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With Respect To Moderation

November 6, 2010

The following is copied from an email I wrote to a film critic: 

I have recently noticed a disturbing trend in which “extreme bias” is considered synonymous with a good review. Perhaps my own views on this have been skewed by a lingering fatalism, and perhaps of expecting too much of people, but nevertheless I believe moderation to be a virtue that all decent reviews should possess.

Although I have not become acquainted with your reviewing style, or of your personal film interests, I found your review of “The 41-Year-Old Virgin Who Knocked Up Sarah Marshall and Felt Superbad About It” to be (to borrow from your own vocabulary) atrocious.

The reason why I found it atrocious was not because I found your opinions to be invalid, or because your supporting evidence and opinions were not accurate (they were); rather, I found your one-sided conclusions to be overbearing, presumptuous, and of an overtly zealous quality.

The main assumption that your review seems to make is that Moss intended to make a “kosher” (industry quality) film; in the realm of comedy, I believe quality to be highly subjective– I’ve know different people to view the same film with a profound polarity. When I watch a comedy, I make a habit of never critiquing it, because that would take all the fun out of any comedy, or at the very least severely stifle it. I think Moss couldn’t care less about the quality– he just wanted to make a film that made fun of Apatow’s work, and make other people laugh in the process.

While this is merely my own perception, I found this movie to be (in stark contrast to your promise) “It lasts only 74 minutes, but I promise these will be the longest, most aggressively acrid 74 minutes of your life”, one of the funniest movies I have ever watched. I think my opinion counts for a lot, not because I consider myself to be a casual film critic (I do), or because I did any serious critical evaluation of this movie (I did not, for reasons stated in the last paragraph), but because my nervous system did the critiquing for me.

My review of the movie is then as a unbiased as it gets, because I have no film knowledge or industry expectations to cause me to be prejudiced against an otherwise entertaining film (as you appear to have). I find this film to be a good one, because I laughed the entire time; I found everything in the movie to be funny, not because I was supposed to, but because I laughed. That I could laugh so heartily is the proof in the pudding.

I am not saying your review was bad. For one reason or another, the film invoked negative emotions for you, and that alone is enough reason to feel so strongly. But when reviewing films, as a critic it’s vitally important to take everything and everyone into account when conducting your analysis and conveying your results; this is after all the foundation of any accurate criticism. For this reason, I implore you to exercise moderation in future reviews of movies; perhaps by suppressing your own impressions, you might be able to see why other people think differently about the given film(s), and that open-mindedness will translate into a higher quality of reviews.

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