Chances are that, no matter where you live in North America, you no longer have a local film critic writing for a local newspaper offering a local perspective on the films opening in your town. The situation was the focus a recent post by Canadian blogger Paul Matwychuk at his The Moviegoer. Matwychuk spoke to Sean Means, film reviewer for the Salt Lake Tribune, who has been keeping track of the print critics who’ve been laid off or otherwise let go (buyouts, early retirement, etc.) by their publications at his blog, The Movie Cricket. From The Moviegoer:
Means, who’s been the Tribune’s film critic for 16 years and their film blogger for the last three and a half, bristles at the notion that syndicated movie reviewers can do the job just as well as a local writer. For one thing, Means says, those syndicated reviews tend to be either wire reviews written in a homogenized, generic style that adds little to the conversation about a particular films; or they’re written by a critic based in New York, Los Angeles, or Chicago and whose mindset inevitably feels disconnected from readers in other regions of the country. And can newspapers afford to let their readers feel even more disconnected from them?
“Another thing that concerns me,” Means says, “is that there is homegrown, regional cinema all over the country that is never going to get covered in the New York Times until it reaches a certain critical mass. And that critical mass doesn’t happen unless the regional critic takes up the cause and starts writing about it. Here in Salt Lake City, for instance, we have a thriving subgenre of Mormon-themed films, a few of which filtered out to other parts of the country largely because I and other critics in Salt Lake paid attention to them. That wouldn’t happen if my paper just ran wire reviews.”
As one of those New York-based critics whose reviews run in papers in cities like Spokane, Washington; Jacksonville, Florida; and — yes — Salt Lake City, Utah, I have to admit that I do sometimes wonder what my readers in those papers expect from a review that appears in their local paper.
How important do you think is a local spin on film criticism? Do you miss your local film critics?
(I don’t know if this same thing is happening in the U.K. and Australia, but I suspect it’s not as big an issue yet — I’d love to hear from readers in those places about the situations there.)
(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD, feel free to email me.)