have a way with words, a sense of humour and a gift of the gab.On top of it technology today gives you the option to broadcast you opinions live, to the entire world.
But all this may still not suffice for there are enough folks out there all vying for the attention of a reader. Which is exactly why it is important that you carve a niche for yourself. By using catchy words & phrases (Two Thumbs Up was one such phrase made memorable by Ebert) and by working out a format and style of reviewing that is all your own. And no, narrating a story line by line with spoilers
galore does not qualify as film criticism. That is just being a party pooper.