A few months back I watched the Oscar nominated Live Action Shorts program. These are short films featuring real people (as opposed to animation) and the stories are fictional.

After I came out of the theater, I did my own internal ranking of the five shorts. When I got home I looked at critics reviews of the films I had just see.

Every film I liked, the critics hated because they were found to be too nice, or too sweet, or too “happy ending”, where good beats bad.

The ones they liked were depressing and sad and whatever other words your thesaurus has for mildly disturbing. ,

So my question is:

Do critics have a lean towards art that is gritty, or uber realistic, sad, disturbing, or show the down side of humanity?

Does negativity win our over positivity as far as critics are concerned?

Which leads us to the next point:

Are artists making works that can be viewed as negative because they want to be critically acclaimed?

and finally:

Is there anything wrong with liking things that are more positive, where good triumphs over evil, and civility wins out?

Does the way a critic views something affect how you look at it?

If you saw a film that you liked but found out it was critically panned, would that change your opinion about it?

Discuss any or all parts of this post. I won’t critique it….

61 thoughts on “Sadness, Angst and Depression for the Win

  1. I don’t seek out reviews of movies typically. Other than the LA monthly posts that is 😉 But seriously I’ve learned that my taste and viewpoint rarely matches with other peoples POV is so I watch what I think is in my wheelhouse and decide for myself.

    It is an interesting question though, regarding what/how artists choose to create and why. I wouldn’t be surprised if some do create based on what they believe the experts want or may review favorably. That doesn’t speak well though does it, for the creative process, individuality and inspiration in creating art, or being very authentic.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Several years ago, we hosted traveling musicians who were on tour throughout the United States…we were part of a hospitality network. Met several amazing people. Lou Brown (from England) spent a couple of days with her band with us, and had a gig in Cedar Rapids Iowa @ a local theater. I still remember an art display that was taking place @ the same time in the building. Disturbing, vulgar, some of it was just plain gross. I was told it was “avant-garde” ( translated= advance guard/ a military term) meant to push the boundaries of sensibility@ the time. If you didn’t like it, you just weren’t “hip” (whatever that means) I suspect when it comes to movies, movie critics, the whole enchilada, they are often times about finding their nitch/ making a name for themselves., and shock is a whole lot easier to get recognized with, than beauty and creativity. After the art display in Cedar Rapids, and finding out about avant-garde, I made up my mind, I could care less about being one of the cool kids who tried to appreciate a taste for the bizarre. GIGO DM

    Liked by 4 people

  3. In general, I think critics are full of themselves, and I don’t pay much attention to their opinions. There was a period of time (maybe late 70’s–I’m not sure) when it seemed like every movie had to be depressing and the protagonists were rarely heroes or even likable. I did enjoy watching Siskel and Ebert as they shared their critiques on TV. It seemed a more honest approach to criticism of movies to acknowledge “experts” could have differing opinions. But that was back in the day when people could disagree civilly.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. You had a fab last line, LA: “Discuss any or all parts of this post. I won’t critique it….” 😉
    I agree with Jane…a critic’s opinion might register but wouldn’t impact my overall impression/like/dislike reaction.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I do think many writers and artists choose things for critical acclaim. I have a writer friend back home who works part time in the library. She said every single new book acquired for YAs had an LBGTQ theme. Would their books have been published if they didn’t include that angle? I think that also goes for the heavy depressing themes you’ve mentioned. I do like light happy stories, too.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I go back and forth on critics. There are time when I like to see what’s coming and know what’s worth my while, but I feel like lately I’ve run into a period where I’ve seen movies that they like that I hate. The Colin Farrell Irish movie this past year comes to mind. I wasn’t a fan, but I know it won all kinds of critic awards.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I might listen to a friend as to what they like, but critics, not so much. I don’t care for downer “entertainment.” I quit watching a mini-series on Netflix after one episode disturbed me so much. Last night I watched an episode of a series that ended so sweet that I have been smiling about it all morning. What’s wrong with that? Nothing at all!!

    Liked by 4 people

  8. Whenever critics pan a thing because it’s “too happy”, I think of this quote from Ursula K Le Guin:

    “The trouble is that we have a bad habit, encouraged by pedants and sophisticates, of considering happiness as something rather stupid. Only pain is intellectual, only evil interesting. This is the treason of the artist; a refusal to admit the banality of evil and the terrible boredom of pain.”

