Is The Role Of The Film Critic Dying? With social media constantly accessible, anyone can share their thoughts on a movie or tv show. With this ever-changing landscape, one can’t help but think are film critics becoming irrelevant to a new generation of moviegoers? Or do they still play an important role in shaping public opinion?
If no one ever told you what film criticism is, let me! Film criticism is the art of analyzing and evaluating film and television in written form. Film criticism can include plot recaps, critiques of performances and visual and aural aesthetics, character analyses, and commentary on the film’s political and cultural context.
It’s 1908, and the start of film criticism seems to be based on rando people (maybe not random people, but that’s what I’m calling them) with opinions writing articles in the paper. During that time, that was groundbreaking, so groundbreaking newspapers started hiring film critics by the 1920s. Considering that movies had not been around for a long time, film critics were basing many of their opinions on merit. Over the twentieth century, several film critics rose to national prominence, both for their astute writing and occasionally audacious criticism. Particularly famous critics include Andrew Sarris, Pauline Kael, Manny Farber, Peter Travers, Gene Siskel, and Roger Ebert.
They say film criticism serves multiple purposes in both academic and commercial contexts. Through their critique, film critics aim to inform and educate their readership about the strengths and weaknesses of a particular film and help them decide whether or not it’s worth watching. Film critique can also create discourse and provoke thought about the social and political issues a film addresses. According to the Masterclass blog “A Guide To Film Criticism: A Brief History Of Film Criticism,” there are 4 purposeful attributes that film critics provide.
- Information: Criticism informs moviegoers about a film’s content and perceived quality and can help potential audiences decide whether or not to purchase tickets.
- Press: Widely-published criticism can reach demographics within and beyond the film’s intended audience.
- Culture: Film critics may become tastemakers and established cultural vanguards in cinema.
- Posterity: Film criticism creates a historical record of the film industry for future studies.
I must admit I never thought about how critics can help the information stored in the historical record of a film. Having something to source back to years from that helps explain how they felt about the film is super important, but it can’t be used as the opinion of the masses from that time. We’ve seen it time and time again. Film critics love a movie while the public hates it or vice versa.
I never cared about a critic’s film review—no slight to them. I think what they do is a form of creativity that has value, but I base my moviegoing on whether I want to see the movie or not, not on someone else’s opinion. So I will confess that I struggle to see all the relevance. Not that there’s not any pertinence, but I feel there’s a give and take here.
I do want to say a good thing about film criticism is that it lets them express their opinions in an accessible way for people who aren’t necessarily interested in reading long essays about what makes good cinema great. If someone wants their opinions on films validated by someone else whose tastes they trust (or don’t), they can read what another critic has written on any subject matter. Everyone deserves to have an outlet.
Also, having film critics benefits those in positions like mine who have to write about or gather information about films. As a writer, sometimes you must write about something you may not know much about or haven’t seen. So referencing other people’s reviews helps get concise or abundant information on a film.
So is it true that the role of the film critic is dying? Somewhat. Fewer movie reviewers sound like what critics of the past did, and they don’t write in publications as often as they used to. Despite how I feel, it may not be because their work has become less important or relevant–it might be because we’ve changed how we consume media. Now we have film critic bloggers, youtube channels, Instagrammers, Tiktokers, and let’s not forget Rotten Tomatoes. A trusted recommendation resource for entertainment and a leading online aggregator of movie and TV show reviews from critics. As a moviegoer, you even get to leave reviews on this site, and they break down films into critic and audience scores. So with a platform like that, critics get to do less writing and more film watching and put their thoughts up on this site. It seems easy enough.
People are throwing out opinions on a mass amount of topics every day. We are all critics of something. It can be overwhelming, and usually, films are a means of escape. Though I won’t say critics are irrelevant, we moviegoers value different experiences. Some want to see what critics say to determine how to feel about a movie or if they should watch it. In contrast, others don’t check for critics —no right or wrong way. Film critics will remain as long as opinions are relevant because folks like to talk, and others like to consume.