Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Daily Reads: Why No One Remembers "Avatar," the Best Blu-rays and DVDs of 2014, and more Daily Reads: Why No One Remembers "Avatar," the Best Blu-rays and DVDs of 2014, and more Criticwire Survey: Last-Minute Gifts for Movie Lovers Criticwire Survey: Last-Minute Gifts for Movie Lovers 'The Interview' Reviews: So How Is That Movie That We're Not Going to See? 'The Interview' Reviews: So How Is That Movie That We're Not Going to See? Star-Ledger's Stephen Whitty Loses His Staff Job Star-Ledger's Stephen Whitty Loses His Staff Job So Long, 'Stephen Colbert': How His Star-Studded Finale Sent Up and Outdid Talk-Show Schmaltz So Long, 'Stephen Colbert': How His Star-Studded Finale Sent Up and Outdid Talk-Show Schmaltz The Scrambled Sexuality of 'Frozen's "Let It Go" The Scrambled Sexuality of 'Frozen's "Let It Go" Numerical Proof that 'Boyhood' and 'Transparent' Were Critics' Overwhelming 2014 Favorites Numerical Proof that 'Boyhood' and 'Transparent' Were Critics' Overwhelming 2014 Favorites Cahiers du Cinema's Top 10 Movies of 2014: 'Goodbye to Language,' 'Under the Skin,' 'Love Is Strange' Cahiers du Cinema's Top 10 Movies of 2014: 'Goodbye to Language,' 'Under the Skin,' 'Love Is Strange' Why the Unanimous Praise for 'Boyhood' Is Bad for Film Criticism β€” and for 'Boyhood' Why the Unanimous Praise for 'Boyhood' Is Bad for Film Criticism β€” and for 'Boyhood' Sleeper of the Week: 'Maidan' Sleeper of the Week: 'Maidan' Kevin B. Lee's 'Better Than Boyhood': 'Goodbye to Language,' 'Dear White People' and More Kevin B. Lee's 'Better Than Boyhood': 'Goodbye to Language,' 'Dear White People' and More It's Official: HBO Is Remastering 'The Wire' in the Wrong Aspect Ratio It's Official: HBO Is Remastering 'The Wire' in the Wrong Aspect Ratio Sony's Chair Sends Racist Emails, Also Greenlights More Movies Starring Black Actors Than Anyone in Hollywood Sony's Chair Sends Racist Emails, Also Greenlights More Movies Starring Black Actors Than Anyone in Hollywood Beyond 'The Interview': 6 Movies About North Korea You Can Watch Right Now Beyond 'The Interview': 6 Movies About North Korea You Can Watch Right Now 'Disney Deaths' and 'Big Hero 6': How Children's Stories Process Loss 'Disney Deaths' and 'Big Hero 6': How Children's Stories Process Loss Why 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' Fills Me With Dread Why 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' Fills Me With Dread Why 'Spring Breakers' Is the Movie of the Year Why 'Spring Breakers' Is the Movie of the Year Watch: David Ehrlich's Top 25 Movies of 2014, a Video Countdown as Good as the Movies Themselves Watch: David Ehrlich's Top 25 Movies of 2014, a Video Countdown as Good as the Movies Themselves Film Comment's Best Movies of 2014: 'Boyhood' Plus 'Birdman,' Plus a Cotillard Twofer Film Comment's Best Movies of 2014: 'Boyhood' Plus 'Birdman,' Plus a Cotillard Twofer Daily Reads: 'The Interview' and the End of Satire, Why 'Selma' Matters Today and More Daily Reads: 'The Interview' and the End of Satire, Why 'Selma' Matters Today and More

Is Film Criticism Dying or Evolving?

Criticwire By Matt Singer | Criticwire June 25, 2012 at 12:34PM

Or can it be both?
4
"Ratatouille."
"Ratatouille."

After three and a half years of college, I finally figured out what I wanted to do with my life: I was going to be a film critic. I went to talk to my favorite college professor, one of the few at my school who taught classes in film studies, about career options. Essentially, I asked him how to get his job. After rephrasing my question so it didn't sound like I was trying to put him out of work, he explained that the first thing I'd need to go was get a master's degree in cinema studies. His other advice: "Write. Write everyday. Write about every movie you see. Write anywhere you can get published."

In early 2002, this was still something of a difficult task. At that time, blogs were still in their infancy -- in 2002, I only knew one guy who had a blog, and he used it to talk shit about his friends behind their backs, so blogging seemed like a weird and vaguely icky practice. Instead I had to find editors willing to publish my work -- and eventually I did. Slowly but surely, I worked my way up the ladder, from unpaid columnist to unpaid columnist at a slightly larger website, to unpaid columnist at an even more impressive website, and finally to poorly paid columnist at a less impressive website. That was ten years ago. Today, the process is a whole lot easier; just go on Tumblr or Blogger, start a site, and begin filing reviews.

I wonder, though: would I have been a better writer in the long-run if I'd gone that route? Do the barriers to entry in a field weed out the passionate from the dilettantes? Is the dedicated amateur better than the informed professional? At his site, Smell of Popcorn, Max Lalanne votes in favor of the former -- which, he says, isn't killing criticism, but rather helping it evolve."

"Times are a changing, but it’s for the best. If film criticism itself is the act of print publications having the only respectable critics worth reading, then yes, film criticism is dying. But if film criticism is the pure and great act of analyzing and reviewing cinema, then my friends, it is a blooming and flourishing art that is being fueled more and more everyday."

Obviously Lalanne is proud of his site and of the platform that he has to express himself. And that's great. Some critics, including Roger Ebert, have declared this "The Golden Age of Film Criticism" -- because the Internet has given anyone with a perspective on film the outlet to share it with world.

But perhaps it is time to separate the practice of film criticism with the profession of film criticism. If Lalanne wants to write about movies in his spare time for the rest of his life, he certainly can. But if he ever wants to transition from Smell of Popcorn to a paid gig, that transition is going to be a whole lot tougher. Soon, it may be completely impossible.

As valuable as the Internet's thousands of perspectives are -- and as truly inspiring as it is when someone like Lalanne self-publishes film criticism purely for the love of the game -- it's worth remembering that value and inspiration come at a price. And it's one that's being paid not just by critics, but by writers and editors in all forms of journalism. If you want to devote yourself full-time to the movies in the future, you'll probably have to be a professor like my old college advisor. Otherwise, you better have a sugar daddy or sugar mama willing to pay your bills (if said sugar daddy or mama is reading this right now, you can contact me at mattneedsanewmacbookpro@hotmail.biz. My wife says she understands).

I started writing about film around the same age as Lalanne. I was lucky enough that I didn't have to get a day job to pay the bills for very long; ten years later, this is my day job. I just hope film criticism's evolution doesn't kill the careers of the next generation of critics.

Read more "Why Film Criticism Isn't Dying But Merely Evolving."

This article is related to: Film Criticism is Dying


E-Mail Updates