Movie review aggregators have become the opium dens of the twenty-first century, lavish destinations where the hapless moviegoer finds themselves zombified by the powerful intoxicant of assembled opinions. It’s where numbers and percentage points judge the merits of a movie, provide a snapshot value that one can turn to without ever reading a review or looking any further. How many of the movies that you watched in 2012 were based on the collected facts, fictions and forecasts of a movie review aggregator? How many movies did you skip because the ratings just didn’t convince you to head out to the theater only later, when you finally watched that same movie you really enjoyed it? Did you go because the immutable they told you so, only to leave you out in the cold, disappointed just like the last time you agreed to agree with popular opinion? Today we face a growing disconnect from the singular movie experience, our personal tastes and flavors replaced by the pluralization of opinion. But it’s just so easy, you say, to turn to their convincing graphs and pie charts because every now and again something breaks free and exceeds despite bad numbers, wins awards and a few more weeks at the metroplex, or not at all, gone too soon. It used to be the review stood on its own two feet, celebrity scribes scribbling hot air and popcorn breath opinions about blockbusters and rom-coms, lesser known writers pushing art films and independents back before Indie became a marketing tool. Today those that did are still doing it but they’ve been absorbed by the aggregator monsters, assimilated to a degree and processed Soylent Green for the aimless chomping it up and asking for more. The fact is review aggregators package sameness, homogenized generalities and reward bland leaders and bland followers with more bland, and they are ruining the movie experience.
There’s no short supply of collected opinion destinations, group ratings about movies and entertainment media, collected assessments to fancy-up faceless, blameless aggregators that down play originality, replace individuality. It’s become so much more about the import of wind to inform scattered responsibility because when everyone is to blame there isn’t anyone to hold accountable. In the near and far of it all, reviewers and aggregators all vying for your cherished audience and getting lost in the shuffle, it’s like we know better but we’ve grown accustomed to not caring. So I go about trying to bring it back to the individual voice and blogs like this one and other blogs because we need to pay attention again if anything is going to come of it. I’m not opposed to the idea of aggregated content just the application of it to blanket the imagination. Sure, we need a way of accessing all the blogs with their dependencies and inner workings that make up this grand interconnected web of communities and social network neighborhoods in which everyday authors and armchair movie enthusiasts bout wits against the established, the well-known and the unknowns, but we need to look closer and appreciate more of the singular voices dotting the landscape of numbed numbers and easy to read dial-o-meters where it makes so much more cents and sense.
We really do all want the same thing -and- not the same thing but someone has gotten in the middle, used our dreams and aspirations against us, turned the informed into the formulated. This very blog was born of such abandon, the opportunity to share my insights and experiences, to react and respond and re-purpose all the years I’ve spent inside movies and the glow of movie theaters. One of the many joining some of the few to offer practical advice and informed opinion, to rally the frustrated and motivate the lost-in-the-shuffle if only to breathe again without the life support of movie studios and executives plotting the next franchise and billion dollar forgettable that’s erasing us the big screen for the ATM machine. Of course in order to write my blog I have to read the blogs of others and the places created to house all those blogs to make my job manageable and share in the collective of people and places where little stars, buckets of popcorn and erect thumbs declaring ‘see it’ or ‘miss it’ or what have you do matter in the end. But it’s becoming almost entirely impossible to wage a war against the phantom menace of opinions without faces or names or accountability and the mess is too big to squeegee clean again so we continue to squeeze out the individual for the marketable, for the invisible responsible.
Rottentomatoes is the biggest aggregator, right next to Metacritic, Average and Intelligence and a bunch of others coming up. Their purpose is to present vast amounts of information in an easily digested, quickly satisfied way like energy bars and sports drinks that espouse to change your life but end up contributing to your need to shove calories and generalizations down your throat. The information is helpful in an immediate and in your face sort of way, X-number of folks like or dislike, Y-number of professionals think this way so you should too or else you’ll end up on the other list nobody reads list. What’s not to like? Basically it’s a lot of pretty lights and flashing nonsense from the tally up to the numbers at a glance that can’t differentiate between performance and story any more than acting, directing and any number of production values, human spirit uplifting scores or dangers of the mind espionage in a comedy wrapper that works and doesn’t work at multiple levels. You can display them in one neat place for your immediate and absolute clarity but what does that really say about anything? The heaven and hell of aggregators, however good for us is how very often they glaze over specificity and flavor, how they mute the tangible for the sugary breakfast cereal high, resort to salty snack food mediocrity for the sake of easily digestible, short-term gains and long-term forgettable.
How many opinions does it take to get the middle of a box office flop? Twenty five, no fifty before you ever get anywhere near the good because addiction is easy when everyone is doing it – cafe latte breve mocha intravenous Fair Trade bolus please. I don’t even remember non-tab browsing now with every social portal greedily gathering the ripe, pithy dots of wisdom and irreverent mayhem over the next Batman or who m’ffd up the latest childhood fable gone terribly, terribly wrong. It’s overload. It’s maximus terminus and you know it, I’m with you, say it out loud – we’ve got to make up our own mind. It’s a fad, it’s no win browsing for full course meals you’re never going to eat. It’s easier to turn the page because mostly these places are saying the same things just in a different colored font, black background or picturesque mountain scape that changes like the real daylight coming in from outside your cubicle slash carton slash rapid transit car window – because really it’s less about you and your content as it is about theirs and their content and mostly it’s just a semblance of /informed/ when knowledge translates to ad/none-cents in bank accounts that don’t share the same fees as ours. We know better but we’re afraid to say we’ve had enough.
I aggregate as much as I have to. You have to know what’s out there before you can write about it with any amount of clarity and conviction. I do get a kick out of finding a movie I’ve only just screened or did some time ago, tears of joy or anger fresh on my cheeks, popcorn butter half-moon yellow under my nails and at least one half-cracked kernel stuck between the same two stubborn molars, ripped to pieces by fifty people I’ll never meet in a dirty alley much less elbow to elbow at the theater collected neatly and efficiently, effectively distinguished as “pro-raters” or “top critics” because as we all know these are professionals after all. And then there’s the really good ones stuck in there too that seem to be succeeding but all those words never make it to the reader or worse, just add to the confusion. For me, it all comes from having been there and made some films and really spent time getting inside them to explore them here with you, not at you, asking you to join me in finding the films that make us laugh and cry and knowing why it’s so rewarding to go to the movies with someone who loves the hard work of movies so much that they’ve dedicated their life to the art, craft and adventure of making them and writing about them and trying so very much to capture the magic of cinema.