Monday, April 26, 2010

What do I know about anything?

It has been announced that this season of the Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel created "At the Movies" series will be its last. For me it is a sad bit of news, but it would not surprise me if you were unaware that it was even still on the air, given the multiple time slots and host changes made through out the years.

Originally aired in 1982, the show was the first of its kind and largely responsible for bringing film criticism to the masses. It made Siskel and Ebert household names. At the time, many critics viewed their now famous "thumbs up, thumbs down" rating system as an oversimplification and a mockery of the profession. They said it would be the death of film criticism. Now, with the shows cancellation, the recent firing of Variety critic Todd McCarthy and the rise of the film blog, they are hearing that death rattle once again.

Being a film blogger myself, I suppose I am part of the problem. And while there is a solid arguement for the relevence of the print critic (or print journalism in general, which is what I think people are really talking about), it is hard for me to imagine film criticism itself ever being in any real danger. I suppose the level of concern can be directly related to ones' perspective on film criticism and exactly what purpose it serves.

The bottom line is this: No one with half a brain has ever avoided a film simply because a critic said it was no good. Film criticism is not meant as a means to avoid "bad" films because, after all, what exactly is a "bad" film? One man's trash is another man's treasure, and what if I just wanted to make popcorn and watch a few cars explode? Or watch a zombies devour the flesh of their victims?

No, film criticism is, and always has been merely a means to start a dialogue. There will always be a market for that. A.O. Scott, who co-hosted "At the Movies" in its final season with Michael Phillips of the Chicago Tribune, recently published an article in the New York Times regarding the very same idea:

"How can you do a movie justice in 60 seconds? You can't, of course - or in 800 words, or in a blog post - but you can start a conversation, advance or rebut an arguement, and give people who share your interest something to talk about."
At his or her best, a critic should make you think about a film in a way you may not have on your own.

So what we are talking about here is a venue change. As newspapers and magazines begin to crumble in this weak economy, the internet is gaining ground. Now, if you are seeking a film review you need look no further than your google search engine.

In a recent blog post on Roger Ebert's Journal, Ebert mentions his hopes for an eventual "At the Movies" revival. He believes there is still an audience for it. The nostalgiac side of me wants to believe people will sit down and watch a couple of knowledgable critics discuss the finer (and lesser) points of Hollywood's latest releases, but I am not so sure. Though the sheer dirth of film sites may make finding a critic worth his or her salt a bit harder, it is difficult to argue with the ease and immediacy of the internet.

So how about you critics take off that sandwich board proclaiming film criticisms' inevitible demise. It is not dying, just evolving. And as long as we all remember why we turn to film critics in the first place we should have no trouble embracing this new venue. Then again, what do I know about anything?

Here are a few online film sources I enjoy:
and of course,!


No comments:

Post a Comment