Who needs local movie critics?

April 1, 2008
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The New York Times today reports on the continued trend of newspapers ditching their film critics.

Yes, we’ve discussed cuts in newspaper coverage of the arts here in the past — but this debate is a little different when it comes to movies. If newspapers cut their local music, theater, dance and art coverage, those artistic trees falling in the forest may be heard by a few people, but no one who wasn’t there will know what the forest looked like.

When it comes to film, though, anyone with a computer can visit fandango.com and read a range of opinions on just about any film in release. And most newspapers are continuing coverage — just picking up reviews from other sources instead of using their own writers.

Truth is, there is no shortage of film critics or film writing. But what do we lose when a local paper doesn’t have a local film critic? Do you read the reviews in Nuvo (which maintains its own critic) differently than you do those in the Indianapolis Star (which doesn’t)?

Your thoughts?
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  • I usually pay attention to a few movie critics whose opinions over time, I've learned more closely match my own tastes. I think the Nuvo reviewer seems to be jaded much of the time and I've disagreed many times with the reviews. I read EW's reviews, and sometimes when choosing movies to add to my Netflix list, I'll check certain reviewers recommendations. Now, if a movie has consistently crap reviews, regardless of the cred of the reviewers, I'll probably skip it. Do we need all the little guys at all the individual papers? I don't know... maybe not? I hate to say it - but I'm not likely to read the Nuvo movie reviews much. I think when it comes to the other arts, reviews are more helpful, as I may not know as much about the local theaters, art exhibits, ect, and will read the reviews on those matters, in IBJ (of course!), Nuvo, or Indy.com. Movies are pretty mainstream for most people and I think they mostly already know if they like the director, actor, story, ect.
  • Maybe I shouldn't confess this, but I never used to read reviews of any kind until a) I got a day job that required me to read book reviews and, more recently, b) I discovered that I liked writing reviews of live theatre and thought I could get better at it by taking professional reviewers as my role models.

    Before that, I simply had adventures. I took chances. I browsed book stores and libraries. I popped into movie theatres and restaurants. I listened to whatever music the guy I was dating happened to like, and then decided for myself whether or not I liked it, too.

    I am sure that I missed a lot of great stuff, and some people would say that I wasted a lot of time, but I didn’t care. ‘Still don’t. I am as much of a workaholic as the next person, but saving time” is over-rated.

    Now, however, I have discovered that I LOVE reading well-considered reviews of just about anything from reviewers with juicy voices who have dug in to their callings. I love comparing their opinions to my own.

    I also enjoy reading their thoughts on movies, or whatever, that I haven't seen yet. I enjoy imagining what the thing is like in person, based on what they are telling me about their experience of it.

    In other words, when the writing is good, I enjoy the review itself, just for itself. Who knew that “reviews” would become my new favorite art form?

    But Lou asked what we lose when a local paper doesn’t have a local film critic. Maybe the more important question is, “What do we lose when a local paper loses a GOOD local film critic?”

    We lose that much more of our edge as a uniquely desirable place to live, that’s what.

    Hope Baugh
    www.IndyTheatreHabit.com

    PS - Thanks to Lou, I only just TODAY discovered Nuvo's film critic, Ed Johnson-Ott. I learned from picking a past review at random that he (Ed) is a man after my own heart when it comes to star ratings. I also like his writing voice. Please don't anyone fire him!
  • We local filmmakers could use local film critics. Even though I could never get Bonnie Britton (The Star) to call me or acknowledge my existence, it was still nice knowing there was someone local who we could contact for that small desperate hope that she might write two or three words about RACSO Motion Pictures.

    Now there's Joe Shearer with Indy.com, and he's very eager to help out the local scene, plus the national market.

    Christopher Allen

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