Rodney M Bliss

Why People Who Say “See The Movie Before Criticizing It” Are Wrong

There’s a new movie coming out about Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon. It’s called “First Man.” There’s some controversy around it. The film’s director Damien Chazelle chose to not film a scene of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin actually planting the flag on the moon. The flag appears in the background of other scenes, but there is no shot of the two astronauts putting up the American flag.

Critics have complained that not including that scene is unAmerican. Others have told the critics to stop judging a film that they haven’t yet seen. That those critics should first go see the film before criticizing it. Those others are wrong.

There are two political documentaries coming out this summer. The first, Death of a Nation was released on August 3, 2018. It’s directed by Dinesh D’Souza. It’s fair to say that D’Souza is pretty conservative. He was convicted of illegally donating more than the allowable limits to Republican candidates several years ago. President Trump pardoned him this summer.

Death of a Nation compares presidents Donald Trump and Abraham Lincoln. The reviews are pretty bipolar. Of the 4181 reviews on IMDB, 54.5% rate it a 9 or 10/10. It was rated a 1 or 2/10 by 38.3% of reviewers. The remaining 7.2% of reviewers gave it a rating between 3 and 8.

Dinesh D’Souza has a history of popular documentaries. His movie “2016: Obama’s America” made $33M and is the 33rd top grossing documentary of all time.

The second film is by liberal film maker Michael Moore. On September 21 he will release “Fahrenheit 11/9,” a film that he hopes will “be the beginning of the end for Donald Trump.” Fahrenheit 11/9 is a variation on the title of his earlier film, “Fahrenheit 9/11” which took a critical view of the Bush presidency. “Fahrenheit 9/11” was itself a variation on the Ray Bradbury book, “Fahrenheit 451.” The title is the burning temperature of paper. The book describes a society that surpresses knowledge by burning books.

“Fahrenheit 9/11” is the top grossing documentary of all time. It earned about $119M. It’s reveiwers were not quite as bifected as those of “Death of a Nation” but were still divided. Of all reviewers, 77.6% rated it a 7, 8, 9 or 10. Of those who didn’t like it, 8.6% rated it a 1 or a 2. That left 13.8% of reviewers who thought it was a 3, 4, 5 or 6. It’s a good bet that “Fahrenheit 11/9 will see similar divided views.

If you are like most people in America, you probably view yourself as liberal, conservative or independent. And if you are independent, you probably lean one way or the other, liberal or conservative.

It’s a good bet that Moore’s film is going to find fans in the Liberal side of the populace, just as D’Souza’s film has found fans on the Conservative side.

Now, think of the film that does not align closest with your own political beliefs. Should you go see that film before criticizing it? Fairness would seem to say you should.

You shouldn’t.

Michael Moore’s “Fahrenheit 9/11” is not the best documentary of all time. In fact, depending on the lists, “Fahrenheit 9/11” doesn’t even make the top 50. Rotten Tomatoes ranks “Fahrenheit 9/11” as the 83rd best documentary of all time. The all time best documentary (using Rotten Tomatoes rating) is 2008’s “Man on a Wire.” It made just under $3M. A measly 2% of what “Fahrenheit 9/11” made.

Michael Moore didn’t make the best documentary, he made the most profitable. And that’s why the argument to “Go see a movie before you criticize it” falls apart. I’m sure both Mr Moore and Mr D’Souza would love it if all their critics went to see their movies. It would quickly make “Death of a Nation” and “Fahrenheit 11/9” two of the most popular (and profitable) documentaries of all time.

Director Rob Reiner is an unapologetic liberal. However, I don’t know a single person who would would refuse to go see “Princess Bride” because it was made by a liberal film maker. Even his “political” film “The American President” was entertaining. I’ve always thought it was his attempt to “teach” Bill Clinton how to be a president.

Mel Gibson is politically conservative. And yet, last year his movie “Hacksaw Ridge” about Medal of Honor winner Desmond Doss, wasn’t boycotted by liberals.

You should go see a movie if it’s a good movie (Princess Bride, Hacksaw Ridge.) You should avoid a movie if it’s a bad movie. And it’s completely okay to define “bad” however you want, and to take the advice of others.

However, remember that film makers make movies with the intent of people going to see the movie. That why Damien Chazell made “First Man.” He wants people to come see his movie. Merely going to see a movie at the theater means you are contributing to its success. If you don’t want to contribute to a movie, maybe because it’s made by D’Souza, or Moore, or it doesn’t show the planting of the American flag, it’s actually counterproductive to first go see the movie.

You support the film maker by buying a ticket. You don’t have to buy a ticket to be allowed to share your opinion.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren.

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