“Flawed” and “Overrated” – Two Words that are Meaningless when Speaking about Art

Written with Ryan Adams

“The essence of being human is that one does not seek perfection.”
— George Orwell

Wise words, but most of us ignore them. We humans keep reaching for perfection anyway. Especially those rare human artists and human athletes who possess enough talent and ego to believe they can obtain the unobtainable. But even if it’s an artist’s job to seek perfection, it shouldn’t be a critic’s job to demand perfection from art. Very few legitimate critics ever do. Far too many armchair critics do it all the time.

Flawed. Overrated. Two words that often crop up in casual café conversation — and even more often in the virtual café conversations of twitter. The more a movie is praised with great buzz or universally good word of mouth, the more we’re likely to see someone fall back on the default dissent: no, “it’s overrated,” or yes, “but it’s flawed.” The trouble with both these words is that they throw the burden of blame back at the film and filmmaker. Easier for some people to dismiss a movie in those terms than to say, “I didn’t get it” or “I had problems with it.” No one wants to take personal responsibility for raining on the parade — but how does it make any sense to blame the parade and not blame the rain?

Whenever we see a vague reference to “flaws” in a film, notice how we seldom we see any specific “flaws” ever itemized. That’s a good clue that the actual problem is in the viewer and not in the thing being viewed. But that’s uncomfortable. It’s hard for people admit that they “didn’t get” something because that means there’s something wrong with them, so they put the blame on the film, or the painting, or the photograph. Easier to blame the artist, but not themselves.

This is not to say that “overrated” and “flawed” are not legitimate words in the right context. But the overuse of both these words in critical discourse has become annoyingly pervasive. It’s prevalent everywhere, not just in America, land of the branded.  In America, it’s easy to see how the illness has spread. Advertising tries to grab our attention with exaggerated hype on every new product that comes out. Consumers get whipped up in the hype so they flock like lemmings to buy a new product. The latest completely disgusting hybrid abomination at Taco Bell, for example. Advertising or excitement, hype or hunger, anticipation or enticement? — most of the time we can’t tell the difference anymore.

Overrated

In the age of instant customer feedback, ratings are impossible to avoid. In some cases ratings are useful. Ratings based on natural word of mouth can be a great barometer of reliability. For instance, the new ride-sharing service, Uber, really is the coolest thing ever. You register with credit card or paypal, Uber matches destinations, and someone drives you somewhere. I wish this had been around when I was a young adult. No one is ever going to say “Uber is overrated” because it delivers on a specific promise. It works like it’s supposed to work and we know that because real people say it works. The grassroots appeal of Uber is based on actual reports of customer satisfaction. Uber doesn’t need to rely on commercial advertising hype because it has genuine great word of mouth.  (3… 2… 1… countdown to the first scary abduction thriller with a perilous Uber premise).

But, in general, we’ve all been conditioned as consumers since birth — so we instinctively know how to evaluate hype and word of mouth, and we understand how to balance those influences with our own personal experience. We recognize the difference between a personal recommendation and a corporate ‘Seal of Approval.’ As well we should. We’re the ones spending the money; we should be getting what we paid for. Much of the time that is not a matter of opinion. The service or product is either delivered as promised or it isn’t. And if it isn’t, the internet provides the perfect way to spread words of warning.

But words of warning are the wrong way to evaluate some things, and movies are one of those things. Yes, on the one hand, many movies are made to conform to a consumerist model — productions are hyped by companies, studios that often reach out to what used to be called “fanboys,” many of whom have graduated (or have been self-appointed) to the realm of legit critics — a select number of VIPs who get invited on junkets, set visits and the like. These first-adapters can offer invaluable hype-assistance for a production, so studios smartly select the friendliest test-drivers. They report back from their insider platforms, most of the time say it’s great, and their like-minded readers trust them. The movie makes a bazillion dollars, and everybody’s happy. So far, so good.

But then… but then when a second wave of skeptical viewers is sucked into the riptide of hype, some will sound the alarm: Caution. Beware. This thing that was over-hyped to the moon is “overrated.”  That’s because our mindset is such that we’ve been conditioned as consumers to get what we paid for. We expect to receive what we’ve been sold.  The movie either equals or doesn’t equal the hype in our minds. it delivers what it promised or it doesn’t. Though I still hate the word overrated, in a way, I can see it as a valid criticism in this particular case.

