Open Forum Friday: Should There Be an Age Requirement for Film Criticism?

I’ve been meaning to post something about 11-year-old film critic Jackson Murphy (aka Lights Camera Jackson) for a while now, but for whatever reason I just never got around to it. This week, however, the movie blogosphere has picked up on the young TV personality after discovering his review of Inception where he gave it a rating of “C”. Some people found it annoying that he would dismiss the film because he “didn’t get it”, and questioned whether or not a kid should even be allowed to review films, while other people didn’t take it as seriously and just found it cute and endearing. The debate surrounding Jackson did, however, remind me of a statement that Armond White made on the /Filmcast a couple of weeks ago. According to White, there should be no film critics under the age of 30, “because before that you don’t know enough about art, you don’t know enough about life.”

Of course, no one seems to take much of what Armond White says seriously (he also claims that Roger Ebert destroyed film criticism), but I think he makes an interesting point here. It’s not just about having enough background and movie knowledge to put a film in the proper context, but it’s also about whether or not you have enough life experience to relate to the things you’re seeing on screen. As far as Lights Camera Jackson goes, he does review movies mainly for kids his own age, and hey, he speaks a lot more fluently and confidently about the subject than I’m sure I would have at that age. But is he just parroting things he’s seen and heard around him, or is he really old enough to form his own opinions? What do you think? Is there anything wrong with an 11-year-old kid reviewing movies on a major TV network? Is it any different than twenty-something-year-old bloggers reviewing movies across the internet? Will anyone (or should anyone) actually take his reviews seriously? Give us your thoughts here on Open Forum Friday.

  • I think an 11 year old is too young to critique almost anything. I wouldn’t be able to take him seriously at all.

  • Robin Brown

    He’s not talking to me me tho so I don’t have to listen. Freedom of speech and all that but he has zero impact on my life. Who cares really? Other 11 year olds? Fuck ‘em. Not literally tho cos tht’s just plain wrong. Just kick them a bit. Seriously now, a childs perspective can sometimes be amusing, sometimes disturbing but i’d rather converse with someone who had real life experience. The whole thing is just so gimmicky i can’t even get worked up about it. Let a plant pot review a film. I don’t care. He’s getting his fifteen minutes and good for him.

  • Justice

    Its kind of like when you see a 12 year old suburban kid playing the blues. Yeah, he may be somewhat technically proficient, but he never gets the feel right. There just isn’t the life experience or knowledge there. But whatever, he’ll be just like that kid who became a paparazzi and people will forget him in a month or two.

  • AmKe

    Shouldnt review something if you cant understand your ABC’s
    ?????????????????????????????????????????????????? ?????????????????????????????????????????????????? ?????????????????????????????????????????????????? ?????????????????????????????????????????????????? ?????????????????????????????????????????????????? ?????????????????????????????????????????????????? ?????????????????????????????????????????????????? ?????????????????????????????????????????????????? ?????????????????????????????????????????????????? ?????????????????????????????????????????????????? ?????????????????????????????????????????????????? ?????????????????????????????????????????????????? ?????????????????????????????????????????????????? ?????????????????????????????????????????????????? ?????????????????????????????????????????????????? ?????????????????????????????????????????????????? ?????????????????????????????????????????????????? ?????????????????????????????????????????????????? ????

  • Werner

    I have no problem with a kid writing about film – as long as the films reviewed are targeted at a younger audience. A kid reviewing kid’s movies – what could be wrong with that?

  • anne

    If kids can only review kids movies, then shouldn’t adults only be allowed to review adult movies? I’m sorry, but I think that suggesting that a kid can only review kids movies is silly. It also suggests that kids movies are of lower value and lower intellect. Barbie movies may be pretty dumb, but some kids movies are pretty smart, considering their target audience age.

