In a recent book review in the NY Times, critic Clive James settles once and for all that critics, at least in film, are extraneous:
The editor, Phillip Lopate, an essayist and film critic, has a catholic scope, and might not agree that the nontheorists clearly win out. They do, though, and one of the subsidiary functions that this hefty compilation might perform — subsidiary, that is, to its being sheerly entertaining on a high level — is to help settle a nagging question. In our appreciation of the arts, does a theory give us more to think about, or less?Also seen in the Times recently: the story "Skyline for Sale", June 4 2006, states "It's also fair to ask whether Mr. Gehry and other gifted architects have made a pact with the Devil, compromising their values for the sake of ever bigger commissions." I love the balance of the meandering "It's also fair to ask" with the blunt mention of the Prince of Darkness.
Sometimes a critic persuades you to give an unpromising-looking movie a chance, but the movie had better convey the impression pretty quickly that the critic might be right. By and large, it's the movie itself that tells you it means business. It does that by telling a story. No story, no movie. Robert Bresson only did with increasing slowness what other directors had done in a hurry. But when Bresson, somewhere in the vicinity of Camelot, reached the point where almost nothing happening became nothing happening at all, you were gone. A movie has to glue you to your seat even when it's pretending not to.