Every profession involves some degree of risk. Firefighters and police officers risk their lives; doctors risk losing patients (and malpractice suits); and CFOs risk CFR (complete financial ruin).Circus performers risk life and limb every night. (A near-miss trapeze act I once witnessed made me swear off Circ de Soleil forever.)
But for all the attention that these high risk professions get, why does no one acknowledge the risks endured by the poor movie critic? The discomfort of a sticky theatre floor, or a jolt to the back from a broken theatre seat, may not rival the physical risks of being a coal miner, but the movie critic does risk:
Public fury – When my review of the incomprehensible Matrix Re-Loaded ran in the Santa Cruz Sentinel, I had a dozen hate emails in my inbox — before noon. Fans of that series had a rabid, near-religious fervor (and a disturbingly stream-of-consciousness writing style).
Movie trivia humiliation – I do enjoy flexing my movie knowledge when I come across one of those computer trivia games in a bar. But the risk of being humbled and humiliated is ever present — especially when the quote in question is from a Chuck Norris movie.
Pain and suffering – The average civilian can merely walk away from a lousy film, having lost just two hours of his or her life. Imagine the pain of the movie critic who must not only sit through, but then write about dogs like August Rush, Deconstructing Harry, Bewitchedand Rush Hour 2.
Critical loneliness – Seeingfilms at press screenings, the critic has no idea what other people think of the film. That certainly shouldn’t matter, but it can still feel lonely to rave about a film that everyone else pans — and to be the only person who liked Cold Mountain, The Majestic, Revolutionary Road andNine.
So the next time you’re inspired to dash off an angry letter to the critic who panned a film that you liked, remember two things: 1) just because one person’s opinion appears in print, that doesn’t make it any more valid than yours; and 2) the movie critic sees a lot of lousy films — so you don’t have to.