Artists make movies. Critics review them.
It’s a simple, and symbiotic relationship that dates back to the early days of cinema. Actors often thank film critics for their support during awards season and, more specifically at the annual Critics Choice Awards gala.
Lately, that connection has come under fire from the artists’ side of the equation.
Blame social media, the proliferation of news outlets, or our increasingly sensitive times when being a victim is the greatest status possible.
Now, some creatives are lashing out when their work draws angry reviews from the expanding critical classes. Rotten Tomatoes, not only lets artists see a gaggle of reviews in one glance but offers a crisp summation of the critical community. Fresh … or rotten.
And the artists are paying attention.
It’s why actress Rachel Zegler cried foul (on Twitter) when “Shazam! Fury of the Gods” scored a meek 52% “rotten” score you-know-where.
“Hey our film is actually really good. But mostly I just absolutely loved making it and the people I met whilst doing so. Go see it! Give it a chance. We have an 85% audience score for a reason.”
The film’s director, David F. Sandberg, took a lighter approach but still called out critics who didn’t enjoy his film.
“I wasn’t expecting a repeat of the first movie critically but I was still a little surprised because I think it’s a good film. Oh well.”
Those comments came days after Seth Rogen, one of the most successful comic actors/producers of the modern era, came down even harder on the critical community.
“I think if most critics knew how much it hurt the people that they are writing about (they would be) second guessing the way they write these things … I know [artists] who never recover … it is devastating when you are being like institutionally told that your personal expression was bad. Like that is like devastating.”
It’s worth noting Rogen can be pretty cruel himself, lashing out at conservatives and, more specifically, once demeaning former Rep. Paul Ryan in front of his children.
Sometimes critics do go too far, making their reviews personal, even petty. And, on occasion, the stars will call them out for it.
Carey Mulligan earned raves for her work in 2021’s “Promising Young Woman.” One criticism in Variety rubbed her the wrong way by mocking her physical appearance.
“Mulligan, a fine actress, seems a bit of an odd choice as this admittedly many-layered apparent femme fatale — Margot Robbie is a producer here, and one can (perhaps too easily) imagine the role might once have been intended for her. Whereas with this star, Cassie wears her pickup-bait gear like bad drag; even her long blonde hair seems a put-on.”
Mulligan complained, and the outlet served up a sheepish apology.
Reliably grouchy critic Rex Reed once pummeled “Identity Thief” star Melissa McCarthy as both a “female hippo” and being a “a gimmick comedian who has devoted her short career to being obese and obnoxious with equal success.”
McCarthy complained about the review publicly, but Reed defended his critique. He added the controversy helped stir up ticket sales while offering an olive branch, of sorts, to McCarthy by calling her “classy.”
Other artists have taken critics on in a more direct, and divisive manner.
Night Shyamalan’s 2006 dud “The Lady and the Water” featured a film critic character played by Bob Balaban. Roger Ebert noted both the character and his role in the film in his scathing, but comic review.
“I am the villain. OK, not me, precisely, but Film Criticism Itself, embodied by the splendid (movie critic word) Bob Balaban as Mr. Farber, who is this film’s own resident newspaper movie critic, offering caustic, self-aware commentary on the shortcomings of “Lady in the Water” as it sloshes along. In Shyamalan’s rickety mythology, Mr. Farber represents… well, nothing so much as the filmmaker’s pre-emptive strike against the bad reviews he expects to receive for making this poorly written, stiffly directed, audience-insulting story-without-a-cause.”
Actor/director Zach Braff offered up a more balanced take on the artist/critic divide, and he should know. Critics swooned over his 2004 directorial debut, “Garden State.” Now, some of those same critics have soured on the presentation, suggesting it’s aged badly via its indie tropes and twee characters.
Braff recently told Variety he’s at peace with the shift.
“I just feel lucky that I get to make stuff. I can’t really dwell on it,” Braff said. “Anyone who’s ever got a bad grade on an essay from a teacher can relate — just imagine it was out there in public, you know? No one said being a creative person was easy, but you have to be vulnerable and authentically yourself. Otherwise, what’s the point?”
Quentin Tarantino, a critical darling, may have the final word on the increasingly tenuous ties between filmmaker and critic.
The “Pulp Fiction” auteur’s 10th and allegedly final film will be called “The Movie Critic.” We know little about the project beyond it being set in the 1970s and boasting a female lead.
Will it pay tribute to Pauline Kael, arguably the most influential critic outside of Siskel & Ebert? Or will it serve up a mash note to critics from the former video store clerk? Perhaps Tarantino will settle old scores with the few critics who have savaged his movies over the years.
If it’s the latter, the floodgates may open on actors following in the auteur’s footsteps.
Christian Toto is an award-winning journalist, movie critic and editor of HollywoodInToto.com. He previously served as associate editor with Breitbart News’ Big Hollywood. Follow him at @HollywoodInToto.
The views expressed in this piece are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.