    I agree that an 11-year-olds reviews don’t have weight like those of a seasoned reviewer, but his opinions are still valid and valuable to like-minded or similarly aged people. You can’t judge a reviewer simply on age – age does not automatically equal knowledge. The only reason older reviewers are more credible is because they have more life experience and more viewing hours under their belt.

    I’m three times his age and just the fact that he watches lots of movies and considers them from the reviewers point of view makes his opinions more valid then mine.

  • Primal

    There is nothing wrong with an 11-year-old kid reviewing movies because everyone has the right to their own opinion. I haven’t heard what this kid has to say about movies and I wouldn’t want to go to him for his opinions. I don’t know how he does reviews, but if he does have the charm to be on tv, then it should be shown during saturday morning cartoon time. Obviously he should be attracting mainly children his age.

    Of course there is a difference between the 20-40 year-old blogger and this child film critic. One of the reasons is like what Armond White said and it’s about having the knowledge of life and art.

    The main reason why I listen to certain film-related podcasters is for their enthusiasm for film. I don’t listen to too many “real” film critics because I think I’m the biggest critic when it comes to film-making. I know what pleases and displeases me when it comes to movies.

  • It’s funny and cute but he deserves no real importance. White has a good point about critics need to be of a certain age.

    He has yet to experience true love, pain, sex, danger and all of that so he has no life experience to comment on any of these things. Sure he can speak and write quite well but nobody should ever say a film is good because this guy said so.

    There he gave Scott Pilgrim D+. I would safely say that’s because he entirely doesn’t understand the retro gaming which almost everyone older has witnessed and can enjoy and appreciate. etc

    Morover. He needs to go out and enjoy the sun before he has no childhood.

  • @ Justice. Well said.

    Good topic for Open Forum Friday too Sean.

  • (sorry for the triple post) After reading some of his reviews he does seem quite a smart kid but also it is as if he tries to be slightly controversial. He is trying to act like he’s way older when he should review it more from a kids eyes.

    Plus at times I think his comments are too precise and rehearsed as if he just read a different review and repeated it.

  • Jonny Ashley

    This kid is just awful. He’s on a fast track towards being an unfunny Gilbert Gottfried. I think the people who are still neutral on him haven’t heard him speak:

  • Goon

    he’s really just like the kid preacher from Jesus Camp, just doing his impression of the profession, with enough passion to get noticed, but still its nothing more than ‘cute’ at best and annoying in actual practice.

    he is likely to burn out and get swept aside rather than the better path for him, quietly and unfamously developing his taste and craft before an age where everyone in the country knows his opinion of Inception.

  • Xidor

    There is a quote from the movie Platoon by Oliver Stone, “Opinions are like assholes, everybody has one.” You have to ask yourself, if he can’t watch a movie about bare asses because he is too young, then maybe his ass should focus on films with assless Muppets.

  • David

    He should go back 15 years from now and re-review all the films he sees.

  • There’s certainly a difference between not getting something because a story is confusing and/or told poorly and not getting something because you aren’t SUPPOSED to get it yet. To an 11-year old, “Inception” may as well be in a different language. Hell, it may as well be “American Pie” as far he’s concerned, as there are just as many (if not more) themes and situations that would and should be just completely foreign to someone that young. Even if the kid is right on the money though in his negative criticism of something, I’m probably going to always first assume that he doesn’t know what the hell he’s talking about, because he’s a kid.

  • Charbel

    Not sure if I can say something about the kid without using profanity. So I think it’s best I just agree with what “Goon” said.

  • Rob

    As an eighteen year old I don’t feel you can call yourself a critic before the age of 17 at that age you can build up both analytical and film knowledge.

    However depending on your childhood your exposure to cinema then maybe younger but even then 14 is the youngest opinion I could respect

    Also as far as I can remember the only films that I ever disliked as a child were the ones that confused me. Otherwise I don’t remember ever hating a film for any other reason.

    P.S. He is 11 why is he watching inception? I thought it was a 15 rating!!

