Should film critics disclose their naps?
A film critic falls asleep during the press screening in such a way that the colleagues take notice.
This doesn’t prevent him (or her) from later on giving the movie in question a 5/5 star rating without mentioning the sleeping incident.
When can only speculate about the reasons. Maybe the critic didn’t even know about the nodding off. Sometimes you don’t. I’ve heard that people who think they’ve been sleepless for an entire night many times actually have had small micro naps, of which they remember nothing afterwards. Maybe the critic didn’t consider it relevant or important enough to bring up in the review. Or perhaps he or she had already seen it. This was just an additional optional viewing that didn’t change anything.
However in all honesty I think it’s more likely that he or she is too embarrassed about it to admit – especially if it, as in this case – happens at the screening of a prestige arthouse movie, Béla Tarr’s The Turin Horse.
Some film critics probably wouldn’t mind sharing that they fell asleep to a blockbuster film. It’s even an opportunity to do some humble bragging: your taste is so sophisticated and you care so little about the big dumb action that you fall asleep. But a prestigious film festival hit is another issue. You want to be a believer and you want to be where your peers are. Not a naysayer, not someone who’s depending on story and action to take place to stay awake. So you keep a straight face, celebrate it with a 5/5 and hope that no one will tell on you.
It’s very unlikely that anyone will, at least not publicly. Critics will whisper to each other when they meet, but they’re too loyal to each other to call someone out by name. Why would they? The status of the film critic profession isn’t where it should be anyway, why make it worse by letting people know about this? Besides: you never know – maybe it will be your turn to fall asleep on next screening. It happens to the best.
I suspect this kind of event is more common than we think. A film blogging friend of mine has seen this taking place at press screenings, and yesterday there was another incidence when an established film critic tweeted the story above. She had witnessed an unnamed critic sleeping through the screening and then giving it 5/5 and now she questioned the rating. How could you give a 5/5 if you fell asleep? It shouldn’t be able to get more than 4/5, she argued. Other people who joined the discussion on Tiwtter suggested even bigger reductions on the rating if you’d fallen asleep. “No more than 2/5 if a movie makes you fall asleep” was one idea.
Then there were others who argued in another direction, pointing out that it’s not always the movie’s fault if you fall asleep. There may be external factors at play. You’ve simply slept too little lately and would fall asleep regardless of movie. And if that’s the case, it’s not fair to blame and shame the movie for it.
Why I want disclosure
I’ve previously written a confessional post about being a cinema snoozer. I fall asleep pretty easily when I’m watching movies, especially if I’m at home on the couch. If I’m on my own I usually back the movie to a point where I was fully awake and give it a new try. If this doesn’t work and I keep falling asleep, I’ll save the movie for another day, when I’ll make sure to be better prepared in terms of having enough of sleeping the night before and enough of coffee during the day.
I wish critics were more honest about falling asleep during movies. It’s not because I’ll dismiss or distrust their review if they’ve slept a minute or two; I think they’re perfectly capable of judging a movie anyway.
I want to know about it because it’s helpful when I’ll plan my own movie watching. If the critic fell asleep, it’s a strong indication for me that I should try to look up an afternoon screening rather than a late night screening and that need to make sure I have enough coffee before watching it. It’s a question of providing useful consumer information.
But most of all: it’s a question of trust. If we find out that a critic lies to us on this point, giving a 5/5 review to a movie that he or she only partly watched, how are we supposed to believe in anything he or she says? Openness and honesty goes a long way. And film critics should disclose their naps. Or alternatively rewatch the movie and stay wake the second time around.