The problem is, most of the time it isn’t used that way. Most of the time it’s used to take a dump on a critical consensus — when a whole bunch of smart film writers praise a film, it’s tempting (for various reasons) for other writers to be contrarian. The best contrarian opinions have very little to do with prepackaged studio hype or predictable fanboy-critic enthusiasm, but more to do with meaningful insights arrived upon by people who take their job seriously. Responsible, conscientious critics who endeavor to look deeper can get caught up in the excitement as easily as the rest of us — there’s a lot of satisfaction to be found in discovering a film’s greatness when so many other people agree that it’s great. But those outside that select group, however, don’t always get to feel the same untainted enthusiasm. Very few people who are plugged into the hype machine of social media ever get to experience the pure virginal rush of, say, seeing a movie in Cannes for the first time — those moments when a hush falls over the crowd, with no noise in your head to interfere with your appreciation. Just the sheer unadulterated joy of seeing a work of art, unguided, unfiltered, fresh and new.

Then come the raves. Those raves can set expectations way too high — so high that a film would need to be ten times better than it actually is to ever meet those expectations.  By then our viewing of a film has become entangled — the knotty perception of the film itself tied up in a cumbersome bundle with the unanimous praise of it.  It’s hard to avoid bringing a lot of barnacles to the film that it doesn’t deserve. Back in the day, a film would be shown a few days before its release (back when people went to the movies more), the critics would ring in, studios would use their blurbs to sell the film, and you might hear someone say something like “I heard this movie was good.”  They would pay money to see the movie to find out for themselves, and they would walk out thinking it was good or it wasn’t good. Back then moviegoers would never use the word “overrated.” Why? Simple. Because no official “rating” had yet been assigned.

The probable cause for ratings obsession these day is that movies get seen and talked about and reviewed and rewarded with numerical scores long before they ever get seen by people all across the country and all around the world.  For weeks, all that most people have to go by is the talk, the buzz — not the work itself.  Too often, regular civilian moviegoers get shut out of first round of assessment, so they’re robbed of the pleasure of participating.  The fresh experience has been stolen. By the time they finally get to see the movie, it can’t possibly live up to their impossibly high expectations. They can feel misled or let down. Therefore, “it was overrated.”

The reason I hate the word is that it comments on the hype and the critics themselves, not on the work. That’s why the word has no place in film criticism — perhaps in casual discussion, sure, but if you are in the business of evaluating a film, should not the film itself be the subject and not a reaction to other people’s reactions to the film? Write a separate piece about that, if you must, but think before you do: does the internet really need another annoying think piece that calls something overrated? I actually saw an article that called Meryl Streep overrated. Dude, if you think Meryl Streep is overrated 1) you should stop writing about film immediately. 2) Go work at Taco Bell.

I think the word overrated is overrated. It simply reveals a person’s lack of imagination, and worse: their willingness to be affected too much by other people’s opinions. It displays an utter lack of original thinking. Think for yourself. Do not write your reviews in reaction to what other people think.

The term overrated has been around a long time, and seems to have its roots in academia — as this scene from Manhattan would indicate.  And again, I’m sure sometimes it applies to things that aren’t products sold to Americans via hype and advertising. I’m sure there are some films, musicians, works of art that could be reasonably called overrated. Someone might go after Banksy because his art work is so expensive — that seems legit. But even if it’s true that some things seem rated too highly for your own tastes — please, don’t use that word. It’s a stupid word. It’s lazy. It’s … overrated. It only signifies that you’ve become a victim of the rating machine.

Flawed

Another word that has crept into conversations lately is “flawed.” Too many film reviewers, often the younger ones, use this word. You won’t find this word written by many seasoned critics. Veteran critics, who have more refined words in their toolbox, would never stoop to describing a film with that term. A critic’s job is to write up a thoughtful criticism with precision, so no self-respecting writer would use a vague, lazy word like “flawed.”

