`I would like to begin this post by stating that I staunchly believe that critiquing is quite veritably, an art in itself. It takes,among other rare and demanding virtues, uncommon levels of objectivity, a keen sense of observation and an encyclopaediac knowledge base in the concerned area.
Roger Ebert, my all time favourite movie critic, passed away earlier this year. The film aficionado in me suppressed many a silent tear. His loss to me was profound in an extremely selfish way and was sorely personal.
I discovered him when I first started realising that Rotten Tomatoes’ tomatometer, in itself, was not a reliable indicator of a movie’s watchability/merits by my standards. I started reading individual reviews of films and over a period of time, one critic’s tastes, reviews and accuracy (again by my standards) definitely stood out. The rest is a long history of my torrent download list being a product of constant deferral to his judgement.
Why did I like his reviews so much? Firstly, his piranha grip over the English language and his effortlessly eloquent writing style resonated with me. Secondly, his overall set of cinematic ideals, in terms of aesthetics, technicalities and pretty much everything else conformed to (and sometimes, shaped) my own. In addition, his acute objectivity helped transcend philosophical and idealogical differences (he was a theistic socialist; I’m a raging libertarian atheist) that could have possibly led to a difference in perception and patronisation of certain loaded subjects. Lastly, what made him stand apart was the method of rating films as products of their relative genres, which he pioneered.
Naturally, my film-life suffered due to the existence of a palpable black hole when he died and going was tough for a few weeks. Then, in a fashion decidedly congruent with the whole “when a door closes, a window opens” school of bullshit, I stumbled upon my next favourite critic through a Roger Ebert obituary that he had published in an Indian daily; The co-incidence is definitely gasp-worthy. The new holder of the coveted mantle is Baradwaj Rangan, who writes reviews for The Hindu and also publishes his stuff on baradwajrangan.wordpress.com. With to-die-for witticisms, uncannily overlapping personal tastes/beliefs (to an extent unimaginable with even Ebert) and a thorough disdain for the nonsense, Rangan had me scouring his blog for reviews of my all time favourites and choking with teared joy on having found the perfect patch for the hole. It was also poetically fitting that he was tam brahm.
I believe I have started admiring him as a proper writer and not just a tool to ease my filtration process for films. Sadly, his job’s dictates mean that he reviews a lot of films that don’t usually feature in my to-watch list. I end up reading reviews for a lot of films that I know I would never watch, if only to entertain myself with his writing.
I strongly recommend his blog.