Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Is 'Boring' a Valid Form of Criticism?

A question for the readers / bloggers / film critics: When negatively critiquing a film, is saying the film is "boring" a valid way to support your opinion? Movies are, among other things, a form of entertainment, and if a movie fails to be entertaining, isn't that falling short of one of the main standards of cinema? Then again, I would think that at least some people out there would have a problem with reducing the power of movies to simply a form of entertainment. 

This question is designed to provoke conversation and debate more than anything else, so please speak up with your opinions in the comments section below. I am very interested to see what you all have to say regarding this topic.


thistimeitwillbedifferent said...

I think saying that you were 'bored' during a film is a valid reaction to what you just watched but not a valid criticism of the film in question.

If you were bored then you need to have a look at why that was; did you find the pace too slow, the story not captivating enough, the performances drab and lifeless? All of these things can result in a feeling of boredom for the individual but do not make the film inherently boring for everyone.

If I had to sum it up in one sentence; saying a film is boring is at best lazy criticism and at worst, bad journalism.

Tom Clift said...

Basically I feel if you think a film is boring then that's a completely valid reason to dislike it, but you need to be able to justify what the movie did wrong that made it boring for it to be decent criticism

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

I try not to use the word boring, I'll probably go for euphemism [trite, unmoving, bland] but the word "boring" is connotative of so much I'd rather not open that ants' nest.

Univarn said...

I use it but like thistime, tom, and andrew I think justification is key. It's the same thing as just saying a movie is entertaining. You have to be able to say why you found it entertaining.

The Mad Hatter said...

You're taking me back to my art school days here and having to stand in front of the whole class with your work for critique.

The worst two things someone could say was "I like it / I don't like it". It always left me firing back the inevitable "OK, why?"

The boys summed it up best, describing a film as boring isn't a bad long as you can expand on what summoned up that reaction in you.

( Great question though! )

Danny King said...

Thanks for the detailed responses everyone! Looks like you all seem to be in agreement that justification is the key, and I can't find any reason to disagree with that.

Another reason why I asked this was because of the connotation of the word "boring" that Andrew mentioned. If someone were to read that word in a review, I can't help but think they would look at the opinion as "lazy criticism" (thistimeitwillbedifferent) simply because it is such a colloquial word. Words that Andrew mentioned such as "trite" and "bland" are much more acceptable.

Univarn said...

but trite and bland are such boring words!

hehe. I just had to say that, couldn't resist :). I'll return to my dungeon now.

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

@ Univarn: I was sooo expecting you to say that. I was actually surprised that your comment passed and you didn't :P

Jose said...

"Boring" is absolutely subjective. I love Ingmar Bergman films because I'm enthralled by the meditative pace but my brother finds them boring.
He loves frat boy movies with fart and poop jokes that I find boring. I guess boredom like beauty is pretty much in the eye of the beholder.
I'm actually more intrigued now by why should movies be entertaining.

Anonymous said...

"Boring" is such a subjective thing. A movie can be the most exciting, edge of your seat experience in cinema history and people will still say it's "boring".
But I don't think that necessarily creates a bad film. I've watched numerous films that were slow paced and often "boring" but I still consider them great films.

Daniel Getahun said...

I think the problem is that it's a more subjective adjective than most words. You can say something is "red", for example, and people will know what you're talking about - there's not a lot to understand. But the label "boring" is not nearly so easy to apply in universal fashion, as it's a personal reaction.

In other words, what the first commenter said. I think it's fair to use it to describe you personally felt, but you have to be careful in applying it critically. By doing so you're making the assumption that at least the majority of people reading it will automatically react the same way you do.

Danny King said...

@ Jose @ Anon @ Daniel Getahun: Looks like all three of you consider boring to be a very "subjective" word. I would agree, but then again, I'd also say that a lot of individual feelings towards a film are subjective.

As far as Jose's and Anon's comments about an effectively slow pace, I'd say there are definitely a lot of films in which that is very effective. To me, Cache was very slow paced, and although I didn't love the film, a lot of people supported it for that very reason.

Another one off the top of my head is There Will Be Blood. I love the fact that the conflict between Daniel and Eli grows so steadily throughout the film until it completely explodes.

And Daniel Getahun seems to be reiterating the "why" factor, which is tough to disagree with.

One thing I'd like to add to is what I said earlier in this comment about a lot of individual feelings towards films being subjective. Sure, a film can have a 90% percent on the Tomatometer, but I'm sure a lot of that 90% like it for different reasons. I just think that if the majority of the world loves a certain film, it doesn't mean that they all love it for the same reasons.

Julian Stark said...

Everyone has his/her own views on what boring is and isn't.

Personally, I think that the opposite of "boring" isn't necessarily "entertaining". Rather, I'd say it's "not boring".

Emotionally-driven films such as Precious certainly isn't "entertaining," but it is excellent and not boring.

Of course, that's just the way I feel about it :)

filmgeek said...

I'm with The Mad Hatter. To say a film is boring is fine as long as you can explain why. I hate it when someone says they didn't like a film but can't justify why.

Danny King said...

@ Julian Stark: I think you make a good point. Just because something isn't boring, doesn't automatically mean it's entertaining. Definitely not as "black and white" of a word as it seems.

@ filmgeek: Thanks for your input. The justification factor seems to be something most (if not all) people are in agreement with.

Castor said...

Like anything in critiquing movies, you have to explain why exactly it was "boring". There is absolutely nothing worse than reading reviews where the critic/armchair critic hammers down a movie for no good reason.

Slow paced also doesn't necessarily mean boring as long as you keep the viewer engaged somehow.

Personally, I rarely use the word. It's an extreme and a movie really has to be very boring for me to even mention it ;)

Danny King said...

@ Castor: Thanks for sharing. I would also hesitate to use the word "boring" in a review unless the film is really pushing me to do so!

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