If Critics Aren't Dead Yet, Patrick Goldstein Will Finish the Job

If film critics are in fact a dying breed, we at Defamer would like to urge them to get on with it. It's a little cruel, we know; some of our best friends are critics, and we'll miss them terribly. But if we have to read another motherfucking article like the one Patrick Goldstein wrote today about the Demise of the Print Film Critic, we'll suck it up, go door-to-door and whack every reviewer we know our own selves just to make it stop.

In case you haven't been paying attention (and the gist if these pieces is that you haven't, but you really, really should), it goes like this:

1. Longtime critics are being bought or forced out of their print institutions.

2. Studios don't need critics, but independent film distributors are upset because they need the word of mouth.

3. The dissemination of film news, reviews and rumors online has supplanted their print analogues.

4. The Internet both diffuses and democratizes criticism — and the market that sustains it.

5. Rinse and repeat in The New York Times, Variety, New York Post, Salt Lake Tribune, Movie City News and finally (we pray) the Los Angeles Times.

Are we oversimplifying? No more so than Goldstein, who ambitiously invokes everyone from Pauline Kael to Matt Drudge en route to the same sorta-thinky semi-conclusion at which the last 100 writers who tackled this issue arrived:

Whether critics are irritants or masters of elucidation, opinions still matter. But no one is respected simply because of the authority of the institution they write for. The Web isn't the enemy of critical thinking. The land of a million blogs is a medium brimming with opinion. What's different is the reader gets to decide whose opinion matters the most. It's a big adjustment, but maybe it's time critics, like many artists, realize they should pay more attention to their audience.

So should Goldstein, the ultimate latecomer to a dance that really got going back in 2006 when everybody and his mother (including David Carr and Anne Thompson, who've eagerly revisited the meme in the last seven days) was writing about the phenomenon of the "critic-proof" film. Readers didn't care then, and two years of distance and 27 critical casualties later, they still don't seem to be reacting — unless, that is, you count our eyes rolling back in our heads at the first glance of Goldstein's "analysis." We don't.

Not coincidentally, all this overkill dovetails with The New York Times's recent "Blogging Will Kill You" fret-piece; it's not just Web writers inflating demand in a voracious 24/7 news cycle. Goldstein et. al. prove that a slow news week is slow everywhere. It just feels that much slower when we can sense what's coming from a mile away.

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