Cashiering the Critics
The newspaper film critic may be well along the path of the ichthyosaurs, soon to be extinct.
The source: “Thinking on Film” by John Podhoretz, in The Weekly Standard, May 18, 2009.
The nation’s cadre of movie reviewers has been shrinking so rapidly that by the end of the year only 10 to 15 American newspapers may still have their own film critics, writes John Podhoretz, editor of Commentary and movie critic for The Weekly Standard. The newspaper film critic may be well along the path of the ichthyosaurs, soon to be extinct.
It’s a development much lamented . . . by movie critics, Podhoretz says. Readers, for the most part, don’t care. Typical readers don’t know the difference between a staff critic and one who works for a wire service or moonlights as a reviewer after a day of, say, telemarketing. What the stereotypical Joe Reader wants, Podhoretz says, is not cinematically erudite film criticism but sports scores, stat boxes, TV schedules, and, especially, weather maps.
Although movie criticism has been around for a century, most of it has not been memorable, Podhoretz says. “One can count the standout critics throughout that time on maybe two hands.”
Podhoretz isn’t concerned over the supposed harm done to the “national cultural conversation” by the decline of salaried critics. That’s because there are hundreds, maybe thousands, of nonprofessional critics reviewing feverishly on the Web. Amateurism may be the best thing that has happened to the field, he says. It will bring out some “very interesting work” by moviegoers who are seeking to “express themselves in relation to the work they’re seeing” instead of cranking out 300 words per movie in return for a regular blip in their electronic deposit account at the bank.