The occasional polls here seem to have fallen by the wayside, so I suppose I'll initiate one.
Once upon a time, there used to be a few good, reliable film critics. They generally used to have some legitimate schooling or background -- expertise -- in order to do it well. Film Schools like those most famous ones at USC and UCLA even had separate degree tracks for film history and analysis, which (a lesser number of) students who were not trying to become filmmakers themselves could pursue. Once, you actually had to know something about the subject and to have a keen analytical ability. One critic whose work I always thought very highly of, Andy Klein, who wrote for an "alternative" paper in L.A. (back when they had those), was a graduate of such a program. I don't think he ever gained much exposure at the national level unfortunately, and seems to have disappeared. Most print-published journalism is withering on the vine these days, in any case. The situation online is unclear to me at best: I don't see how anyone can make any sort of a living doing it.
In the print era, I think Roger Ebert even won a Pulitzer for his work, but he died a few years ago. I'd probably add a couple others like Joe Morgenstern to that short list. So many of the others were just what some of us on the periphery of all this used to refer to as "pull-quote whores" -- people who had the gig, but seemed primarily interested in getting their names to appear in brief quotes for movie advertising and promotion, presumably to bolster their career standing. Their qualifications and judgements veered heavily to the dubious. Much, much worse by now, as they proliferate in the digital era.
So, poll: Is there anyone still working in this field whose output you greatly respect ?
The pickings seem pretty slim now. To that end so far, there are just a couple of YouTube channels that I've bothered to follow. Although he covers tv rather than theatrical films, and is far more of an explainer than doing actual pointed criticism, I've liked what I've seen from Pete Peppers. He's well-reasoned, well-organized -- and civil ! (What a concept !) Then, covering a mix of tv and film, and most decidedly critiquing, I'm finding another YT guy worth checking out: goes by the moniker 'The Critical Drinker.' He has an "it's becoming tiresome" overuse of memes and recycling the same clips (like Game of Thrones' Tyrion throwing up) to indicate his displeasure at something. That could partly be an artifact of working in a visual presentation medium like YT. However, I like his brash Scots style, and he keeps delivering zinger analyses and judgements -- points that I may have missed in my own viewing of something, and which on reflection I can't take much issue with.
Perhaps you have some good candidates I haven't discovered yet ?
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Last edited by Seeker47; 19th Mar 2021 at 13:00.
Mark Kermode (maybe does not qualify since he is a Brit)
One of his writings (from the above):
In 2013 Picador published "Hatchet Job: Love Movies, Hate Critics" in which he examines the need for professional "traditional" film critics in a culture of ever increasing online bloggers and amateur critics.
PS: Wrong forum
The old now long deceased Brit film critic Barry Norman used to be popular, though I found his reviews were geared towards pleasing the mainstream. Alex Cox used to critique a few fan films on BBC2 in the Moviedrome series decades ago. Mark Kermode is an excellent film critic for whom I always have time to listen as he is bang on the bucks with his analyses. I also like Mark Gatiss who did an excellent critique of horror and films not so long back and a damned fine actor to boot.
Ebert always was a surprise, because on the whole he disliked the horror genre, yet gave a resoundingly positive review for Romero's classic Dawn of The Dead whilst other critics castigated it at the time in 1979.
Ahhh, "The Critical Drinker"! He is a hoot, but a little of him goes a long way: 8 mins of him is hilarious, 15 mins is overbearing. Stumbled across him a couple years ago, after I finished watching "Harley Quinn/Birds Of Prey" and could not believe what a sh**show it was for Margot Robbie compared to her previous "Suicide Squad" opus. Went looking for some snarkmeisters ripping it pieces, and found his YT review (which is a riot and totally en pointe).
The same factors that slowly tanked overall traditional journalism eroded its sidebars like film criticism double-quick. The delay imposed by the print medium allowed more time for thoughtful writing, and was conducive to more people appreciating it. Websites driven by social media hits? Not so much. Times change, cultural tastes change, movie delivery platforms multiply and the theatrical experience itself has changed drastically for the worse in most cities. So theres virtually zero chance of anyone today pulling together a book of their reviews like Pauline Kael did with "Reeling", and having those reviews still be as pungent and relevant now as they were over 40 years ago. Hell, even "The New Yorker" magazine that she wrote for is a pale vestige of its former glory.
During the heyday of criticism, movies (even the flops) played for months in theaters, retaining mindshare far longer than they do today (when even huge hits are lucky if they remain relevant for three weekends, and most complex or art films vanish from thought immediately). Magazines and newspapers helped filter the passions a little due to various timing delays, plus even hacks really did need to write well to hold the job then (and there was a team of proofreaders and editors behind them). The proliferation of local and "alternative" weeklies provided a great platform for upcoming, niche and specialized critics: that venue has completely vanished. Its a loss felt by some of us geezers, to be sure, but means nothing to more recent generations raised on modern forms of communication and consumption. Websites, blogs, vlogs and social media suit them better, and who are we to argue?
