Roger Ebert on the Death of the Film Critic

Pulitzer Prize winning movie critic Roger Ebert has written a passionate response to what some are calling the demise of the film critic, or what Ebert is calling “the death of an intelligent and curious, readership”. The whole thing was sparked when the Associate Press imposed a 500-word limited on movie reviews and interviews. I wouldn’t want to read a serious review of There Will Be Blood, or Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind under such limitations. Heck, I think Hunter’s TWBB review was something like 40,000 words (yeah, probably a little much, but I digress).

And some regions have decided that the film critic aren’t needed at all. Ebert blames the focus in our culture towards celebrity obsession. We use to be a culture obsessed with stories, but now the mainstream public is more obsessed with Britney Spears or Suri Cruise than good old fashion storytelling. Here are a few excerpts from his latest blog.

“As the CelebCult triumphs, major newspapers have been firing experienced film critics. They want to devote less of their space to considered prose, and more to ignorant gawking. What they require doesn’t need to be paid for out of their payrolls. Why does the biggest story about “Twilight” involve its fans? Do we need interviews with 16-year-old girls about Robert Pattinson? When was the last time they read a paper? Isn’t the movie obviously about sexual abstinence and the teen fascination with doomy Goth death-flirtation?”

“Why do we need critics? A good friend of mine in a very big city was once told by his editor that the critic should ‘reflect the taste of the readers.’ My friend said, ‘Does that mean the food critic should love McDonald’s?’ The editor: ‘Absolutely.’ I don’t believe readers buy a newspaper to read variations on the Ed McMahon line, ‘You are correct, sir!’ A newspaper film critic should encourage critical thinking, introduce new developments, consider the local scene, look beyond the weekend fanboy specials, be a weatherman on social trends, bring in a larger context, teach, inform, amuse, inspire, be heartened, be outraged.”

“Perhaps fearing the challenge of reading a newspaper will prove daunting, papers are using increasing portions of their shrinking news holes in providing guides to reading themselves.” … “The celebrity culture is infantilizing us. We are being trained not to think. It is not about the disappearance of film critics. We are the canaries. It is about the death of an intelligent and curious, readership, interested in significant things and able to think critically. It is about the failure of our educational system. It is not about dumbing-down. It is about snuffing out. The news is still big. It’s the newspapers that got small.”

I highly recommend that you read Ebert’s entire rant on his Sun-Times Blog. I’d love to hear what you guys think about this in the comments below!

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