  • Maopheus

    It’s a gimmick to have him on TV of course. I personally find him annoying. I’ve never watched more than 5 seconds of his “reviews” without deeming him annoying. I don’t know why, but I find just about every overly precocious kid who is on TV to be annoying. It’s like they’re trying so hard to be adult.

  • Kurei

    Okay, so how is this kid reviewing these movies? I thought he was reviewing movies for kids his age. He’s 11 right? Isn’t Inception and Scott Pilgrim PG 13? How does that make sense?

    He may be the most eloquent 11 year old speaker of all time, and the most brilliant, it wouldn’t matter, somethings you would just need experience for. Hell, what if it had a love story but not just an love story, how about say Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, how would he go about reviewing something like that? The whole thing seems pretty silly to me, but whatever, people will move on soon enough, maybe there’ll be a 9 year old film critic who reviews old movies like Clockwork Orange or something and gives it a D-.

  • AJ

    I don’t have a problem with an 11 year old reviewing movies. Then again, I would never consider his reviews to hold any weight whatsoever.

    I actually, sort of, feel the same way about Ebert lately. The guy is just too old to relate to at this point in my life. It isn’t that I don’t respect his opinion, but I don’t give it a lot of credence.

  • Meh, his brain won’t be fully developed for over a decade, let alone him even having developed the more complex emotions. So from that standpoint, he’s utterly unqualified to critique a medium that engages every emotion and challenges thinking.

  • Gil

    The only thing I don’t like about this kid is the way he mimics TV newscasters. It’s just a bit creepy, he even does the head gestures like them; creepy. Having read the article, I think Armond White has made his point about Ebert destroying film criticism. I don’t mind reading some articles written by Ebert, but I hated the TV show, and it seems to me that the kid is taking “tips” from Ebert’s personality or delivery from the show; that’s exactly what popped into my head when I watched the clip.

    But we’re obviously not supposed to take the kid serious. So fuck him.

  • juan

    is it wrong that i want to stuff him in a locker and give him a wedgie

  • Age and life experience do not equate. I’ve spent most of my life doing nothing. (Oh, maybe that’s why people ignore my opinions.) Everyone’s life is different.

    Life experience and film criticism do not equate. How many people do most of the things that they see in films? And people on Film Junk get upset at me for pointing out factual problems with movies!

    Based on his reviews of Inception and Star Trek, I think Jackson does a reasonably good job expressing his views, and writes interestingly. More so than any Film Junk readers. Ha ha.

    I didn’t even know that Hans Zimmer composed the music without seeing a frame of Inception. Is this statement by Jackson really true? (He was sort of erroneous in his Star Trek review with regards to Pike being in the first few episodes of Star Trek, and even spelling Leonard Nimoy’s name wrong.)

  • Hey, I just noticed on Jackson’s web-site that you can buy a T-shirt that is eerily similar to the Film Junk T-shirt with my face caricature. Sean, contact our lawyers! :-)

  • Gil

    Holy shit, Reed is right. Though I actually enjoy having Reed on the show and have no problems with him, I now see Reed in a new light. Reed, you just jumped up a couple of higher spots in my book. Con-fucking-grats.

  • Steve

    This kid is just a gimmick. Obviously no-one takes him seriously. My main concerns are hacks like Armond White and Ben Lyons. I don’t think there should be an ‘age limit’ to be a critic, but more or less a history and love of film including a reputable knowledge of film history. Lyons was obviously woefully ignorant of films (I’d guess he’d seen less than 50 films his whole life, and nearly all of this after the 80s)

  • Leni

    Age doesn’t matter, it’s all about the arguments. If the kid has good arguments to support his opinion, he can be three for all I care.

  • I think another question relates to how he actually formulates his reviews. I would bet he is in no way an individual in this enterprise. When I first saw him, it just didn’t seem sincere.

  • foxmulder

    Age requirement: No
    That doesn’t mean I need to read that clutter this kid writes nor that I have to take the opinion of an 11 (!!!!!!!!!) year old seriously!