To me a flaw in a film means something that was wrong — a defect, a mishap, a continuity error, a color correction problem, a bad edit, a boom mic shot.  The word flawed should not be used to mean: parts of the film that didn’t work FOR ME.  Some of the time we can all agree on what “flawed” means. It could mean we all watch a bad movie and think: clumsy dialogue, awkward scenes, unbelievable conflict/resolution, tacked-on happy ending — all of those descriptions are better and far more meaningful than flawed.

I see the word “flawed” way too much in reviews lately, and the second I do I click off of that review.  Use of the F-word tells me the writer got lazy, and that the writer believes his/her opinion is more important than anything else. It also sounds arrogant. Because it shows that a writer believes he’s an authority on the Right Way or Wrong Way to make a movie. Why would I care about one person’s opinion? Why would that writer assume that what he/she thinks is a flaw is something I would ever, in a million years, agree with?

If a writer wants to write about a “tacked-on happy ending,” well, that’s something sort of useful and specific. But it is especially glaring and egregious when someone calls a film “flawed” that most people see as an utter masterpiece. It makes me want to rip my hair out. The word flawed is worse than overrated because at least with overrated the minute someone says the word you immediately think, “okay, obviously this person did not understand what was special about the movie” or “alright, this person expected something that they didn’t get.” But “flawed” indicates there was something obviously inherently wrong with the film.

I do feel it’s fair enough to blurt out “it was flawed” or “it was overrated” in a casual conversation. But I still think one should never presume that they know so much more than everyone else that they would used these words in a more formal piece of writing. Please do the world a favor and at least confess, “it didn’t work for me.”  I would be happy if the word “flawed” could be stricken from film criticism altogether. There’s no way to prevent anyone from using the word, of course. But in my opinion its use is a worse reflection on the writer than it is on whatever is being written about.

Someone wrote this to me on Twitter about Boyhood.

While “flawed” isn’t usually associated with the same impulse toward meanness the way “overrated” can sometimes be, it simply does not do the writer any favors. It presumes we all have our own definition of what flawed would mean. An airbag doesn’t open on a car, say, or the coffee spills when you try to drink out of the plastic lid. These are clear-cut flaws. With art, we’re talking about a subjective interpretation of things that either work for you or things that don’t work for you.

Calling Boyhood “flawed” would be in keeping with what a few the film critics have said about it, in trying to explain why some of the scenes felt contrived (to them) or awkward (to them). Those things amount to the modern writer’s formulaic notion of something “flawed.” As though perfection were a quantified set of rules that cannot broken.  As if fulfillment of those formulaic rules were the end goal.

A screenwriting teacher at UCLA named Richard Walter once told me that as long as a person doesn’t fuck up the key moments of a film, then any “mistakes” can be forgiven. Imagine today’s set of blogger critics seeing Vertigo for the first time. Or, god forbid, any John Waters movie from the early days. Hell, imagine them seeing Jaws. “The shark looks so fake in the last scene!” Ergo, the movie is flawed. You see, time smooths out the wrinkles so that perfection is no longer a requirement. Is the movie good? YES, by god, YES. Does it have moments that seem fake occasionally? Sure. Are there loose ends that aren’t exactly tied up? Absolutely. Is it a good movie? YES. Is it a great movie? One of the greatest.

Are there perfect movies? Yes. Citizen Kane is a perfect movie. I’ve watched it upwards of 200 times and it has only a single moment that doesn’t quite work and it’s one line said by Joseph Cotton when you can tell he forgot his line. Another perfect film is David Fincher’s The Social Network. It is perfect. I’ve watched it over 30 or 40 times and it has not a single “flaw.”  Would people say both of these films are “overrated,” yes, they would. Of course. Because they aren’t seeing what other people see, they assume it is the fault of the film and not something they ought to look more deeply within themselves to discover.

It is an endless cycle of the Emperor’s New Clothes. Everyone naturally assumes each new film that comes out is the Emperor. They decide whether he’s wearing clothes or not and they cast the blogger/critics as people who imagine they’re seeing clothes or not. While that is a brilliant analogy and applicable to many things, only occasionally can it ever be applied to film.

