Film bloggers are everywhere these days. You want info on everything from the Tribeca Film Fest to "Spider-Man 3," bloggers have got you covered. Variety's Anne Thompson just dedicated an entire column to the film-blog phenom. And in the last issue of Filmmaker Magazine (unavailable online), I examined the struggles of filmmakers seeking press when theatrical distribution isn't an option. Their main target, of course: Blogs.
But I'm starting to have my doubts about the proliferation of film blogs. Sure, "blogs are here to stay," as Anne Thompson writes, and they're only going to get more numerous and more important. But the film blog can also be cause for frustration, as indieWIRE blogger Sujewa Ekanayake wrote about after reading an unhelpful film review of "Hannah Takes the Stairs."
At the recent Tribeca film festival, in trying to select what to see among the hundreds of films, I noticed this year how hard it was to find reliable reviews of the new films: Instead of trusted critics, we get the critic-blogger -- or "clogger."
It's a disparaging name, I know, but who are these people? I guess I am one of them, too, but I used to look forward to Tribeca advanced write-ups by critics I've come to trust. Perhaps this is simply another lamentation of the Village Voice's disembowelment, but how do I know whether I agree with Cinematical, /Film, The Reeler, or next-generation Voice reviewers? The New York Times, if I'm not mistaken, assigned a single critic's notebook on Tribeca, where Stephen Holden wrote in-depth about roughly 10 films. That's pretty good for Holden, but what about the other 145 some features? Who's covering those? The cloggers, of course.
A positive blurb from anyone -- even a clogger -- is to be welcomed by press-hungry indie filmmakers, but the changing landscape of the press, where larger publications are devoting less space to arts coverage and established critics are either getting laid off or forced to cover Hollywood films (or blog), is all making it harder for good indie films to find the critics they need.
In my Filmmaker Magazine article, Jim McKay told me that he feels much of the Internet-based press lacks prestige and context. "When you're going to Amazon or IMDB, the first thing you'll often see is a write-up of your film by some Internet critic. And that can be horrifying," he told me. Indeed, among Amazon.com's top reviews of McKay's latest HBO feature "Angel" are mixed responses from one K. Harris from Las Vegas and Grady Harp from Los Angeles. They're a far cry from the imprimatur given to McKay's "Our Song" by Times critic A.O. Scott, who raved "Don't miss this one."
"'Angel,' for me, was a prime example of a piece that needed someone who understands the intentions of the film to write about it," McKay explained to me. "People who turned on HBO looking for a show were going to have a hard time with it. And if you didn't have some kind of place in which to enter this film, it was going to be tough. And some of the things I saw online reflected that."