Hollywood

On the death of serious film criticism

An essay in the Chronicle of Higher Education traces the history and decline of film reviewing in the face of competition from Internet critics. "If the traditional film critic was a professorial lecturer who lorded his superior knowledge and literary chops over the common rung of moviegoer," says the piece by Brandeis professor Thomas Doherty, "the Web slinger was a man-boy of the people, visceral and emotional, a stream-of-consciousness spurter with no internal censor or mute button. Listen to the war cry of the Internet Movie Critic ensconced at http://home.earthlink.net/~usondermann: 'What sets me apart from the Siskel & Eberts of this world is a simple truth: I don't read books!'" Writes Doherty:

The transfer of film criticism from its print-based platforms (newspapers, magazines, and academic journals) to ectoplasmic Web-page billboards has rocked the lit-crit screen trade. Whether from the world of journalism (where the pink slips are landing with hurricane force) or academe (which itself is experiencing the worst job market since the Middle Ages), serious writers on film feel under siege, underappreciated, and underemployed.

The ballast of traditional credentials—whereby film critics earned their bones through university degrees or years at metropolitan dailies—has been thrown overboard by the judgment calls of anonymous upstarts without portfolio but very much with a DSL hotline to Hollywood's prime moviegoing demographic. In film criticism, the blogosphere is the true sphere of influence.

Roger Ebert calls the piece "a thoughtful elegy."


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