One area that has benefited mightily from these trends is genre criticism: you find endless sites and blogs dedicated to very narrow swaths of films and television series, which they cover in great depth with some excellent writing. This barely existed in the print era, as access to the mass market was near impossible for "non-professionals". For the most part, the limitations and time windows of print were a net positive, but the system did filter out smaller voices and specialized interests along with a ton of crap. The interwebs massively leveled that playing field: the "tons of crap" were cut loose to predominate, but so many avenues also opened up for talented non-professional writers (many of whom wipe the floor with the pathetic clowns who pass themselves off as "pros" today at the major mastheads).
Last edited by orsetto; 19th Mar 2021 at 14:41.
As some of you here know, I had a bone to pick w Ebert, as he dismissed strictly "on principle" and out of hand ANY 3D movie, without even objectively evaluating the technical presentation and it's parameters. It was quite ironic that I lived in his hometown and worked at his alma mater for quite a number of years, and they still wildly revere him there.
His other reviews, by and large, were pretty good (though I often preferred Gene Siskel's opinion). But having seen Ebert's own feeble attempt at screenwriting, I have always taken any of his comments with a grain of salt.
In this arena, I do know what I'm talking about, as decades ago I went to one of those elite schools that include film criticism, and I took multiple courses in it (6?), but didn't concentrate my effort there as I was on the more technical production-oriented track (obvs).
I agree - I think the last critic I paid attention to was Pauline Kael (oops, orsetto beat me to it), and she died in 2001. I honestly don't respect ANYONE out there for serious stuff now. For mass consumer stuff in USA, I'd say Ben Mankiewicz at TCM is decent, but wouldn't rely on his track record of opinion.
There's a LOT of areas of expertise that one can no longer find as an anchor, not just Film Criticism. The internet has democratized lots, and it has benefitted many who would previously have not had access to the people. But "no more gatekeepers" is a two-edged sword.
Last edited by Seeker47; 19th Mar 2021 at 14:48.
the only film critic I trust is myself.
why do I need anyone to else to tell me what they think and hope that I care.
Film critics are worse than restaurant critics.
This is an excellent site for film lovers, btw.
Without checking first, I'm unsure whether or not you'd need a premium subscription with these cyberhosts to download them; hopefully they could still be downloaded for free, albeit at a slow speed.
Where's the Poll?Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence -Carl Sagan
Last edited by Seeker47; 19th Mar 2021 at 16:52.
My problem with most critics (not just film but any of the arts) is that they're not really all that interested in discussing the work in question. What they want to talk about is how clever they are and how they'd do it better.
Considering that most of them are failed screenwrites (Ebert's screenwriting credits are a few Russ Meyer flicks written under a pseudonym) this doesn't surprise me.
My favorite source for movie reviews is variety.com ... but then it's a trade paper. And the thing they do I really like is that if it's something you haven't seen befoer and don't want too much info, just read only the 1st paragraph.
Film critics have become trollish.
And they often lack objectivity. However, sometimes lack both objectivity AND subjectivity, so the commentary is just an exercise in verbal/written diarrhea. As prime example, superhero movies are often dismissed for they very reason that people enjoyed superhero stories (ie, the comics roots), because of a total lack of subjectivity. Those movies must be reviewed objectivity within the confines of subjectivity (assumption that you enjoy comics and/or superhero type fiction). But never really are.
For that reason, the lack of objectivity within subjectivity, most reviewers are into artsy fartsy BS, and their written reviews are only worthy of lining a litter box.
Back in 2002, I could give a flying **** about The Pianist, while Spiderman was dumped on. Iron Man and Guardians of the Galaxy got the same treatment. (When I was watching GotG, I felt like I was a kid again, watching the first Star Wars movies in theatres!)
"Well, my days of not taking you seriously are certainly coming to a middle." - Captain Malcolm Reynolds
The critique/reviews by Red Letter Media are generally quite good.
They won't be to everyone's taste but they also do the occasional review as a character called Mr. Plinkett.
I still watch the reviews of the Star Wars prequels now and then. They're almost the duration of the movies themselves, but they're more entertaining.
Last edited by Seeker47; 27th Mar 2021 at 21:52.
That must be someone else. Their reviews are mostly just a couple of guys discussing a movie, sometimes with the running joke that they run a VCR repair business.
The Mr Plinklett character is supposed to be some sort of semi illiterate serial killer. You never see him and some people hate the character's voice, but there's obviously a fair but of time put into creating those reviews (using footage from the movies being reviewed) and I find them entertaining.
Last edited by Seeker47; 27th Mar 2021 at 11:37.