Let’s take a movie like Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master. People see it, they rave about it, they add their own interpretations to what they think it’s about. You could put forth the argument that many films ARE open to interpretation — many films by David Lynch, or Fellini, or Godard or any absurdist filmmaker, for instance.  How people respond to these films, and the praise or criticism of them, is often an example of The Emperor’s New Clothes. They don’t get it but they don’t want to look stupid so they say what a great movie it is, etc. There are many on the internet who want to be that guy (or girl) who says, “look, the Emperor isn’t wearing any clothes!” The trouble is, art — the criticism of it, the appreciation of it — is often open to interpretation. It isn’t as simple as saying he’s wearing clothes or he isn’t. A film can make you feel something even if you don’t understand it. It’s okay to come out of it saying, “I have no idea what the hell I just saw.” So you go back in and you watch it again or you file it away somewhere in your mind as something you did not like.

But to write off a group of people for being stupid enough to be fooled by the Emperor is, I think, damaging to intelligent film discourse all the way around. So do the critics get caught up in the hype of the moment and lift something to epic proportions so that it has no chance of living up to that high high praise? Yes. Does that mean the work itself is overrated? Some will probably will think so. Should those people write that in a film review? No.

To sum up: If you think you see a “flaw,” please be aware that the flaw is apparent TO YOU based on your own personal perception. Don’t write that in a film review. You think it’s overrated? Fine. Don’t write that in a film review. Or some dumb click-bait piece with an annoying slideshow to get hate comments. Why pollute the internet more than it already is?

Every year during Oscar season, another great movie is punished for being too highly praised. That movie is almost always knocked out in favor of the scrappy more mediocre movie standing behind it, the wallflower no one was ever paying attention to.  These are years that ALMOST ALWAYS produce a winner people regret later. They don’t like picking the movie everyone already likes, but instead go for the one they can feel good about choosing because no one’s paying attention to it and “IT’S SO GOOD!”  Those films rarely make it onto the best films of the decade list. People agree they are good, would watch them in a heartbeat, see them as films without flaws that aren’t overrated. But are they great? No because great got kicked to the curb a mile back.

And so it goes with Boyhood.  Right now, Boyhood is the belle of the ball — so critics are already sharpening their scalpels to dissect it in reassessment mode, writing think pieces about how it’s good but it’s not THAT good. It can’t just be allowed to stand as something a lot of people love. Last year, 12 Years a Slave was the critics darling, earning a record number of 100s on Metacritic. That then meant that the big city critics were afflicted with “overrated” syndrome, and were not going to let that be a foregone conclusion. They therefore did not choose it for a single major award, except New York which bestowed Best Director honors on Steve McQueen. New York, Los Angeles, National Society of Film critics — none of them choose the best-reviewed film of the year for Best Picture.

There are many films that remain to be seen this year. Already the Boyhood backlash is starting. When I hear people say Boyhood is flawed or overrated I always think of this Rilke quote, “If your daily life seems poor, do not blame it; blame yourself, tell yourself that you are not poet enough to call forth its riches; for to the creator there is no poverty and no poor indifferent place.”

43 Comments on this Post

  1. I see nothing wrong in calling a film “flawed” or “overrated”. If that is the person’s opinion, then fine. If YOU take issue with someone using those words, then it should be your job to spark discussion as to why the person holds that opinion. If you don’t start that discussion than how is the other person the one at fault?

  2. Bryce Forestieri

    Sasha, let me commend you — this is the piece of the year so far at Awards Daily, full stop. A few very minor reservations, but in the larger scheme, I agree 100%. Great stuff.

  3. Sasha Stone

    Thanks Bryce but this piece was co-written by Ryan who deserves most of the credit! M1 – I hope you actually read the whole piece and not just the headline.

  4. Bryce Forestieri

    At any rate, in film reviews, “overrated” is downright vain and unacceptable for its utter insignificance. You can say flawed only if you go to great lengths to articulate what those flaws are so that readers can actually challenge you should they think differently.

  5. Bryce Forestieri

    “Ryan who deserves most of the credit

    I see. Well, he knows :)

  6. co-written by Ryan who deserves most of the credit!

    well no. Thanks but I don’t deserve that much credit. I fussed around a little with the opening paragraphs to help be sure it stepped off on solid footing, but the entire piece is a Sasha Stone creation.

