A few years ago, I wrote to Roger Ebert asking him what he thought the future for film criticism is. At the time, I was really fed up with the amount of amateur movie reviews flooding the internet and depreciating the value of professional critics. Thanks to the web, everyone gets to share their opinion, I complained. So where did that leave a writer like myself? Ebert replied with one sentence: "Good writing will prevail."
That was before the controversy over studios not screening for critics, and before publications began canning older, experienced, and better film critics. Hollywood Reporter's Anne Thompson has written an interesting article this week about the state of film criticism, primarily influenced by a column written by Wall Street Journal critic Joe Morgenstern a month ago. Both writers discuss the exaggeration of our profession's impending death, with Thompson mostly giving support to Morgenstern's ideas, and point out studios' need for critics to continue writing about smaller films, especially those put out by their specialty and "indie" divisions, if not blockbusters and sure things. Thompson goes on about the media's recent switch to writers who are younger and/or speak more to a youthful reader. She goes on to champion some bloggers, but she also brings up the unfortunate crowding of reviewers who do it for fun (this includes good writers, but moreso includes the really bad ones) and theorizes that internet film criticism will keep the practice (if not profession) alive.
So, my question is, do readers of film reviews favor a well-written piece, or one that simply gets to the point? Do they like critics who are simply journalists, or simply film experts? Will good writing prevail, or will the unpaid internet critics prevail?
(Read our own Bob Sassone's list of the 7 best critics out there.)