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Nostalgia Critic

Posted by Will Ashton on February 18, 2016 at 4:00 PM

Though it’s meant to evaluate the arts, film criticism — or any sort of criticism, really — is an art form in-and-of-itself. It takes great practice, a mastering of the language, an unapologetic gaze, a fiery tongue, and a ferocious respect, not to mention deep admiration, for the content at hand. It takes great dedication to make yourself stand out in general in the field, but in today’s ever-expanding Internet culture, you have even more opportunities to stand out and more chances to fall in the shadows.

Like they say, anyone can have a blog these days. If you can go to a movie, have access to a computer, are literate and can access your Amazon account, you can write a film review. It’s not a matter of if anyone, it’s a matter of how. Much like filmmakers need to continue to expand themselves to make an impression in a sea of providers like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, direct streaming, iTunes and others, so too must critics establish a regimen, intelligence and skill-set unlike their peers.

This is where Doug Walker excels in our multi-faced industry. The film student-turned-Internet sensation may be the face behind Channel Awesome and That Guy With the Glasses empire, but his claim-to-fame always will reside in the Nostalgia Critic. The titular character admittedly modeled after Lewis Black’s fire-breathing, loud-mouthed on-stage persona, the Critic — as fans should know him best — is far from a newcomer in the video review department. With nearly a decade under his belt at this point behind the unkempt red tie, heavy black jacket, plain white T-shirt and worn-out black baseball cap, he’s exemplified the art of balancing professionalism with everyman. He’s a critic for the ages, but in a time when YouTube invites everyone and their mother with a camera to yell at the camera to get likes, Walker understands the fine textures of comic timing, audience expectations and low-fi special effects.

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Since his early days, there’s always been an unabashedly appreciation for what he loves, but one that isn’t afraid to admit it comes from a tinted, and perhaps overly forgiving, gaze. At the heart of the character is celebrating both the inner child who may have loved the early cartoons of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and the 20-40-year-old adult who may not realize such appreciation came from a simpler, less refined but utterly unabashed love. Such a counterbalance is welcoming, constantly humorous and often touching as a result.

Though always on the verge of grating, through the Critic, Walker always lets his inhabitations fly and unleashes any insecurities and unprofessionalism that have have held in back otherwise. He represents the voice of the film nerd, the cartoon geek, the action lover and the comedy pursuit perhaps not always felt by every teen or older that goes to his or her local multiplex, but easily understood by them all-the-same. His voice is entirely his own, and it’s a boisterous, proud one, but it’s always a highly relatable one too. He doesn’t care if his opinions are different, but if they are he’s at least willing to meet his detractors half-way. Such patience and respect for other people’s opinions is not only necessary in film criticism, but one that only comes from a clear patience, respect and contempt to our audience and your outsider opinions.

It’s not necessarily brave, but it’s commendable all-the-same. And this just one way the Critic has proven himself so diligently through the longevity of his web series. After a brief separation period, where Walker tried but ultimately failed to push himself further as a filmmaker opposed to simply a critic with the short-lived web series Demo Reel, the Nostalgia Critic transitioned from 15-20 minute pieces to 30-45 minute episodes, featuring even more supporting characters, set pieces, surprise cameos, musical interludes and narrative expansions than ever. It might not always work in his favor — some episodes tended to drag a little longer than they really should, while earlier episodes in this format made the stretched-out narrative feel more apparent — but throughout it all, Walker and his team, also including his brother and co-writer Rob, stuck it out, continued to expand themselves and prove all-the-more resilient and even more profound in their craft.

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Can I really call a YouTube series profound? Does the ten-year video streaming site have such viable content among cat videos and the like? Yes, yes I can. And here’s why.

As I’ve stressed earlier, what makes Nostalgia Critic so great, and ultimately so eventually powerful, is its dedication to narrative and longevity. Characters in review criticism are not uncommon nor unfounded before Walker graced us with the Critic, but few have truly pushed the contemporary boundaries available through such a lovingly created on-screen personality. Walker is never afraid to push the boundaries of where his creation can go, even making a movie or three featuring him and various other Channel Awesome personalities. And throughout this, running jokes and all, Walker lets a mythology, liberal sense of time and place and a world of its own materialize gradually through this character. And as he does this, he asks us not to simply look at a movie as good or bad or see what might be wrong or right with it, but ask ourselves why films matter, how do they impact us good or bad and what makes them so special or detestable. It’s the filmmaker and critic coming together at once, and Walker perhaps coming into true peak form, as seen especially in this fall’s Christmas with the Kranks review.

In a time where most people just want to make a brand for themselves in film criticism, Walker also wants to build an adoring legacy beside his. Now, he's using that legacy to help fight the good fight and make certian YouTube content rights are exercised properly. Just another step into affirming his place on not only the Internet, but in film criticism and in the Hollywood system. And that's what makes him so exemplary.

Categories: Entertainment: Web Series

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