There was a time in which film criticism really mattered. On the 1950’s, It mattered to the point that a bunch of French critics were capable of changing the future of cinema forever. Truffaut, Godard, Rohmer, Chabrol… they all started reviewing films for Cahiers du Cinéma before directing movies. Their theories about the role of the director and the importance of the mise en scène in a movie contributed to change people’s perception towards the medium: cinema was no longer just an entertainment, it was an art form.
Nowadays, movie critics don’t seem so relevant. Or at least they seem to have lost their touch with the general public. A film like The Hangover Part II scored 44 percent on Metacritic and 35 percent on Rotten Tomatoes and still made $85 million on the box office in its first week. Those two sites compile the reviews of the most prominent critics from all over the country. On the other hand, a site which only compiles fan votes like imdb.com, rewards the same movie with a 7 out of 10.
From a professional point of view, critics are not living through their best period either. On 2006, Sean P. Means, movie critic for The Salt Lake Tribune, began compiling on his blog a list of colleagues that have lost their jobs in print outlets all over the country. By the time of his last entry, on May 2009, just a month before the official end of the recession, he had on record 55 American film critics that ceased holding their positions in between that three year period for various reasons.
Since then, more film critics have been losing their jobs. The most notable probably is Todd McCarthy, who was fired last year from Variety after 31 years working for it as chief movie critic. The magazine, which has the honor of publishing the first movie review in history in 1907, decided to cut costs and move on to freelance reviews instead.
All these arguments point towards one question: Is there a future for traditional film criticism? I decided to give a voice to three movie critics from three different print outlets and let them try and answer it.
Amy Biancolli (Houston Chronicle, member of the Houston Film Critic Society)
James Verniere (Boston Herald, member of the Boston Society of Film Critics and the National Society of Film Critics)