Call me strange, but I love critics.
I can feel you rolling your eyes from here, but hear me out. I rely on them all the time to help me decide on whether I want to further investigate music, movies, food, drink, art, restaurants, bars. All sorts. And good critics do that: give you enough information to help you make a good choice.
Bad critics, both professional and amateur, do something else. Bad critics have one thing in common (apart from being unfunny and overly narcissistic) – they always overreach themselves as arbiters of taste.
Let me give an example of which I’m overly familiar, having spent a good decade reviewing music albums and EPs. It goes a little something like this: ‘I don’t understand this music and it leaves me cold, but I’m sure it’s great if you’re into that sort of thing…’.
The whole entire point of criticism is that it needs to be written from the point of view of a fan. Why? Well who do you think is reading that review? It’s people who are really into whatever genre or specific artist it is that you’re reviewing. (This holds true for movies, food, and the other aforementioned fields too). People who don’t have a strong affiliation either way are not the target audience of your review.
So a good critic doesn’t compare a B-movie action thriller to The Remains Of The Day. Fast Five is not literature, and it’s not trying to be. It’s a completely preposterous and absurd movie with some hot chicks, great action sequences, and very high production values that’s aimed at teenage boys, and the teenage boy in all of us. Or at least half of us.
It’s not a good movie – but it’s a really good bad movie.
A good critic will come at their review from the viewpoint of someone who’s really into say, country music, or post-modern literature, or Woody Allen, and take pains to describe their album (or movie or whatever) in the sort of terms and style, and with enough reference points to other comparable artists, that it gives you enough information to decide for yourself if you want to go out and investigate further and/or purchase said product. A good critic shouldn’t even really need to say if something is good or not; just explain if they liked it or not, and why.
Oh, and ideally, do this in a funny and engaging way that exhibits a certain playfulness with language.
If you think I’m wrong, well… everyone’s a critic.