Critics at their worst could never criticize the way that you do.”

— Aimee Mann, “Nothing Is Good Enough”

Are film critics necessary? Maybe not, but they can make a difference. When a studio’s ginormous marketing campaign blankets the media, a curious moviegoer can have a tough time telling if the hype is just hype or if there’s something solid behind it.

That’s where the critic comes in. The critic stands between the hype and the moviegoer, sorting the wheat from the heavily promoted chaff. And perhaps even more to the point, a critic can turn a spotlight on a small, otherwise neglected gem that doesn’t have a monster marketing campaign to bang the drum for it.

Yes, an intelligent, perceptive critic, working diligently, honestly and imaginatively, can sometimes make a difference. The problem, though, is that not all critics are especially intelligent or perceptive, and that not all of them do their jobs with diligence, honesty and imagination.

If film critics were doing a better job, gems like the oddly affecting Lars and the Real Girl, the brilliantly warped Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead and the beautifully crafted (and wonderfully acted) The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford would have received more attention this past year than, say, the utterly conventional La Vie en Rose, the soggy Savages and the pointless I’m Not There. (And, please, don’t even get me started on Across the Universe.)

Besides, even the best and the brightest critics have blind spots, weak moments and bad days.

That’s where I come in. In this column, I’ll be keeping score and trying to set the record straight by surveying the nation’s top reviewers about some of the most popular and talked-about films. If the critics fail to grasp the merits of a worthy movie, I’ll blow the whistle on them and tell you why you should care. And if the critics go overboard in praising a film that has serious flaws, I’ll be sure to point that out, too.

 I won’t just be looking at their overall assessment of a film. When the critics neglect to recognize a great performance (or screenplay or whatever), I’ll let you know. And, yes, when they jump on a bandwagon for a lackluster performance (or whatever), I’ll be there to cry foul. Think of me as a court of appeals – or, at least, an alternative voice.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking that if regular film critics can be wrong, why can’t I? Don’t I have blind spots, weak moments and bad days, too? What happens when I screw up?

Fortunately, there is one final line of defense and it, too, can make a difference. That, my friend, is where you come in. Please let me know how I’m doing.

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