    All I did was gently tap the ship’s bow with a bottle of champagne to help “launch” it.

    Anything beyond that and the extent of my contribution is overrated overestimated.

  7. GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY was so overrated, I almost died.

  8. Bob Burns

    once again….. if people would state opinion as opinion and fact as fact, this would be a far better world…. in my opinion.

  9. JPNS Viewer

    Sasha’s said: ‘This is not to say that “overrated” and “flawed” are not legitimate words in the right context. But the overuse of both these words in critical discourse has become annoyingly pervasive. It’s prevalent everywhere, not just in America, land of the branded.’

    [And Ryan’s scratched out the word “overrated” and opted for “overestimated” instead in one of his comments. (At the moment, he wrote only one comment. And for the time being there was no AD timeline displayed in each comment as once done before.)]

    In the so-called standard Japanese, depending upon the context notwithstanding, in general there is basically not the term “overrated” (in a perfect sense) as in the past participle or a noun modifier to be strategically used in the similar structure to English without sounding embellished (unnatural). This means, in essence Japanese people, viewers (and bloggers) and pro critics alike, do not employ such word in their critiquing an art form, including films, as do the English-speaking counterparts (even though I am quite sure, some Japanese people, if they desire, could find a way to mirror this English word no matter how awkward their sentence structure might be).

    In my case, I only write English comments on AD. (I don’t write English tweets; I’m basically following some Japanese female celebs and responding to them in Japanese.) And I remember using the term “overrated” as a synonym of the word (for instance) “overestimated” twice or so in my remarks here – mainly where a relatively good film and/or an actor/actress seems to have been over-praised, not to mention virtually to a point of Godlike status, by certain readers in a single AD thread [I’d like to be charitable and so believe that those souls are not plants at work and thus they are real people who sincerely admire(d) those being praised], and where, thus, I made known my notion in brief and opted to use the term in question in a relative sense.

    Now that I’ve understood the gravity of the laziness element that seems to be inevitably associated with people who make use of the term “overrated/overestimated” (to me they are basically the same). I guess I should be more careful writing a comment in English and provide more details next time round.

    (Note: I don’t use the word “flawed” as in, for instance, “it is a flawed film” — mainly because it doesn’t fit my original narrative voice.)

    Just my observation.

  10. Christophe

    That post is flawed and overrated!

    haven’t read it yet btw so I guess that makes my comment flawed and overrated too…

  11. “And now for the weather. The Weather Company apologizes for the lack of complete symmetry in the rainbows for the past two days. On the other hand, symmetry contradicts art.”
    — virtual weatherman in The Congress (dir. Ari Folman)

  12. steve50

    Thank you a thousand times for this post. Whenever I see either of these words used without the writer backing-up their point, it immediately negates their point of view and overall integrity in my eyes.

    They have become the coward’s way out, bordering on trollishness, that seem to be solely intended to promote the writer’s status. Warning – it has the opposite effect.

  13. Bob Burns

    Flawed is silly also because it is irrelevant to judgement about art. Glorious art is often, even usually, full of large and obvious flaws…. and fewer flaws do not correlate to better art. Indeed, flaws often enable excellence.

  14. Are they any more empty (and yes, they are empty, particularly “overrated”, which is not even supposed to be an absolute measure) than “masterpiece”?

    Why is it inherently better to be “empty positive” than it is to be “empty negative”? They are both incomplete, lazy expressions of an opinion.

  15. steve50

    You’re right, Felipe – empty positives are as annoying as empty negatives; the problem is intent: someone using “masterpiece” is only being lazy in their praise and it doesn’t hurt the film. Empty negatives do damage – that is their intent, to elevate the commenter to a new level of cool at the cost of both the film and the people who appreciated it.

  16. – Glorious art is often, even usually, full of large and obvious flaws….

    — Are there perfect movies? Yes. Citizen Kane is a perfect movie. I’ve watched it upwards of 200 times and it has only a single moment that doesn’t quite work and it’s one line said by Joseph Cotton when you can tell he forgot his line.

