An essay about critiquing

Critiquing with Clarity: A Guide to Constructive Analysis and Evaluation

There was always something playing at my house, growing up: Music, movies, television, my home was very rarely a silent place, and I wouldn’t know if that was because it was a two-child household of a family of four in central California in the early nineties or if my parents, my mom in particular, had an only slightly less than an aesthetic appreciation for the arts, the sound seemed rather to just make us all feel good.

          A household like this will inspire a certain adoration for music, movies, and television—although, I never have enjoyed television nearly as much as music and movies—but this kind of rearing really does make for a terrible critic. I enjoy most things that I listen to and watch, I have a distinct ear for crap, but I won’t waste my time on it; I think, because of the way that I was raised, I can find enough good in a thing that it will fervently cancel out the bad to the point where I may not even notice the bad. Unless, of course, something is really, really bad—or, I suppose, I simply don’t understand it.

The audience of the critic all but demands the critic to dislike something, and in some cases, everything. I suppose the purpose being that when the critic does enjoy something then that something is really worth paying attention to—such as Top Gun 2: Maverick; great movie—and among the many reasons why…is because all it is was entertaining, there was nothing political, there were no statements, they weren’t thinking about offending or dismissing anyone, it was simply an entertaining movie!

Perhaps more critics should be more discerning and stop taking themselves so seriously, I don’t pay attention to many, if any, critics because art is subjective, art isn’t a noun it’s a verb, to make art is to live consciously, with intention, and to work—a productive or operative activity—with com(passion). Art isn’t the product of a thing, it’s the creation of a thing. And you can’t effectively, and inherently, critique a product of art, not when bias is involved. And unless one actively works on their biases—which, I mean, honestly, few people actually do—then we all have them, and few recognize them. How can you trust a critic with an unconscious bias? (For example, any movie that has Adam DeVine, even cast in an ensemble, is going to be trash. I will not watch it. Additionally, I’ll give any Adam Sandler movie one chance, because it’s hit or miss, Sandler is the type of actor that will try anything, whether it might work or not just for the experience, for his personal experience (which I admire), however, he’s made as many awful movies as he has decent, and far fewer rewatchable movies). But that’s my bias, the two Adams’ are very well received by a huge number of supporters.

Art is subjective; it’s amazing to me that someone woke up one day and decided that they’re perspective was one to be valued above all else, as an insight in someone else’s character. I think that’s absurd. In part, too, because our moods can be so impactful, and we’re so often unaware of our moods and how they’re affecting us. I can watch one movie one day and love it and feel entirely different about it the next, simply because I feel differently but not about the movie—although I might blame the movie—what I feel differently about is my situation.

          I’m not going to “review” music or books or movies or television or food or a place, I feel like reviews serve little to no purpose, I’ll share my own experience with each, I’ll share my stories and my observations, which may come across as such, but everything that I share is a matter of own opinion, I will never—maybe, rarely—express something with the intention of changing a persons’ mind or belittling their belief. I can be very critical of people and our biases, our hypocrisy and our non-linear, thoughtless purviews, but how can we be genuinely critical of art? And like I mentioned above art is the act of creation.

I write about these things because I enjoy writing, and I enjoy experiencing life, and sharing those experiences, it is not at all because I want to influence a perspective, and I think that is an important distinction to make and to share.

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