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View Full Version : How do film critics distinguish whose contributions affect a film?


CookingWithGas
06-20-2013, 11:43 AM
Sometimes a film critic will criticize or praise the director, other times the actors, and other times the cinematographer, maybe even the key grip, I dunno. When all you see is the finished product, how do you determine who did what? How do you distinguish between a good actor vs. a director who knows how to get the most of an actor? A poor editor vs. a poor director?

Gary Robson
06-20-2013, 11:45 AM
Moved thread from "General Questions" to "Cafe Society," since it's about movies.

dolphinboy
06-20-2013, 11:59 AM
Sometimes a film critic will criticize or praise the director, other times the actors, and other times the cinematographer, maybe even the key grip, I dunno. When all you see is the finished product, how do you determine who did what? How do you distinguish between a good actor vs. a director who knows how to get the most of an actor? A poor editor vs. a poor director?

Sometimes it's obvious who is responsible, i.e. the cinematographer, the lighting director or the editor etc., and almost anyone can pick up bad acting when they see it.

As far as whether something is the result of bad writing, bad acting or bad directing, I suspect that film critics are careful where they place the blame. They may, of course, contact the actors or the production folks to get their perspective and base their critique on that.

MovieMogul
06-20-2013, 12:32 PM
Most of it is sheer familiarity with other films. If X actor is usually terrible but pulls off a good performance, it may be because s/he had a director who knew how to communicate a part effectively. If X director usually has mediocre, run-of-the-mill films, it may be the excellent writing that makes a particular film of his a standout. Often times, directors will collaborate with the same production personnel (cinematographer, composer, editor, production designer) so there will be some continuity from one film to the next, but using someone new can often produce a dramatic difference as well. In all these cases, it just comes down to knowing a much larger body of work than just the single film you're evaluating. Every work ultimately should speak for itself, but context can often be illuminating as well.

Hershele Ostropoler
06-20-2013, 09:11 PM
Most of it is sheer familiarity with other films.

That's my hypothesis, and with filmmaking in general. That, after all, is why we have film critics; if a movie is popular with critics but not audiences, or vice-versa, that's not the system working properly.

GuanoLad
06-20-2013, 11:36 PM
The more you work in film, even in the peripheral areas like criticism, the more you recognise what each person does.

The Screenwriter wrote the dialogue, and structured the storyline. If the pacing feels weird, if the dialogue is clunky and deliberate, if the storyline has plot holes you can drive a truck through, blame the writer.

The Director is telling the story. They assembled all the larger pieces to tell this story. They're telling everyone where they have to stand and what they have to do to make the image in the camera look the way that they want it to. If the story is not told well, it's the director's fault.

The Actors are embodying a character. If they can't sound appropriately naturalistic, or appropriately comedic, or appropriately melodramatic, if they stand out amongst the other actors in any negative or positive way, that's when you pin it on the actors.

Cinematography can be blamed on the Director of Photography, but the Director has a lot to do with it as well, as they tend to say "close up on this actor, wide on the landscape, shakycam all this scene" etc, and the DoP does what they're told, but then they add in their own touch, like framing the composition as beautifully and carefully as a Mozart concerto, or as frenetically inept as an epileptic gibbon.

The Editor assembles the images into a final cut. They choose when to cut to the next shot, how soon and how late, which shot it should be, and can affect the emotional impact a sequence can have. Bad comic timing (which is rife in cinema these days) can be the fault of an Editor. As can great comic timing, though when it works an Editor's job is almost invisible. Popular comic actors like Jim Carrey and Robin Williams rely a lot on great Editors to make them superstars, picking the right take and slotting it into the right spot at the right moment. They also can make action sequences the most exciting, romantic scenes the most heartfelt, and dramatic scenes the most memorable they can be.

As time goes on you start to pick out where a ball is dropped just through familiarity and expectation. A moment missed, an opportunity wasted, a scene confusing or unnecessary, and you know just who's responsible.

Hershele Ostropoler
06-21-2013, 02:23 PM
If someone writes and directs a movie, how separate are those two processes? I'm thinking of Django Unchained, and Tarantino-the-writer winning awards while Tarantino-the-director was less lauded.

smiling bandit
06-21-2013, 02:52 PM
The more you work in film, even in the peripheral areas like criticism, the more you recognise what each person does.