    I’ve seen Kane maybe 50 or 60 times, but I’m not even sure which line spoken by Joseph Cotton Sasha means here. I never noticed any line as a stumble — so I must have always attributed any hesitation to be a naturalistic conscious choice. I often see lines in movies where it’s clear that they chose a less than perfect line reading — they intentionally edit a scene with a take that is accidentally rough around the edges — because what human being doesn’t sometimes stammer or grope for words?

    But one thing about Kane is famously not quite airtight. I mentioned this on twitter a couple of days ago. In the first 5 minutes of Citizen Kane there’s a glaring continuity error that pretty much nullifies the whole plot-hook MacGuffin of the search for the meaning of Kane’s dying words:

    There is nobody by his deathbed when he murmurs, “Rosebud” !! Nobody else in the room. He dies alone. The nurse only cones into Kane’s room AFTER she hears the snowglobe drop and shatter. Nobody else was in the room to hear Kane say Rosebud.

    But anyone who would notice that and dare call it a “flaw” cares more about nitpicking than they do about the overall perceptual gestalt of film language. Great movies add up to far more than the sum of their individual shots.

  17. Richard B

    I agree critics should be more thoughtful in their word choice because reviews are informed opinions and not just gut reactions. My only quibble is that you inserted a random paragraph trying to convince me Citizen Kane is perfect. Not quite.

  18. There’s also this strange and startling shock-cut at the 1:48 mark in Kane, where the screech of a cockatoo takes us into one of the final flashbacks after Kane wrecks Susan’s bedroom. There’s a glitch in the optical effect that turns the eye of the cockatoo into an empty hole so we can see right through its head.

    But I love tiny blips like this. It’s like a beauty mark mole on the face of Marilyn Monroe.

  19. Bryce Forestieri

    When speaking about perfection in the most strict sense of the word, my go-to title has to be ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN.

  20. Bryce Forestieri

    “GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY was so overrated, I almost died.”

    +1

  21. I’ve always hated the word “Masterpiece.” It is supposed to mean the single piece of art that best represents and best executes the artist’s vision. Sometimes two or even three art pieces could be considered masterpieces if they represent different perspectives of the artist’s vision. Picasso, Hitchcock, and Twain have such a breadth of work that they could easily have more than one masterpiece.

    The secondary use of Masterpiece is part of a collection not associated to a single artist—e.g., a masterpiece of Italian Neo-Realism.

    Now none of that matters; the word just means that the art piece was good. Django Unchained was referred as a Tarantino Masterpiece, as was Inglourious Basterds, as was Kill Bill (both volumes) as was Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs. They all can’t be Tarantino’s masterpiece. Some had to suck in order for one piece to stand above the rest.

    For the “overrated” and “flawed” discussion, I have no problem saying I don’t see what others see in a film. The best part of that is the discussion that follows. I love hearing other people’s views, their passion, on a film even on films I have a negative reaction to.

    I think where people cross the line is when opinion becomes fact. I had a lengthy debate about Kill Bill Vol. 2. I said that I hated the film, that it was a let down coming from Vol. 1. I was told I was wrong, and he had the meteoritic and tomato-meter numbers to prove me wrong. My response was to state that it was my opinion that “It didn’t work for me; I was bored with it; and it didn’t effectively carry the momentum and the tone of the first.” (I view the two films as one piece.) He proceeded to tell me that I couldn’t have seen the film everyone else did, and that I was again wrong. I stated that my opinion is as good as his or any critic, and I have no intention of changing anyone else’s. He had no retort. I did, though, get to hear what he found fascinating with the film, which did add a positive layer my response to the film. I still dislike it, but oh so slightly less now.

  22. Al Robinson

    Sasha, I agree that The Social Network is a flawless film. I can’t find a single thing to nitpick about.

  23. Al Robinson

    In terms of using the word “masterpiece”, I know I have thrown that word around once or twice, but I do generally think the word “masterpiece” fits more when describing a painting, a sculpture, or a piece of music, especially orchestral music, like this one:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_CTYymbbEL4

  24. Al Robinson

    Or the more recent:

    Lux Aeterna: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fStQd9yFbvY

  25. Al Robinson

    “When speaking about perfection in the most strict sense of the word, my go-to title has to be ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN.”

    Bryce, I might say mine is between 2001: A Space Odyssey and Annie Hall. Can’t get much better than those 2.

