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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

question of the day: What is a fireable offense for a film critic?

What does it take to get fired from a job writing film criticism? Elvis Mitchell may run the gamut. Or not. From TheWrap:

Having been let go – or quit – most of the highest profile gigs in the film-criticism profession, Mitchell has apparently been fired by the Movieline blog after just three months there.

According to Deadline Hollywood, which like Movieline is owned by MMC, Mitchell was fired after a review for the Summit Entertainment thriller “Source Code” was found with a wayward fact.

Head over to Deadline Hollywood for the whole big sordid — or not — tale about Mitchell’s review of Source Code. But check out Anne Thompson, who wonders whether there isn’t a helluva lot more behind Mitchell’s departure from Movieline:

I could have predicted—would have placed bets—that he wouldn’t last as film critic at Movieline, that it was a bad match—mainly because Mitchell is not internet savvy. To succeed online, you have to be able to interact with your readers on Twitter and Facebook, market yourself, have an instinct for building traffic for your stories. Mention Twitter to Mitchell and his eyes go blank. Why did he go there as co-chief film critic with ex-Salon scribe Stephanie Zacharek? For the money. Well, the trouble with making a hefty salary is that when you do not deliver, you make a convenient line-item deletion. And Movieline is in cost-cutting mode of late: they pared back the masthead and cut off all freelancers a few weeks ago, including Alonso Duralde.

UPDATE: It looks like insubordination contributed to Mitchell’s departure. Penske is sensitive to Movieline’s relationships with the studios—Summit and director Duncan Jones protested the error—and Mitchell never bothered to respond to anyone to explain his review. Mitchell does what he wants to do: he was supposed to be on the narrative feature jury at the Florida Film Festival last week, emails indieWIRE’s Eric Kohn, “but never showed up. I found out later he was at a festival in Krakow the whole time. He even did a TV appearance there.”

As I have reported before, Mitchell is not good with money. Or meeting deadlines. Filing expenses. Or doing what he says he’s going to do. He has left or lost one job after another, from NPR to the New York Times. Famously, he never turned up for a job he had accepted at the L.A. Times, nor for a job as a development exec for Sony.

(Frankly, I’m astonished to hear that anyone is making a hefty salary reviewing movies these days.)

Whatever happened, Movieline isn’t saying anything. Nor is Mitchell.

So: What is a fireable offense for a film critic? I’m thinking not just about trying to figure out what happened to Mitchell but in general. What professional sins are so unforgivable that a critic should lose his or her job over them?

(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD, feel free to email me. Responses to this QOTD sent by email will be ignored; please post your responses here.)



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