Friday, July 28, 2006

Everyone's a Critic

by Jackrabbit Slim
There is a lot of Internet chatter about the replacements for Roger Ebert while he is ailing. So far Jay Leno and Kevin Smith have been announced, which lets us know that the producers of this show don't see it as being anything remotely near serious film criticism, but simply a sideshow. But this all got me to thinking--is there any film critic I take seriously any more? Ebert and Roeper are not even carried in the New York area anymore--or if they are, I don't know when. I read Ebert pretty consistently, but found he has softened in his old age. I still love to listen to the man talk about issues film-wise or not, but I wonder if he still has the edge that made him much more interesting twenty years ago.

I don't read too many other critics. I subscribe to Entertainment Weekly, but just look at the final grades that Glieberman and Schwartzbaum assign the films. Sometimes I read Manohla Dargis, and think she's a good writer, but she's too steeped in avant-garde film for me to value her opinions on summer cheese. Anthony Lane of The New Yorker is the most fun to read, particularly when he is eviscerating a film, but I'm not sure I trust his judgement. Mostly what I do is take a look at the summaries on

Does criticism still matter? Are there any critics you guys and gals read that will put your ass in a theater you might not have gone to? What's more important--agreeing with a critic, or just enjoying the writing, even if you don't agree?


Blogger Brian said...

I think criticism matters just as much now as it ever did. Almost everyone decides which movies to see based on someone else's opinion. What's the first question anybody ever asks when you tell them you saw a movie - "was it any good?"

The difference now is that, as you say, everyone's a critic. Even a bunch of schmoes like us can set up a website and broadcast opinions.

It may be true that there's less emphasis placed on professional critics, but even that is debatable to me. Let's face it, how many people have you ever known who really put a lot of faith in what "the critics" say? I don't know too many. It seems like Ebert's TV show is less important than it used to be, but on the other hand, how many more people read Ebert's written reviews via the internet than used to?

Anyways, personally, I almost never read reviews before I see a movie, although I'll browse RT and/or Metacritic. Afterwards, I'll usually read Ebert, the NYT review (I really like Scott, Dargis and Holden less so), and maybe Wells if I feel like actually looking through his archives.

7/28/2006 04:00:00 PM  
Blogger Count Olaf said...

I would say about 3/4 of the movies I see I have decided to see on my own. The other 1/4 are either movies I thought I didn't want to see, (but everyone ended up loving, so I need to see what all the hubub is about) or movies I never knew about but were favorably reviewed by friends or people I read online.

I know I'm a broken record with the following statement, but there are only about 4-5 movies I actually see in theaters every year. Those are definitely pre-determined long before a review comes out or a critic says anything. Many of the rest go to the bottom of my Netflix queue only to resurface two years later. So, a critic will never get me to a theater or keep me from one I've been "predestined" to see.

For me the most important part of reading criticism is finding out about movies I never would have heard of on my own. (Like this one article I read about 10 best movies you've never heard of...I think I added them all to my queue and a few were actually good).

Internal Hollywood politicking, tantrums, tirades, hirings & firings, slumps, festivals & awards don't interest me as much as a good recommendation on a lesser-known film.

BUT, but posting on Wells' new comments section you might get into an e-fight with Kevin Smith, so there's always that angle....

7/29/2006 12:17:00 AM  
Blogger Count Olaf said...

**should read**

"BUT, by posting..."

7/29/2006 12:19:00 AM  
Anonymous lora said...

The reviews in the Philadelphia Inquirer are pretty reliable, and they cover a broad spectrum of film. The 7/28 releases did not fare well, with most receiving 2 stars. I have some friends who provide advice I trust, but I can be quite contrary, so that's not always the best indicator of what I will enjoy, either. I do read various critics on the web, but I tend to make up my own mind. I can be very hard on some films and very forgiving of others. The Entertainment Weekly scores often have nothing to do with what I appreciate in a film, but I look at them anyway.

7/29/2006 08:43:00 AM  
Blogger Jeanine said...

I used to read reviews, but stopped somewhere along the way. At the office, I can't stand it when people talk about movies I haven't seen yet, so I'll usually try and see the big stuff when it opens, regardless of if I want to or not. My co-workers know by now that if I didn't like something, they probably will and visa versa. Maybe everyone is a critic. But I'd rather discuss movies with people I know rather than reading a review that isn't open for discussion.

7/31/2006 09:40:00 AM  
Blogger jaydro said...

I was going to respond that I don't see the producers getting non-serious-film-critic celebrities to fill in for Ebert as evidence that they see the program as a sideshow, as Jackrabbit puts it, but rather that they wanted to make it clear that Ebert was not in any danger of being replaced.

But after seeing Jay Leno, I would have to say that I thought he actually did a better job than non-film-critic Richard Roeper does. Leno in interviews has often shown that he's a pretty smart and perceptive guy, something that he manages to suppress a great deal on the Tonight Show, unfortunately.

Anyway, my liking of film critics has a lot to do with having established some kind of history with them. There are a lot of critics I don't read any more, either because they've retired or disappeared or are no longer easily accessible to me. The only one I read with any regularity any more is Ebert, and I almost never read his stuff before the Sun-Times started putting it on their website (unless my local paper happened to pick up the odd Ebert review). My local newspaper and weekly magazine critics have have had some turnover in the past decade, and the current crop has yet to earn any respect from me. I started watching Siskel & Ebert's PBS show in the late '70's, and at times I liked Siskel more, and there have been times more recently where I thought I agreed with Roeper more, but lately Ebert is the one for me.

Get well soon, Roger.

8/08/2006 11:04:00 AM  
Anonymous lora said...

I am reminded of a Siskel and Ebert appearance on The Tonight Show many years ago. Chevy Chase was also a guest on the show-he was promoting The Three Amigos. Johnny Carson asked if there was any film that they would absolutely not recommend, and Ebert said something to the effect of "Well, actually, I don't recommend The Three Amigos." Carson seemed genuinely shocked that Ebert would say that with Chase sitting next to him. Carson's reply? "If I had known you were going to say that, I wouldn't have asked."
I think Ebert is fair, and he is certainly not a snob...he doesn't expect every film to be Citizen Kane.

8/08/2006 05:38:00 PM  

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