“One of the defining aspects of criticism is that the critic approaches the work with a set of standards, or even biases, to judge it by.” This observation, from literary critic and author Cynthia Ozick, is so obvious that it might seem pointless to articulate—but as the democratization of criticism morphs into something that more closely resembles digital garbage collection than a democratic nation-state, the role of a critic has become lost. A critic unaware of these biases is dishonest at best, or disinterested and a poor critic at worst. In an era in which CinemaSins commands an audience comparable to Roger Ebert and Moviebob’s YouTube followers would be impressive numbers for a local paper subscription, it’s genuinely difficult to find a good film critic. Too many have become too disinterested in criticism to actually be aware of their own biases—or worse yet, they deny the mere possibility that they too may be tainted with them. And any person unaware of their own assumptions about art is what I think Ozick would call a mere “reviewer.” Even if she’s a bit snotty, she’s right about something: there is something different between the work of a good critic and the Moviebobs of the world.
And the Boston Hassle’s lead critic and film editor Oscar Goff is one of these critics. There are very few film writers I read regularly more aware of their own tastes, assumptions, and limitations than Oscar. Any longtime reader of the Hassle already knows this. From identifying obscure album covers hidden in the production design to navigating the ethics of a performance and what makes it work or not, he understands what he loves (and not) about the movies—which makes the Hassle’s readers, in turn, better watchers of film.
Continue reading at the Boston Hassle.