People hate critics. I know I do. I hated them before I became one and the situation hasn't changed since. Daniel Neman bugs the crap out of me. I find his overuse of "we" in his reviews annoying as heck, as if either he's assuming that "we" share his perspective (which I usually don't) or he's using the royal we. Danny -- it's YOU that saw the flick, not we.
Anyway, I'm sure that there's people that are annoyed or angered or bored by my reviews (or my blog). Fine by me. Difference of opinion is what makes our democracy strong.
But for you non-critics out there, here's a window into the conundrums critics face. I saw Richmond Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar" last Friday. Generally a very good production (but I'll save the specifics for when my review shows up in Style). I liked the performance of Jeff Schmidt as Mark Antony quite a lot. He's was doing a great job with the funeral speech ("Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears...") but then, at the very end of the scene, he totally went blank. Like, totally. It was the most complete full-stop flub I think I have ever seen on stage. There was nothing but dead air for a good few seconds. As I remember it, he eventually repeated one of the lines from earlier in the scene and then everyone just exited.
I'm not pointing this out to be mean. I think Mr. Schmidt is a fine actor; he had been doing well, performed nicely during the rest of the show, and overall did an admirable job. But as a critic, what do you do? Do you memorialize that momentary lapse in print in the spirit of giving an honest assessment of the production? Or do you gloss over it to be "nice?" Movie reviewers can be jerks in their assessments because they aren't usually going to see the person they wrote about at Ukrop's the following Friday. But how do you balance giving a hard-working actor the benefit of the doubt with keeping up a semblance of journalistic integrity?
Or how about this: "The True Story of Pocahontas" opened last week also. As Ms. Haubenstock pointed out in her review, the script has some serious problems. She didn't even mention what I thought were the most significant issues: Pocahontas's motivation for saving John Smith isn't explained, and a huge hunk of the show is told in the future tense, which was confusing to me, not to mention the kids of various ages I had along with me. But you also have to admire the fact that they tried to "keep it real" and not do something that totally made Pocahontas something that she wasn't. Do you reward intent? Or damn with faint praise by saying, "well, at least it wasn't something worse."
Q: What would you do?
A: Avoid becoming a critic at all costs, perhaps?
PS: Style could still use someone else to write them reviews. If this entry isn't inspiration enough, I should tell you the pay isn't so great either...