Owing to his hit movie “Oppenheimer,” Christopher Nolan won this year’s New York Film Critics Circle Best Director award. During the ceremony’s keynote address, he talked about his admiration for film criticism. He hinted that his passion for the industry has only grown in the last few years as the emergence of social networking sites and other platforms has made every ordinary moviegoer into a critic with a voice and a platform to share their thoughts.
At the event on January 4 at Tao Downtown in New York City, he addressed the crowd, saying, “Directors have a complex emotional relationship with critics and criticism. A question we’re always asked is: Do we read reviews? Let’s start with the fact that I’m British. A typical family gathering will involve relatives saying to me, ‘You know, Christopher. You probably shouldn’t open The Guardian today.’”
Nolan used an anecdote about being using his Peloton for an exercise session and the instructor panning one of his films to illustrate how much he appreciated film criticism. The Oscar contender remained mum about the movie, but it’s obvious the Peloton teacher was unaware that Nolan was attending his online session on that particular day.
“I was on my Peloton. I’m dying. And the instructor started talking about one of my films and said, ‘Did anyone see this? That’s a couple hours of my life I’ll never get back again!’” Nolan remarked. “When [film critic] Rex Reed takes a shit on your film he doesn’t ask you to work out! In today’s world, where opinions are everywhere, there is a sort of idea that film criticism is being democratized, but I for one think the critical appreciation of films shouldn’t be an instinct but it should be a profession.”
Acknowledging the panel of experienced film critics present, Nolan went on, “What we have here tonight is a group of professionals who attempt objectivity. Obviously writing about cinema objectively is a paradox, but the aspirations of objectivity is what makes criticism vital and timeless and useful to filmmakers and the filmmaking community”
“In today’s world, as filmmakers you can’t hide behind authorial intent,” Nolan said in the end. “You can’t say, ‘This is what I intended.’ We live in a world where the person receiving the story has the right to say what it means to them. I for one love that. It means the work should speak for itself. It’s not about what I say it is. It’s about what you receive it to be. In that world, the role of the professional critic, or the interpreter and the person who tries to give context for the reader…it’s incredibly important. I’ve never been so grateful for careful, considered and thoughtful writing about one of my films as I was for ‘Oppenheimer.’”