I have learned a new term, “elevated genre”.
With genre fiction becoming more mainstream we’re seeing an increase in the number of fantasy movies that are receiving critical acclaim. More and more are appearing in art house film festivals, where science fiction used to be the only genre with a foot in the door. Now critics are faced with enough quality genre films that they can’t easily dismiss them.
As far as I can tell, the term “elevated genre” is used to define any movie from a genre that critics wish they could still ignore or are too embarrassed to admit to enjoying. Thus fantasy is still the purview of B-grade cinema like Ator: The Blade Master but it’s okay to praise Lord of the Rings. Tolkien isn’t fantasy, it’s “elevated genre”. I suppose this is what horror went through when terms like “psycho-drama” were first used so that people could praise Psycho without having to compare it to Creature from the Black Lagoon.
I can only hope that some day critics everywhere will be able to hold their heads up high and announce, “Yes, fantasy movies can be art!” Until that day we should allow them their pretensions and offer them a measure of pity.
I miss you Roger Ebert.