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Your own best critique is written by you. If you like it, it is good. Personally I like a happy but realistic ending. In fact, there used to be a rule n Hollywood that the bad guy, the criminal, always had to lose in the end. Those days are now gone I guess.
    In a nutshell, that is why I like to write about wine. The best measure of a good wine in not the price. The measure of a good wine is your own palate. Same with movies, food…I get that you liked what critics hated. That should be of no concern of yours. If it’s any consolation, The Graduate, It’s a Wonderful Life and The Wizard of Oz all got less than stellar reviews. Some critics have to write these things to be controversial. That way, they can justify their own existence.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. I’m always mildly insulted when I say I liked something that had a happy ending and someone else criticizes it – implying that liking something upbeat is somehow less sophisitcated than something dark.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I love happy endings. But I don’t judge quality or my opinion, on whether or not the ending was happy or sad. I judge on the whole artistic piece. The believability of the characters, the dialogue, the acting, the lighting, costumes, background music etc. Right now there is a writer’s strike so who knows what’s going to happen. With the strike, my son, who I s a director in the film industry got involved with several friends in the industry and worked on a few smaller projects. He also co produced, co edited, directed other projects etc. and then he sent me two versions of his latest production. He and his buddy wanted my input . So we discussed it. It was a short film to be shown at various film festivals. It’s kind of cool to have professional film people ask for my input. But my son said he figured he wanted to make sure people of all ages could understand the concept of their film. So they got a variety of people in various age brackets to preview it. There was one part of the film I found offensive. (The film takes place in the 1950’s and the male protagonist slaps the female lead in one scene). I was highly offended, but the author and screen writer was female and felt it was necessary for the message of the film . I still didn’t like that part. But again, the author , had her own intent. The ending was neither happy or sad…. It was left to the imagination of the viewers.
    I personally prefer happy endings. At this stage of my life I don’t need to watch movies that make me weep. Obviously, sometimes that happens, and I watch constant European mysteries ( with English subtitles). If something is good it doesn’t matter if the ending is profound or sad or happy. I want good believable three dimensional characters, good acting, great dialogue and actors who draw me in. How it ends isn’t as important to me as the quality of the entire project.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I like happy ending when they make sense, not so happy ones when they make sense. I just don’t want things to be considered trite just because the overall message is positive


  12. I like thought-provoking films. Don’t ask me for one at the moment. My brain is doing well just to answer your questions. I don’t like dystopia or things that make me feel incredibly sad unless it gets better at the end. The worst film I think I ever took the time to see was the one called A.I. by Steven Spielberg. I had a bunch of kids with me, too. Hey, it was Spielberg who brought us Indiana Jones and ET. It had Haley Joel Osment in it. What could go wrong? Well, everything. Not cool, Spielberg. Not cool at all. We left the movie in shock. We all wanted to cry. I had to remind everyone that it was just a movie and no part of it was real and Spielberg was now dead to me. Then we probably went for ice cream to make things a little bit better. At the time, I’m not even sure if we had the internet to check out what movie critics said. I think I might have watched Siskel & Ebert on TV occasionally. Apparently, I didn’t see whatever their thoughts on A.I. was. So much I don’t understand about most things including how movies are determined to be critically acclaimed; but these days, I would have paid good money to see Peter & Wendy at the movies with Jude Law as Hook, but I understand that it only came out on Disney + and we don’t have that anymore. *sigh* Mona

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I love thought provoking films, and I love rom coms. I just want to feel something when I leave the theater, or my couch. But things don’t have to end poorly to be good

      Liked by 1 person

  13. I’m not sure that the terms negative and positive are the most appropriate concepts for this conversation, yet I completely understand what you are getting at, and why you used them. I do think that people are attracted to dramatic situations, which reflect a sense of ease about their own life in comparison. It’s like the news, why is it that the news is typically filled with horror after horror…because people tune in, they are attracted to the horror. Baffling, and sad.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I just don’t get how a short about two brothers and their relationship can be considered not edgy enough to be worthy of praise…


    1. Is it the edginess? I don’t know. And I don’t mind dark…I just don’t like something considered trite because it’s not depressing


  14. Sometimes sweet and simple is just the ticket, other times it can tip into saccharine – and it’s not always clear what it is that makes it so. It can be relate to how I’m feeling at the time, it can be a lacking in the author/director/whatever of the medium in which I experience it.

    I do believe critics are looking for something a little out of the ordinary, so the neat & tidy happy ending is not likely to satisfy them – unless it’s really well done. And I’m OK with that. I think we need people who are going to push the boundaries of creatives for us to make sure stuff doesn’t slip into mediocrity.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t like something being downplayed because it’s positive…the academy award winner was one of the upbeat ones (and the one I thought was best) I like edgy when there’s a point…I don’t like shock for shocks sake

      Liked by 1 person

  15. I agree. But I’d be disappointed if trite and formulaic were to win awards & get praise from critics unless there was something special about it or unless it was done *really* well. I don’t like reading books or watching films where I can always be confident of a happy ending. Sometimes it’s nice, even welcome, but all the time quickly becomes dull. Especially when the happy ending isn’t realistic. But maybe I’m a miserable grump…

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Making sense and being realistic is what’s the most important. Well, most of the time. Unless I’m in the mood for a bit of fantasy 😉

        Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s