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Internet: Critics' Friend, Young or Old

by Anne Thompson
August 14, 2009 5:46 AM
4 Comments
  • |
Thompson on Hollywood

The latest film critics pile-on this week started with the suggestion from The New York Observer's Christopher Rosen that the NYT's A.O. Scott and the Chicago Sun-Times' Roger Ebert were attacking movie audiences for being so dumb. Then Drew McWeeny at Hitfix responded that older critics were losing their touch with younger audiences. And Glenn Kenny jumped into the fray on the young vs. old critics' divide.

Scott was attacking the studios for dumbing down the audience. That's not attacking the audience for being dumb. While The New Yorker and the NYT can be guilty of turning up their noses at populist moviemaking, Ebert is an open and welcoming critic. In fact, he's a great example of a modern-day online communicator. He knows how to reach and grow his fan base of all ages. In this day of waning critical influence, the widely syndicated Ebert still wields considerable clout--even without his TV show At the Movies. His recent rant The Gathering Dark Age--in which he did express dismay at a badly educated younger movie demo-- generated over 800 comments, many of them quite literate. Ebert has over 2000 Facebook fans, and doesn't bother to Twitter. Thank God, At the Movies' two Bens didn't make it with the younger crowd Disney/ABC wanted them to attract. Now the older-skewing Scott and Michael Phillips are back on board.

One note to Ebert: I don't know any young people who read newspapers--it's just not their medium, no matter how smart or educated they are. And Nora and her friends seem to intuit online what has been well-reviewed---by their peers as well as critics. Or they skip the written word and check out trailers.

It isn't news to highbrow critics that there's a disconnect between them and audiences flocking to badly reviewed popcorn movies like Transformers. But truth is, critical influence on the web is growing, not waning. Critics like Kenny are growing devoted fan bases on their blogs, Facebook and Twitter. In the Internet age, critics are going viral, helping to counteract massive ad spends. The studios know that bad buzz is spreading earlier and faster and can dampen an opening week--let's see how G.I. Joe fares in its second go-round.


4 Comments

  • Smurfette | August 17, 2009 12:03 PMReply

    Criticism is a dying art not just in print but in media of all forms. Kudos must be given to Ebert for his thoughtful and intelligent reviews. I can't think of anyone to touch him - and I'm a writer. I've pretty much given up reading newspaper film reviews as, firstly, they are invariably male, and secondly, it's clear that many were sent on a press junket and daren't say anything bad about a film.

  • Jake Yenor | August 17, 2009 4:37 AMReply

    who doesnt love critics

    - Jake Yenor

  • jessie t. | August 14, 2009 9:27 AMReply

    Everyone is a critic.
    Everyone can't be trusted to intelligently evaluate a film.
    Everyone has the right to spend money on tickets to third rate films.
    Everyone ought to learn more and intelligently evaluate criticism (even itf it is from your boy/girl friend).
    Here's to "mature" critics, tell it the way it is.

  • Deaf Indian Muslim Anarchist | August 14, 2009 2:46 AMReply

    It's true, good or bad buzz can make quick rounds on the Internet... remember when SPEED RACER was a huge, huge massive flop last year, due to the constant bad buzz and lots of harsh reviews on Internet forums and blogs. Emile Hirsch was so embarrassed, that he even fired his agent.

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