Here in L.A. some critics are participating in OTX market research guru Kevin Goetz's new project (dreamed up by MPRM PR man Mark Pogachefsky) which pays $100 for a critic to attend a screening and provide feedback. I was offered this opportunity (which I was not free to disclose), but felt uncomfortable with being paid by marketers for my opinions. Any movie good enough to be picked up for release would lose me as a potential champion, as I would not be able to write about it. And watching the rest of the films would probably be a waste of my time.
While I want critics to be able to practice their avocation and support themselves, being paid for market research feels like a slippery conflict of interest. Some critics also moonlight on the side writing press kits, but again, when the film comes out, they can't write about it.
For a tragic celebration of the golden era of film criticism as practiced by the likes of Pauline Kael and Andrew Sarris (pictured), check out critic/filmmaker Gerald Peary's documentary For the Love of Movies: the Story of American Film Criticism, which I screened for my film criticism class at USC last year. The DVD is for sale here and for classroom and university library purchase here.