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American Women's Club of Hamburg

Our Current Critical Dilemma

Derek Malcolm from the Guardian, Mick LaSalle with the San Francisco Chronicle, Dana Linssen, Dutch Film Critic with NRC Handelsbad and Ekkerhard Knorer with Cargo Film Magazine taz, a German newspaper but also Jump Cut, which is a website, came together to discuss the future of the “Film Critic.” The future is shifting from the written word of a newspaper or magazine to the internet. Blogging is the replacement but how does this blogging affect the film critics and their reviews since advertising, marketing and promotion have manipulating effects on the internet?

When I arrived in Colorado recently, I was stunned to read that our 150-year-old traditional newspaper, The Rocky Mountain News was dead. It was only weeks before that I had heard rumors of this at the panel discussion in Berlin. The American journalist said that the time period for a two-newspaper town is over and we will be lucky if we have a newspaper at all. Technology is moving too fast, even the latest movies such as Electric Mist which showed at the Berlinale in competition is going straight to DVD.

Dana Linssen believes that festivals will be making a strong come back due to social aspects, which are lacking when watching TV. These film critics said that they are pessimistic about their careers in the future since there will be no way for them to actually make a living.  Derek Malcolm said that at college he became a film critic for the school newspaper; he worked at the chronicle as lead film critic and always wanted to write criticism but now he is thankful that he is writing books. He said one has to find the voice and find the venue, which is what made him who he is and it was not due to the academic realm. The entire panel agreed that the film critic will be dummying down or the critics will have to go the academic way and become experts on certain themes to make their reputations. They also discussed YouTube and said anyone watching is guilty of destroying the future of the film industry. It is amazing how many film trailers end up there. It is interesting to know that France is the leading country in film privacy and Ne Me Liberez Pas, Je m’en Charge (My Greatest Escape) is already available there. Malcolm fears the day when you can read a book for free; then the writers will receive nothing for their work.

Ekkerhard Knorer said this is a big chance for curators on the internet as well as at festivals to build up a reputation as long as there is fair trade. The audience will see films as products, an idea which is currently working for art and independent films. But he believes that a film critic’s life would end as we know it simply because it has become impossible to make a living by seeing at least the necessary twelve films per week and still have enough money. They also see problems with blogging since there will be unwanted advertising controlled through monopolies like Goggle and Amazon. But they also see hope; the new scene will be the green scene where there will be art houses and net flicks.

Film criticism has to change its form and find its value. Malcolm described the sarcastic film critic voice as an immature writing style and mentioned Rotten Tomatoes as a source. They all were wondering how the critics were chosen for this website since the critics seem to vary in quality. He emphasized the importance of intelligent and articulated writing.  Most film critics are doing this as a sideline and they agreed that if this career were more exclusive then the quality of writing would be better. With fewer critics the quality would go up. The film critics are needed by the film industry and vise versa.

The freelance film critic and common citizen writer does have a chance since the film festival scene is growing. And bloggers can review films. Unfortunately it is easy to get published but hard to get paid. Where is the solidarity? Knorer said to give the blogger a flat rate like flat rate TV. Right now the print content is shared by many of the newspapers, so why should film critics not get paid? Perhaps the biggest flaw is the film critic he- or herself. They are passionate about their topic and are willing to do it for less.

With the present economic crisis, culture funding is becoming even more desperate then before. Filmmakers are tightening their budgets, i.e., the budgets are 20% less than they were before. Pay for information gives freedom of expression. If a society gives up on its culture then that is the end of its society. After recently reading the Denver Post, reporter Chuck Plunkett approaches it in a different light. It is the future of the citizen journalist. He quotes that 95% of the top 100 US newspapers have reporter blogs.  The day he wrote the article he said there were 7.4 million blog postings in the last 120 days. Blogs are interesting since it does not matter who the audience is and the author can write whatever he wants.

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