Scott’s recent rant as part of The Animanga Festival got me thinking about nuking a fridge.
See when I went to see the fourth Indiana Jones movie, there were some things that bothered me. I don’t think Shia Labeouf is a particularly good action hero. He comes off a bit too stiff. After a certain point in time, Harrison Ford stopped being charismatic and started looking like he was faking it. The plot was fine, if a little uninspired, but overall, it was a 3 out of 5 movie.
During the entire movie, it never occurred to me that nuking the fridge was a problem. I mean this is a world where secret government warehouses contain secrets capable of melting the faces off of Nazis. Why couldn’t Indy duck into a lead-lined fridge to survive a nuclear bomb? Why are we suddenly applying physics now?
But this is still the biggest complaint I hear about the movie.
On the other hand, I never hear people complain about the paradox at the end of Terminator 2. When Arnold descends into the lava, John Connor should disappear. His mother should go back to being a waitress, and life should just continue from there.
It should happen that way because the past two movies built that up to be the way time works. And while I still like the movie, this issue has stuck in my craw for decades.
But whenever I bring up that complaint, all I hear is, “This is a movie about killer robots from the future and that’s your complaint?”
So which one is a nitpick? Is it nuking the fridge or is it the paradox in T2? Or are they both?
My opinion has a lot to do with how I judge fiction.
Context and content
When I judge fiction, there are basically two levels I look at. The first is content of the material. This is all the basic craft items. Was the film/ anime well shot? Were there production shortcuts? Is the script good? Is it well acted?
We can even take those content questions a bit deeper, if the script is bad, why? How could the show be shot better? How did the acting fail? Was it miscast?
Personally I weigh certain types of content heavier than others. I think a bad plot can easily ruin a movie, and poor acting can honestly make something unwatchable.
The other side of this equation is context. I’m going to look at a comedy different then I look at a drama. I have different expectations. I will forgive different plot holes.
This also extends to when the movie was produced; what the budget was; who directed it.
I would also throw internal consistency in this category. If a show or a movie sets out a rule, does it stick by it.
It’s interesting because Irina kind of brought up this issue around anime and genre a couple weeks back. While I’m not sure I agree with her final premise, I do think people will forgive a lot depending on the context.
Here is the problem. For a solid criticism, you need to look at both the content and the context of the material. It’s really easy to judge an old anime harshly because it looks old or to judge magic unbelievable but not look at the setting.
It’s equally wrong to forgive unbelievable characters because it happens to be a shounen romance (I’m looking at you Chobits. My hatred for you has no end.) .
So for a valid criticism, you have to show that something is missing in the craft and show that it’s not just a function of the genre, or the time it was produced.
But that still doesn’t really answer the question, “When is something a nitpick?”
So what is a nitpick?
Most nitpicks are generally valid criticism that are seen as too minor to actually affect the quality of a show or movie. For instance, I was fine with nuking the fridge, because I thought it worked in context.
Whereas, other people were fine with the T2 paradox for the same reason.
So there has to be a third element here and that is taste. Yes, I know it’s a bit undefinable, which I think is the heart of the problem.
If I can be indulged in talking about another Hollywood movie on my anime blog, Paul W. S. Anderson made an adaptation of The Three Musketeers a few years back. I didn’t think it was a great movie, but for what it was I thought it was fine — again 3 out of 5 caliber. And it had a cannon Gatling gun on an airship.
I’m pretty easy to buy and my price is a Gatling gun made out of cannons on a freaking airship.
I had a coworker who hated it though. He thought the Musketeers were bullies. The plot was hokey, and he hated the cannon Gatling gun.
Now I agreed with every one of his points, but they didn’t matter to me.
Which one us is right, then?
Well I am … and so is he.
In the end, if we’re going to judge criticism, we need to look at those three elements. Is the person judging the content and context fairly? I think Scott would say, the pithy one liners in Cinemasins are not valid criticism. And I agree a lot of the time they aren’t.
But I think we also need to look at the taste of the viewer. It could just be that they don’t like airships and cannon Gatling guns.
I mean they’re wrong, but there is no accounting for taste.
Thank you for reading.