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cultural vandal | by maryann johanson

question of the day: Who deserves to be called a ‘film critic’… and does it matter?

Sasha Stone at Awards Daily wants to know whom we should legitimately consider a film critic, and whom we shouldn’t:

What makes a film critic, one has to wonder. Nowadays, anyone with a blog who sees movies is called a “critic.” I really think that should be amended to use the term “blogger” or “industry columnist.” Not everyone is an actual film critic. I feel like I’m the only person in the known universe who cares about the difference but that’s because I come from a time when there was a difference; not just anyone could write about movies and be called a “critic.” Indiewire has a rundown of grades from the Toronto Film Fest and calls it a “Critics Poll”. In truth, it is a columnist/critic/blogger poll. I’m not dissing these guys at all. I’m just making the point that the line is invisible if no one notices it’s there. At any rate, you’ll find the grades of people like Anne Thompson (not a film critic), Jeff Wells (not a film critic), Peter Sciretta (not a film critic), etc. These opinions made by them are made as industry columnists and bloggers. I think it’s important to remember that (thus, the main difference between Metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes).

Brad Brevet at Rope of Silicon responds to Stone’s musings:

The best critics are those that have seen movies you and I have never even heard of. They have an understanding of film history and look at movies on a whole and aren’t particularly dedicated to a single genre. They can see a film and guide you in other directions and have you exploring new avenues based on your likes and dislikes.

But Jeffrey Wells at Hollywood Elsewhere has a more disparaging notion of what an “official” critic is:

[It] can be otherwise defined as seeing every last film that comes along and sitting down like a rank-and-file machinist in Detroit and reviewing every last one (including and especially the awful-awfuls) and always with a five-or-six-paragraph plot synopsis. Which can otherwise be defined as being a good soldier who does the hard and once-necessary task of grappling with all of it, good or bad…

We all know what proper film criticism is and no, I don’t follow the form. But a fully considered response to a film doesn’t always have to be expressed in ten to twelve graphs with five or six devoted to some droning boilerplate synopsis.

Is it really that important to make such a semantic distinction when it seems that even those who think about these things a lot aren’t even sure what we mean by “critic”? Isn’t it already obvious to people who are really passionate about talking about film which people-who-write-about-their-reactions-to-films-on-a-regular-basis are worth reading, and which aren’t?

Who deserves to be called a ‘film critic’… and does it matter?

(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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