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What If Movies Were Reviewed Like Video Games?

What If Movies Were Reviewed Like Video Games?

It’s clear at this point that no matter how it began, the ongoing cultural cataclysm known as GamerGate is not primarily about “ethics in gaming journalism.” The fact that it was sparked by a vengeful ex-boyfriend would be one clue; that, so far as I can tell, no male gamers have been attacked except for supporting women who’ve been harassed and threatened online is another. But even taking GamerGaters at their word(s), their concerns rarely stand up to scrutiny, especially when it comes to the insistence that game reviews be “objective.”

I’ve heard this complaint, less frequently, about film criticism as well, to which I usually reply that the only objective aspects of a movie are aspect ratio and running time. Matthew Dessem, who frequently writes for the Dissolve, has taken that idea to the next level with “The Objective Reviewer,” which begins with this brilliant riff on “Citizen Kane”:

“Citizen Kane” was unveiled at an unboxing ceremony on January 1, 1941, at the Pantages Theatre, 6223 Hollywood Boulevard. Everyone at the unboxing was given a booklet with words and images printed on it explaining what was on the film, although this wasn’t very objective since it described what was in the pictures with loaded phrases like “excitement-packed,” instead of focusing on the unbiased facts. The strips were loaded into a machine which passed light through each image, creating an image on a very large screen. By pulling the strip through the machine at high speed, the images were made to change very rapidly, 24 times every second. This produced an illusion of motion — it seemed to the audience that the images were moving. At the same time, light was shined through the sound wave to the left of the image, onto a special device which transmitted an electric current to “speakers” throughout the theater. In the speakers, a paper or cloth cone vibrated, creating longitudinal waves in the air inside the theater. These waves reproduced the noises the people in the images made, as well as “sound effects” that were created afterwards. Also there was music.

The “objective review” goes on to obsess over framerates and “Kane’s” lack of color, which it suggests are likely to disappoint “filmers” looking to push their flatscreens and surround sound to the max. At that point, Dessem’s satire of games journalism slides into a less gonzo critique of the way the aesthetics of gaming have crept into the world of cinema, inspiring (if that’s the word) “The Hobbit’s” distracting HFR cinematography and the cropping of both 4:3 and widescreen content to max out every pixel in a 16:9 screen. By those standards, it’s not surprising that one of the greatest films ever made winds up with a lowly 48 out of 100 score.

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