Film Critics Redux
It's the newspaper columnist's luxury to weigh in on a subject late in the day and try to offer the last word. The question is, has everyone gotten tired of the topic, and does the writer have anything more to offer? The WSJ's Joe Morgenstern, the NYT's A.O. Scott, THR (twice) and the entire critical blogosphere have weighed in on the relevance and influence of today's film critics ad infinitum. That said, the LAT's Patrick Goldstein advances the discussion by actually interviewing several critics, and also adds a suggestion that I heartily endorse: major news outlets should give their critics blogs and encourage them to weigh in before the official studio review dates. Right now, the studios make sweetheart deals with various influential movie sites like Movie City News and Hollywood Elsewhere: come and see the movie early, but don't tell anyone until we say it's OK. Then at some magic moment, Poland or Wells or AICN's Moriarty will post a positive "pre-review" that isn't official. (It's not in their interest to write anything negative: they have to stay on the studio PR machine's good side, and keep their access. They'll wait until after the review date to write anything nasty, when it's fair game.) Then the two trades weigh in with their official reviews, usually just before the print and TV critics run their reviews on opening day. Which admittedly now seems very late in the day. I love this idea! And it will drive the studios nuts.
Newspapers are starting to give their arts staffers blogs, including the The Chicago Tribune and The Toronto Globe and Mail, whose New York correspondent Simon Houpt blogged from Cannes. While Time critic Richard Schickel has been roundly dismissive of bloggers, his colleague Richard Corliss (and his wife Mary) posted blogs from Cannes for Time.com. The NYT's Scott and Manohla Dargis didn't get to post their own blogs from Cannes in 2005 (that's where the fun is), filing to an editor instead, but NYT media writer David Carr did his own posting as he covered last year's Oscar race as The Carpetbagger—and I suspect that he worked too hard to happily reprise that gig. (I wish he would—maybe for a shorter time span this time.) The NYT film critics did not blog in Cannes in 2006, instead filing snappy short pieces on a daily basis. For his part, film critic Shawn Levy does a terrific blog for The Oregonian. Blogging is something some people get, and some people don't. But it's a great way for critics to build a direct connection with their readers.