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film criticism by maryann johanson | since 1997

question of the day: Should we — films critics and movie lovers alike — include TV movies when we talk about the best movies of the year?

Apparently film critic Roger Ebert and former critic now filmmaker Paul Schrader are having a bit of a tiff over what movies we should think about when we think about movies. Specifically, Schrader believes that film critics should stop being so snobby about how films make their way to our eyeballs. To wit (via S.T. VanAirsdale at Movieline):

A veteran film critic… should take it on himself by unilaterally abandoning the distinction between theatrical and nontheatrical films in year-end best-of lists. All long-form audiovisual entertainment, released on any distribution platform, would be eligible for consideration. The Academy, of course, would regard this as a nightmare. It would downgrade the ‘specialness’ of theatrical films. But this is all happening anyway. Why not get ahead of the curve?

And now VanAirsdale:

There is a very real chance that HBO will yield at least one of the best films many critics will see in 2011. Why not reward it, especially if it can make a difference for the development and exhibition of films the way they’re “supposed to be” — if it can possibly help stanch what Ebert calls the “erosion of community” around moviegoing by reversing such destructive mainstream cinema trends as sequels, toy/video-game adaptations and overwrought teen franchises?

Ultimately, this isn’t even a TV-versus-cinema issue. It’s an art-versus-accountants issue, and one in which anybody who believes in the transcendence of film should probably invest him- or herself sooner than later: Laud the best movies, not the best movies that were exhibited the way things are “supposed to be.” That mindset is as destructive as a sequel could ever be if only because it, too, fails to acknowledge the merit and risk and invigoration of something new.

The movie lover in me cheers at the proposition: Hoorah! Let’s celebrate all good movies wherever they appear. But the film critic in me despairs: Damn, I can’t keep up with the theatrical releases, and now I gotta make it a point to see all the major TV-movie premieres, too?

What do you think? Should we — films critics and movie lovers alike — include TV movies when we talk about the best movies of the year?

(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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