The increase of online film criticism and the current state of the US economy are changing the place of the film critic.
Now on the Endangered Species List: Movie Critics in Print
By David Carr
Published: April 1, 2008
The continual drumbeat of news that film critics are being laid off at daily and weekly newspapers across the country has kicked up some quotable reviews.
“A dire situation!” Scott Rudin, independent film producer.
“A terrible loss!” Tom Bernard, Sony Pictures Classics.
“Puts serious movies at risk!” Mark Urman, ThinkFilm.
Those men were not actually speaking in exclamation points — the blurb genre engenders a certain license — but they were upset by the departures of movie critics. Nathan Lee, one of The Village Voice’s two full-time critics, was laid off last week by Village Voice Media, a large chain of alternative weeklies that has been cutting down the number of critics it employs across the country.
The week before, two longtime critics at Newsday — Jan Stuart and Gene Seymour — took buyouts, along with their editor. And at Newsweek, David Ansen is among 111 staff members taking buyouts, according to a report in Radar.
They join critics at more than a dozen daily newspapers (including those in Denver, Tampa and Fort Lauderdale) and several alternative weeklies who have been laid off, reassigned or bought out in the past few years, deemed expendable at a time when revenues at print publications are declining, under pressure from Web alternatives and a growing recession in media spending.
Given that movie blogs are strewn about the Web like popcorn on a theater floor, there are those who say that movie criticism is not going away, it’s just appearing on a different platform. And no one would argue that fewer critics and the adjectives they hurl would imperil the opening of Iron Man in May. But for a certain kind of movie, critical accolades can mean the difference between relevance and obscurity, not to mention box office success or failure.
This makes me really sad and really, legitmately pissed off.
I know my blog isn’t solely responsible for the decline of “movie critics in print”. I mean, if you read this blog for my stunning film criticism, you might need to have your head examined. I haven’t written a review exclusively for this blog since um… October… maybe (I honestly don’t remember) and other than my roommate and my mother, very few people read this blog. But, it’s part of the problem.
David Poland, head of the Movie City News Web site (moviecitynews.com) puts it best: “Losing critics for serious film is like taking away the padding on the crutches of a very sick man with two broken legs and one working eye. It’s not going to keep it from limping along, but yeah, it hurts like hell.”