Film critics’ reviews remain both influential and controversial despite the magazine industry’s decline–but the review process has always been something of a mystery. Movie and celebrity publicists and others who wondered about the dynamics of film criticism got some clues during a panel at the Digital Hollywood conference in New York on Thursday.
Film critics from Entertainment Weekly, The New Yorker and Criticwire opened up about the impact of digital, their approach to film selection and the challenges they face. Here are our key takeaways:
In the current film review landscape, everyone’s a critic. Owen Gleiberman, film critic at Entertainment Weekly, expressed mixed feelings about the web’s impact. Overall, he said the internet has been a positive. “The practice of film criticism is energized by the outpouring of opinions on the web.” Still, he mentioned a big downside: “The web has led to a multiplicity of voices, but that breeds consensus thinking and it’s harder for any one voice to come through. There can be a pack mentality among critics.”
Digital shortens the review process. The increased prevalence of online movie reviews has added pressure to review films quickly. Critic Matt Singer of Criticwire said, “I attended a press screening last night but it’s tough to turn a review around overnight. It’s not like The New York Times restaurant review policy that requires four restaurant visits.” Gleiberman agreed, saying “There’s less time to mull movies over, and I want to nail my feelings about a film.”
Video on Demand/VOD expands movie distribution to wider audiences. “VOD is very important since it allows people from all over access to movies, including indie, foreign films and film festival movies,” emphasized Richard Brody, critic at The New Yorker.” VOD made niche films–previously released only in urban centers–easily accessible to viewers worldwide.