Times changing for film critics
Younger generation shuns print for web
By ANNE THOMPSON, Variety
For a generation of film lovers weaned on Pauline Kael and Roger Ebert, imagining a world where moviegoers make their pic choices without the help of film critics is nearly unthinkable.
Fact is, that world is already here.
My USC film criticism students — who are film-obsessed and hardly representative of their non-cinephile peers — can’t name a working critic other than Ebert, and that’s thanks to his TV fame.
Gone are the halcyon years when Andrew Sarris and Pauline Kael inspired debate. Today, no critics dominate cultural discourse the way they did during the ’70s and ’80s. New York Times critics A.O. Scott and Manohla Dargis have built passionate followings, and will likely become even more powerful as the NYT moves into the void left by newspapers that see no option but to cut back on their cultural coverage.
And while newspaper attrition continues, criticism both amateur and pro proliferates on the Web, aggregated by the inclusive Rotten Tomatoes and the choosier Metacritic.
“I used to think what I did ended up as fish wrap,” says Rickey. “But online movie reviews live in perpetuity.” Three months ago, she received a rush of mail about her 2005 review of “Brokeback Mountain.” A feature on the centenary of Jeanette MacDonald yielded more than 200 emails, including college students comparing Ernst Lubitsch and Nelson Eddy. “That piece was sent all over the Internet,” she explains, “all over the world. The Internet has made reviews not fish wrap anymore.”