“How often have I said to you that when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth?”
This goes to show why Sherlock Holmes would never work in real life. Eliminating the impossible is well, impossible. To do it you have to have a godlike ability to figure out every way that something could have happened and eliminate every one of them. If you forget to test a single possible cause, you are suddenly leaping to a terrible conclusion without evidence, which also goes some way to explain why Sherlock Holmes’ creator came to believe in fairies. Modern testing is based on the opposite approach – to show that a correlation between two things that is so strong that the chance of coincidence is so small that we can basically discount it and use that as the basis of further testing to find causation.
However, it’s a really good way of discussing books and films. You start by being critical and whatever is left is wonderful. Even great works can be criticised and the thing that identifies their greatness is just how little is wrong with them. Almost all of the films I have written positively about on this site include criticisms. I am much less defensive about things I have taken to heart than things in which I have a smaller affection for this reason (say what you want about Brazil because it’s a cast-iron classic, tread carefully with The Sarah Connor Chronicles because you might change my mind).
The tool is creative destruction. If everyone is allowed to win the race, nobody really wins. Only when we freely identify flaws in things can we find true flawlessness.
And yes, it’s fun.
I won’t lie. Criticising is fun. Pointing out errors makes us feel smart because we demonstrate understanding of what’s going on, especially in writing which is already humanity’s oldest magical power anyway. Even if I really know nothing about film or books, it’s fun to pretend that I do. It’s a dress-up box where I pretend to know what I’m doing. It’s sort of like a performance, which makes a paradox out of those claims that you can’t criticise someone else’s art.
So yes, I’m thinking of adding another occasional series here where I identify the worst, the most terrible, bad, unutterable and unbearable for discussion with a title inspired from here. I’ll probably link back to this article to explain the format.
Here’s the format I’m planning:
2) What it should have been
3) What it actually was
4) What went wrong
5) Notes for the inevitable remake