I'm not convinced.

It's easy to say those things, but then there's the dry facts. How do you know the writer didn't create those scenes, and they were just edited out later, or never shot to begin with? How do you know it's the actor, rather than a clash or personality or style between actors, or actors and directors, or the actors plain not understanding what the script intends?

The claim is: experience. And in some cases I'm sure its true. But can they really pierce the veil there consistently? I wouldn't bet on it. The human ability to recognize patterns is nice and all, but there's an awful lot of smoke to identify where the fires are placed very clearly. For editing there's probably more truth than otherwise, but acting and writing and directing are so intertwined with the process, and so dependent on others' contributions, that I'm always skeptical when a critic points and something and blandly declares it the fault of some specific individual.

Voyager
06-21-2013, 03:07 PM
I'm not convinced.

It's easy to say those things, but then there's the dry facts. How do you know the writer didn't create those scenes, and they were just edited out later, or never shot to begin with? How do you know it's the actor, rather than a clash or personality or style between actors, or actors and directors, or the actors plain not understanding what the script intends?


Not to mention that writing credit is controlled by WGA rules, so that the real writer may not be the one whose name appears on the screen. The director might rewrite scenes on the set. The actors may improvise.

However, I'd expect an experienced reviewer would be familiar with the styles of well know cinematographers and directors, and thus be able to notice their influence on the finished product. He or she might also be hooked into industry scuttlebutt about who did what on the set.

Lamia
06-21-2013, 03:49 PM
It's easy to say those things, but then there's the dry facts. How do you know the writer didn't create those scenes, and they were just edited out later, or never shot to begin with?I've read a fair amount about screenwriting, and has seen a lot of warnings to aspiring screenwriters that you can't necessarily judge the quality of a script by the finished film. A beautiful script may be horribly butchered by anyone or everyone else involved in the creation of the film, and then the critics will blame the screenwriter for the ill-advised changes made by the director, stars, etc.

While I'm sure some screenwriters are overly sensitive or looking to avoid taking responsibility for movies that flopped, I can believe that film critics aren't always correct when they assign praise or blame.

smiling bandit
06-21-2013, 04:02 PM
Not to mention that writing credit is controlled by WGA rules, so that the real writer may not be the one whose name appears on the screen. The director might rewrite scenes on the set. The actors may improvise.

Well, that and there are often multiple uncredited writers brought in to add experience on specific aspects: action, comedy, etc. That definitely confuses the issue.

However, I'd expect an experienced reviewer would be familiar with the styles of well know cinematographers and directors, and thus be able to notice their influence on the finished product. He or she might also be hooked into industry scuttlebutt about who did what on the set.

I would probably believe that if we're talking repeated viewings and with everything laid out with support from interviews with the cast and crew. I highly doubt most film critics could really do so based on the first impression, or even with some real thought and analysis, when they haven't done a detailed investigation of the film and its background. And I'm never yet met a film critic who actually had any connections or sources you couldn't match with a search of common rumor-mill sites.

GuanoLad
06-21-2013, 09:13 PM
It's easy to say those things, but then there's the dry facts. How do you know the writer didn't create those scenes, and they were just edited out later, or never shot to begin with? How do you know it's the actor, rather than a clash or personality or style between actors, or actors and directors, or the actors plain not understanding what the script intends?Well, nobody's going to be 100% right in their accusation, but they make their best educated guess.

Lust4Life
06-21-2013, 11:01 PM
I think that its the director who makes or breaks the film.

He can edit the story, or have partial rewrites, (I think ) to a degree if the writings not up to par, get good performances out of average actors, (Or if he's not very good, the opposite), give his ok or not on the props and special effects, and of course the shots, and so on.

If the actors are good, and or, the writing is good then that's one less thing that he has to tinker with.

If the directors not very good, then everything else can be first rate, but you'll still get a crap movie.

IMO

jimpatro
06-23-2013, 07:22 PM
Essentially, the "feel" of the film, the tone is created by the director and one can see how this plays out despite what the editor might do. The director is responsible for the performances and whatever makes it onto the screen is because he/she okayed it. Same with cinematography, music et cetera.

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