I suppose this topic could relate to movies, television, music, whatever.
There are some great artists that play the same, or a similar song, repeatedly throughout their careers. Others are restless, experimenting in new genres, new styles, new points of view. They stand side by side, though I struggle to think about it much like, say, rock critics.
I see this in rock criticism more often -- a talented band or artist who brings great truth to light in their albums, but who has his own very specific niche, his one unique skill set. And it gets to the point where rock critics sigh and throw their hands up - oh, it's another Beach House album, sounds just like the old Beach House album. It's sort of a snobbery that suggests, oh, Vampire Weekend knows nothing about hip hop, do they? The old Mitch Hedberg joke, "Oh, you're a farmer. Can you cook?"
I can admit getting a bit worn down by the latest Sigur Ros album, which sounds very much like Sigur Ros: gorgeous, cacophonous, alien, melodic, and not at all dissimilar to the last few from the band. But that doesn't mean that the album isn't good - in time, it will sit alongside the others as music I would love to revisit, to play, to zone out with.
I started this thread because of the expected-to-be-divisive word of what may be the summer's best film, "Moonrise Kingdom." From its opening moments, there's no doubt: this is a Wes Anderson movie. Detractors (or even people who disliked, say, "The Darjeeling Limited"), find the exits. Being PG-13 and centered around kids has not changed Anderson's M.O. one bit. Same deadpan, low-key actors, same over-detailed tracking shots, same meticulous wardrobe, same scratchy low-fi soundtrack.
Within this film, though, there's such loveliness, such beauty. It's a real sweetheart of a film, but speaking to others who had just seen it, the opinion seemed to be, "Eh, just another Wes Anderson film." I understand if you've only been watching Anderson;s films all year (uh, why are you doing this?), but Anderson's films are like an oasis in the desert, particularly in the summer boom boom months. I don't know how you could see this film and not be charmed. Were it someone's first Wes Anderson film, I find it hard to believe they wouldn't leave without a smile on their face, maybe a tear in their eye. But the Anderson veterans? Mostly eyes rolling, backhanded compliments, complaints about sameyness. Arguments that, to me, don't have much merit.
I guess what I'm asking is, why do we punish artists for staying within their wheelhouse, and why do we register cynicism when it happens?