Thursday, March 20, 2008

More movies, fewer reviews

In a really, truly, drearily depressing Hollywood Reporter feature, writer Greg Goldstein notes the latest bad news about movie coverage in major newspapers. Not only are critics being laid off, bought out or reassigned right and left. Now some major dailies -- including the New York Post and the New York Daily News -- are opting not to print even wire-service reviews of certain documentaries, indie flicks and foreign-language imports. And mind you, we're not talking about unheralded obscurities. No, we're talking about films such as the highly acclaimed 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days and the Oscar-winning Taxi to the Dark Side (for which the Daily News ran only on-line reviews). Why the cutback? Because "as more and more indie films have flooded the market (up from 501 in 2006 to 530 last year), they are overwhelming critics," Goldstein writes.

The article also notes that, at some papers, editors are using stringers to help fill the void left by departed (and unreplaced) film critics. In the interest of full disclosure: For three years, I reviewed movies as a stringer for the San Francisco Examiner; more recently, I've strung for the Houston Chronicle. And of course, for the past 18 years or so, I've been a free-lance critic and correspondent for Variety, the showbiz bible. So, of course, I'm kinda-sorta disposed to thinking that using stringers is a simply dandy idea. (And if any other papers want me to review movies for them, hey, I'm available.) But others see this as a less-than-perfect solution. Indeed, Goldstein quotes the lovely and talented Fredell Pogodin, an L.A.-based publicist, as slamming the use of wire-service and stringer critics because, in most cases, readers "don't know enough about a person's voice and what they like for their review to count."

What about on-line critics? "We're not at a point where Internet writers have the credibility of established media with proven records and editors," says ThinkFilm's Mark Urman. So there. Actually, he's right, but still... well, gee whiz...

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