What Are Movie Critics For?

Posted on January 31, 2010 at 8:00 am

Thanks to the Online Film Critics Society for including my thoughts in their round-up of commentaries about what movie critics are for. The question was “Do critics do anything nowadays except give out awards? What is the purpose of a film critic in today’s entertainment industry?” Here is what I said:

The film critic is not a part of the entertainment industry. The film critic is a part of the journalism industry. We are there to report on, assess, and illuminate the entertainment industry and its products. We are there to guide audiences away from the over-marketed and under-produced products of that industry and to encourage them to try movies they might not have heard of, even those without big stars and in other languages. We are there to challenge their thinking, provide context, and provoke discussion. And we are there to set an example with the diligence of our study and the excellence of our writing to engage them in our passionate attention to stories, characters, meaning, and even entertainment.

All of the entries are provocative, well-written, and worth reading. Take a look.

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3 Replies to “What Are Movie Critics For?”

  1. By your own criteria, you are an excellent critic, Nell. Thankyou very much for your illumiation, guidance, and excellent writing. My family and I rarely will go to a show you don’t give at least a B+, but I read your reviews on all the other movies because I love your writing so much. Do you know anyone who does as good a job for books?

  2. I agree you are an excellent critic.
    Movie critics don’t seem to me to be much different from art critics or book critics. They provide factual background and history about the artist; they provide a broader context for appreciation of the work by comparing it with other work by the artist, or work by different artists; they point out things to watch for, so that someone who is coming to the work harried from a day at the office and with no background can get a head start; they serve a consumer advisory function, increasing the chances that you won’t waste time and money on something that is likely to disappoint you; but most of all, good movie criticism, like good art criticism or good literary criticism, is an art in itself. A film critic responding to a movie is similar to an artist responding to a landscape of a bowl of fruit. It is a subjective reaction based on taste and judgment and talent.

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