The Introduction of the Theory

Or, I could make scathing remarks about famous people, too, if you'd give me half a chance.
There are a lot of film critics in America today. Every major newspaper and magazine has at least one or two, sometimes more than that in order to offset the huge amount of films released by Hollywood each week. These critics are very individualistic, but they have a huge number of similarities: They've seen a lot of movies, and a lot of "films." They know their François Truffaut from their Jean-Luc Godard, their Apocalypse Now from their Full Metal Jacket. They know why City Lights is the greatest of Chaplin's works. They make scathing remarks about the decline of Orson Welles. These people either really know their stuff or are desperately pretending that they do. These people have strong opinions.

But they also all have the same opinions, and I find this a little strange. When a movie comes out, virtually all critics will be united in their opinion of it, a seething mass of cynicism and revulsion, or an applauding crowd of laud, glory, and gold stars. You've probably seen this, and so you know: these people think alike. That's why people refer to "the critics" as a group that seems to combine the worst elements of 1984 and Communist Russia.

On one level, of course they do. These people are intelligent, thoughtful people who love movies, and naturally they will each, individually, appreciate good filmmaking and denounce poor workmanship. So there's a logic behind their solidarity. But each of these critics have a similar thread to their reviews that doesn't follow this pattern, that in fact completely belies this: the pattern of the Free Film.

Keep reading. I'll explain. It gets more fun as it goes. But first, we have to get technical.