Do Film Critics Need Filmmaking Experience? John Cleese Says It’s Odd Most Can’t Act or Direct

The Monty Python co-founder is on a social media mission to get film critics to admit their limitations.
John Cleese Hacked Off. File photo dated 25/02/15 of John Cleese who has again threatened to leave the UK after MPs decided not to go ahead with the second phase of the Leveson Inquiry. Issue date: Wednesday May 9, 2018. See PA story SHOWBIZ Cleese. Photo credit should read: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire URN:36409612
John Cleese
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How much experience should film critics have in terms of writing, acting, and/or directing? Does it make sense for people with no experience in filmmaking to be film critics? These questions have been on the mind of comedy legend and Monty Python co-founder John Cleese over the last week on social media, where he has started a debate over the necessary qualifications for film critics. Just this week Cleese wrote, “It’s odd that, given [film critics’] inabilities [in acting, directing, or screenwriting], they are then put in judgement over people who can write, direct and act.”

The debate over film critic qualifications started when Cleese observed last week that sports coverage on television has “improved immensely” by hiring former athletes as commentators. Because former athletes have personal experience with the sport they are commentating on, they are able to weigh in more accurately on plays, coaching decisions, and more. Cleese asked his followers, “Could the same principle now be applied to the arts?”

“Instead of having ‘critics’ who can’t themselves direct, write, act, sing, dance or claim any other kind of expertise, would we not get superior commentary from people who can?” Cleese asked. “Why should artistic criticism from untalented people be preferred to that of outstandingly talented ones?”

Cleese has noted that he is not angry with film critics but “simply wants them to acknowledge their limitations.” The comedian added, “For example, critics are astonishingly ignorant about [the filmmaking] process.”

In an August 4 post, Cleese theorized that “if critics could write or direct or act, presumably they would be doing that, and earning more than the pittance that critics are paid.” That critics aren’t out there making films or acting means in most cases they aren’t qualified to do so, so why are they the ones judging art? Followers have sounded off for and against Cleese’s argument in the comments section.

Cleese is in the middle of receiving his own reviews for his live-stream comedy show “Why There is No Hope,” which aired this week. Check out all of the comedian’s thoughts on film critics in the posts below.

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