  26. Al Robinson

    And if we were to mention video games, they don’t get much more perfect that the first Super Mario Brothers.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wGX4obVl64w

  27. JPNS Viewer

    Bryce’s positively mentioned All the President’s Men.

    I love that film, too. To begin with: (I admire) the choice of the inception of the film where [SPOILER] the white TV screen [I first saw it on TV], with the hectic sounds of typewriters at work all along, turned out to be a piece of paper and then it did cut to the scene where the journalists were all spotted being very busy and hard at work . . . ; etc. Pure joy and good/great story-telling, as well as the tasty performances by the two stars and the main supporting cast members.

    Definitely overrated . . . not. : )

    For some reason, when I discussed All the President’s Men, the other two films also came up in the back of my mind automatically: The China Syndrome, and Network. Love both of them as well despite watching the two on TV. Again: definitely overrated not.

    (By the way, I forgot to add in my first comment that, if my mem serves me far too well, on all occasions [both or just one in total] that I used the word “overrated” [overestimated], I also backed it up with my reasons/pretexts, depending upon the type to whom I was talking. Sorry for a trifle.)

  28. Al Robinson

    When I think of a movie that was “flawed”, I think of Jurassic Park. Of course, it’s flaw was supposedly intentional. I’m talking about the scene where on the tour, the power goes out right in front of the T-Rex area. One second, the goat is there-and-then-eaten, and the T-Rex comes out. Then, when it’s time to get away from the T-Rex after he eats the one guy on the toilet, they go back to the same area of ground where the T-Rex came out from, only this time, the ground is gone, and it’s a 30 foot drop. It’s a hell of a great scene, but that “flaw” stands out so much. But, do I care to call it a “flaw”? No, I say Spielberg took creative liberties.

  29. Bob Burns

    Currently reading Mark Halperin’s 1983 novel, Winters’s Tale. If there was ever a book about which “flawed” and “overrated” are more apt and irrelevant I do not know. Read the effusive NY Times review here:
    http://www.nytimes.com/1983/09/04/books/helprin-tale.html

  30. Bob Burns

    Currently reading Mark Halperin’s 1983 novel, Winters’s Tale. If there was ever a book about which “flawed” and “overrated” are more apt and irrelevant I do not know. Read the effusive NY Times review here:
    http://www.nytimes.com/1983/09/04/books/helprin-tale.html

    Saying a film (novel, painting) is without flaw is, IMO, as meaningless as saying it is flawed. why would anybody give a rats ass? Imagine Leonard Cohen’s reaction to someone saying his work is flawed or overrated…. or not.

  31. Natasha

    I often say “I couldn’t ‘connect’ with it” or “it didn’t do anything for me personally” as opposed to “overrated.” And often I feel a tremendous sadness along with it–feeling like I missed out on something. Exceptions to this sorrow are when the films in question generally fit into a genre/sub-genre that usually doesn’t do it for me. Then I just shrug my shoulders and think “of course” or “as always” or “once again…..”

    I do say “overrated” from time to time, but I think that’s just the product of repetition and reinforcement within our society. I’m not saying it’s right…..I do realize where “overrated” often but not always comes from…..and you guys hit the nail right on the head, Ryan and Sasha.

  32. Sasha and Ryan,

    thank you so much for this piece. I agree with everything that has been said in this article. I shared it on facebook so that other people read it as well

  33. unlikely hood

    Where are you (either of you) on “uneven”?

  34. Joao Mattoss

    The abuse of the two words points to an overdose, making them cheap, At sometimes they are valid, even if at their core, problematic.

    How can somebody could put him/herlsef 100% apart of the status surrounding a piece of art, while writing about after the initial impact on it public arena? I will speak for myself: I’m a film critic, who dont know if will write about “Boyhood”, which a probably will see as one of the major atractions of one the top international movie festivals on my country in the second semester- as far as I know both are disputing the exclusivity of showing. But if the answer is yes, how can I avoid the notion that this one of the most well reviewed movie in ages on the english spoken world – and probably in the whole wide world? Even by trying to “survive” all the buzz (I’m trying to avoid to read the praises; a create a word archive with reviews and texts that I wil read only after I see “Boyhood”), is impossible to transcende all that.

