Actor/director Paul Mazurksy, of Down and Out in Beverly Hills fame, was just named the new film critic for VanityFair.com.
“I wanted a film critic who’s been inside the Hollywood trenches; one who would bring a richly seasoned viewpoint to current cinema,” Vanity Fair EIC Graydon Carter says of the hire. “Mazursky fits the bill to a T. There isn’t an aspect of moviemaking that he doesn’t know first hand. And he has the scars to prove it.”
It’s definitely an interesting hire. Mazursky brings an insider element to the job that gives him technical and industry expertise your average critic lacks. He also, obviously, brings an air of celebrity–which doesn’t hurt in attracting eyeballs.
Mazursky addresses the role of the 21st century film critic in his introductory post.
So, do critics matter? It depends on to whom. To the young audience? I’m not sure they even read reviews, in the era of RottenTomatoes.com. Does it matter to the over-45s? Sure, if they want culture and social problems—and don’t mind a little sex and violence. I’d like to believe they want to be moved to tears by the end of a great film.
Do reviews matter to the studios? Sure. They’ll be happy with a rave. But they’re capable of manufacturing a full-page ad with blockbuster quotes from Grade C critics.
And what about the filmmakers? Woody Allen, I’m told, doesn’t read reviews. Fellini told me he didn’t care much about the press. But most of the Hollywood crowd including moi, reads reviews voraciously. We pick up the trades, Hollywood Reporter and Variety, The New York Times, the L.A. Times, The New Yorker, Newsweek, and Time. Not to mention The Wall Street Journal. When reading reviews of my own work, there was usually enough variety to find some good and some bad: a couple of dynamite raves and several sadistic grenades. I dismissed the latter. He was probably drunk, I’d reason. Or: Naturally, he’s a closet Nazi. But I read, and reread, the raves and even the tepid approvals. In other words, I confess, reviews matter to me.
So as of this piece, I am now a critic. Oy vey! I feel a huge responsibility. I know I must be honest. If the movie is great, good. If it stinks, sorry. If it’s a real turkey, I won’t bother to review it. So, how to rate? A simple thumbs up or down? Too late for that. On a scale from 1 to 10, etc.? Silly. Four stars? It’s been done. So here’s what I’ll do: review the film with simplicity, brevity, depth, and passion, and maybe a little wit for good luck.
Oy vey is right. We’ll see whether Mazursky can indeed keep enough emotional distance from his industry colleagues to be brutally honest when need be.