Dan Fogelman believes television and film critics are out of touch and the general trend in entertainment criticism is "concerning" due to "increasingly cynical and vitriolic" reviews.
The talented film and television writer, director, and producer may be best known for his work on NBC’s tearjerker drama "This Is Us," but Fogelman is behind some of your favorite films, such as the Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone starring "Crazy, Stupid, Love," and the animated Disney hit "Tangled." His upcoming drama "Life Itself" — a multigenerational saga that "examines the perils and rewards of everyday life" — has received scathing reviews thus far, but Fogelman maintains that the general point of view of critics poses a greater problem to movies and television.
With a career spanning over a decade, Fogelman has experienced the good, the bad and the ugly when it comes to movie and television reviews. The creator expressed that as of late, he’s been noticing a "disconnect" between the critics and the audiences.
"I think that something is inherently a little bit broken in our film criticism right now," Fogelman told TooFab in an interview. "I also think it’s somewhat broken in our television criticism, I think that the people with the widest reach are getting increasingly cynical and vitriolic and I think there are a couple of genres and a couple of ideas that they [attack, which] doesn’t speak to not just a mainstream audience, but also a sophisticated audience."
"I think a couple of the early reviews that have come out about this movie [‘Life Itself’] feel so out of left field to everybody who’s a part of this movie and to people who have been screening this film for the better part of a year now to both fancy filmmakers, critics, and audiences," he continued. "There’s a disconnect between something that is happening between our primarily white male critics who don’t like anything that has any emotion."
"Something’s happened with these 10 people who kind of speak in this ‘group speak’ and say [my work is] ’emotionally manipulative’ every time they [see] anything where [my] characters go through anything," Fogelman added. "And it’s concerning because it is important, it tells people what to go see. I don’t feel that often now our pop and film critics are speaking for a sophisticated audience anymore."
Fogelman was correct in saying that film critics are a white male-dominated field. In a recent study from University of Southern California’s Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, it was discovered that in 2017 in a pool of 19,559 reviews from leading U.S. newspapers, sites, and broadcast outlets, male critics authored 77.8 percent of reviews, while female critics wrote 22.2 percent. A ratio of 3.5 male reviewers to every 1 female.
In addition, 82 percent of reviews were written by white critics compared to minority racial and ethnic groups, that authored only 18 percent.
Film critic Monica Castillo via RogerEbert.com called the drama "convoluted" and "a soap opera squeezed into two hours."
Slate’s Inkoo Kang wrote that "Dan Fogelman’s latest spans continents, generations, and all boundaries of good taste." Later in her review, the critic said that the film doesn’t match up to the ranks of "This Is Us."
"But unlike the members of the Pearson clan, the sprawling, trans-Atlantic characters in ‘Life Itself’ don’t get the opportunity to develop, which makes the movie feel like it’s on a loop: Life, it seems, can be summarized as ‘Terrible Things Keep Happening to Nice, Attractive People, Especially the Women,’" she added.
"The extent to which your tear ducts well up on cue in ‘Life Itself’ — a function built into this assaultive bout of emotional uplift with the tireless regularity of a self-flushing toilet — will depend on your threshold for watching people smile through pain," The Hollywood Reporter wrote, adding that that film "sends a classy cast down a similarly twisty multistrand narrative path, but it’s both schematic and self-important."
"It is sentimental and sprawling, which are not necessarily bad things, but also manipulative and contrived, which very much are," Jessica Kiang wrote for Variety. "And though the terms ‘life’ and ‘story’ are used throughout as though they’re almost interchangeable, it never manages to convince us of that equivalence: Rather than ring with the noise of life itself, ‘Life Itself’ clamors to the sound of the writer Fogelman very loudly writing."
Fogelman said he found these early responses to be "so out of left field," that it shows that "something has gone a little bit wrong." The writer pointed out that although "This Is Us" is wildly popular and successful, "major" television critics continue to mock the show. Fogelman explained that he’s been "battling" these types of critics throughout his entire career and as a result has learned "not to care very much."
"I felt it on our television show — which people can forget right now because we were warmly, relatively warmly received — but it was Academy voters and people who vote on things that kind of put our show into the conversation," Fogelman said. "The major television critics still have not accepted our very successful television show. They’re a little bit mocking towards it, the show that has honestly had a great impact and effect on people.
"This tells me once again that something seems a little broken and the people that seem to have the widest reach and lightest audience," he continued. "I don’t know what that is if it’s just me or my stuff, but it’s certainly something I’ve been battling my entire career. I’ve learned not to care very much, but in this film that feels particularly confusing to a lot of people who’ve been doing this successfully for a very long time."
"Life Itself" hits theaters Friday.
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