    At same time, to try to have intellectual autonomy as free as possible, in my book should be a mandatory act.

    But again, that is very difficut to achieve. Somebody told me that Armond White didn’t appreciate “Boyhood” – hey, I’m not sure about it, it’s somebody else information.

    Nowadays I have almost no interest on the work of White (even before his public behaviour in the recent cerimony prizes of NYFCC), who in ancient times interested me a lot specially for his incredibly bright and articulated defence of Steven Spielberg and (empashis on this name, to me severely misunderstood) Brian De Palma. But the way he structure his routine of work, starts to irritate me a lot. He behaves like he is the inspector of the public taste; no, waits, he behaves like he is the ombusdman of the opinions of current zeitgeis of film criticism; his mission seems to be to say at all cost, that if people like it, it’s bad, and if they don’t, it’s good. There are times that he write about his Top Ten of a year, naming a well received work of that time, mocking about it, and in the same line put his choice of a similar movie (example: “Running Scared” instead of “The Departed”), as superior of the movie-that-everybody-like-and-they-are-wrong-about-it. And the most crazy stuff: he wrote that after everybody starts to praise “The Hurt Locker” almost unanimously, the movie starts to feel not so good after all.

  35. Responding to “unlikely hood”
    Great question, by the way.
    I believe the word “uneven” can be very useful – as long as it’s backed up.
    It points out to the question of coherence (or rather the lack of coherence) in a film. To point that out is a fair part of a critic’s job. It may be a lack of coherence in terms of acting, editing, framing, or in the way a film relates to others by the same artist etc.
    We must bear in mind, though, that the lack of coherence may well be intentional.
    David Lynch, De Palma and Verhoeven, for instance, are masters in using incoherence in ironic ways – but many viewers and critics will miss that irony and yell “uneven” or “flawed”!
    Leo C.

  36. Gil Lima

    Great article. Such an undiscussed topic. Art cannot be assumed to be flawed because art is never flawless. It’s created by humans therefore It Is flawed by nature. But there is beauty and perfection in being flawed and that is where art comes in. The popularity with the “anyone can be a critic” jargon as made way to simplistic words and movements like “marsterpiece art” and “flawed or overrated art” to become more prominent, which is sad. It takes away the point of even enjoying art, which is not to give a damn about public opinion to begin with.

  37. If we’re talking about simplistic words that get thrown around too often, lets go to the other side of the spectrum, can we stop using “masterpiece” so much? Its such a devalued meaningless fuckin’ word, given all sorts of adjectives and descriptors. “Minor masterpiece”. “Sci-fi masterpiece”. “One of his masterpieces”. “This Rolex watch is a masterpiece!” “Masterpiece cinema!” Even perfectly fine/mediocre movies with hints of great craft are proclaimed “masterpiece”.

    Lets put a moratorium on that word. I know you’re all BUZZY from coming out your latest film festival and sipping cocktails with your fellow cinema connoisseurs and can’t wait to burst into hyperbole(as much as Twitter’s 180 characters will allow anyway), but the word is not a synonym “wow, that was good”. Give it a few years, let the test of time work it out, we’ll see which films were the masterpieces and which ones weren’t.

  38. Keil S.

    Ah, so THIS explains why the guy who rang me up at Taco Bell was wearing a shirt that read, “Sophie’s Choice Blows.”

  39. unlikely hood

    Leo – thanks for the response! Very thoughtful.

  40. >> The popularity with the “anyone can be a critic” jargon as made way to simplistic words and movements like “marsterpiece art” and “flawed or overrated art” to become more prominent, which is sad. It takes away the point of even enjoying art, which is not to give a damn about public opinion to begin with.

    So in other words criticism isn’t necessarily welcomed and, despite the creator wanting people to care about his work, he wants to enclose himself in a bubble yet complain that all the rubes are living in a bubble. Yep. Gotta love art — the only medium where logic, reasoning and judgment are thrown out the door for feelings, emotions, instincts and juvenile existence. But oh, such pretty pretty moving pictures and tits.

  1. […] “‘Flawed’ And ‘Overrated’–Two Words That Are Meaningless When Speaki… […]

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