  • Kurei

    Age isn’t the problem, its not an age requirement ot be a critic its ‘life requirements’. Sure alot of things you have not or will not experience but most people will be able to sympathize with whats happening and some emphasize with certain aspects of it. I don’t how this kid can do either. Besides all this kid is doing is imitating others, which other critics do anyway but this is just sad. His parents should be shot.

    And Reed is clearly biased, he raised some red flags about movies he liked, but when its the other movies its like ‘no, the kid did great on those’. I say the kid should review all the Star Wars and Star Trek movies and give them all F’s and lets see what Reed would say then.

  • Slix

    If you’re only basing your decisions on what an 11 year old says, or three 30 somethings (hope I didn’t just insult Jay, Sean and Gregg) or a 60 year old professional film critic, then you may as well be flipping a coin anyways. Film critics are there to offer different perspectives on movies, not choose what’s right for you. Therefor every opinion is just as valid.
    As for having to be a certain age to appreciate “art”. LOL Children have he ability to see beauty in things we’ve long since lost interest in as adults. Think about some of the movies we watched as kids and loved but then you watch later and realize how poor production quality was or had bad the FX were.
    We gain a critical eye but we lose the ability to experience magic. I’m not sure that’s a winning trade.

  • I wanted to point out something that I learned from a university film professor. Technically, there is a difference between film reviewing and film criticism. Basically, film reviewing is about recounting the plot of a movie and saying if you liked the movie or not. Film criticism is about placing a film’s importance in the context of filmmaking and its cultural relevance. So it’s possible for a person to not like a “great” film.

    I find that many Film Junk readers have an elevated opinion of their own opinion and are intolerant of others’ opinions. They think that because they enjoyed a film, then that film is great. Or because that someone enjoyed the same film as him or her, then that someone is great as well.

    Also some people mistake meaningless opinionated statements as justification for another opinion. This may be fine for describing why you enjoyed something, but says nothing about the objective value of that something.

  • Oh, so Jackson Murphy might not be a great film critic, but he’s a decent film reviewer IMO.

  • Darksiders

    If you’re actually listening and influenced by a 12 year olds reviews you are completely retarded.

  • 1138

    @ Sean

    Hey Sean you should do a post about Armond White instead. I also listened to him on Filmcast and man he comes across as a stuck up buffoon! The guy’s logic is as faulty as a short circuited wire! It’s shocking to me that this guy is a critic!

  • Rob

    Age is an issue otherwise we would respect the reviews/critiques he or any other 11 year old makes

  • Big Hungry

    At least he is not in my theater… but he is just a kid and I think it is a good idea to have a kids view of a film… to see how it plays to them. As long as you know where the review is coming from that is all I care about.

    After reading this, where is cantankerous? I want to hear Reeds thoughts on inception!!!!!

  • T.Durden

    I think anyone of any age can be a film critic. It’s up to whoever reads or watches the reviews to decide whether or not to take it seriously.

  • Al

    Agree with post #35 above.

  • Kurt

    Wow, caught the first whiff of this last week via twitter, but your link gave me the first direct experience with this kid. Somewhere between the A.I. Kid, A Stepford Wive and yes, as pointed out above, Gilbert Gotfried. It’s like an Onion Article on film criticism today. Scary stuff.

    Can’t take him to seriously, but he is still better than a lot of web-critics out there (erm, Alex Bi——–)

  • Antho42

    “(erm, Alex Bi——–)”
    He is the in vogue film criticism, “straw man” (Has taking over Peter Travers’ and Harry Knowles’ place).

  • I.A.N

    I have no problem with kids reviewing movies, I like hearing there take on films, and it reminds me of what impressions movies made on me as a child.

    Though this particular Jackson kid annoys me. He gives me a junior Fox News vibe, with the way he carries himself.

    Give this girl a show

    I’d much rather hear more of her takes on movies