Last weekend I was privileged enough to host a panel at the Maryland Film Festival on the state of film criticism.
Michael Sragow of the Baltimore Sun was unable to attend but Andrew O'Hehir from Salon.com filled in for him. I regret Michael not being there but Andrew was a great addition to the panel as he represented the online world that had been missing from the "all print" panelists.
Things ran pretty much as I expected with O'Hehir, Gardner, and Kaltenbach anticipating my notes. We didn't break any new ground or change the world but it was a lively discussion nevertheless. I tried to not interject myself into things too much, though I found that I was playing Devil's advocate at times and the naive idealist at others.
Some of the takeaways included:
- Chris Kaltenbach differentiated between "film reviews" and "film criticism" in a concise way; in film criticism you can talk about the end of a film where a film review should never give it away! This is a pretty good rule of thumb.
- Lee Gardner talked about a fascinating project he attempted; writing down the names and affiliations of every critic associated with blurbs found in movie ads in the New York Times. He tried tracking all of these critics down and found himself running into a vast number of movie reviewers who suddenly seemed to have gone missing.
- Andrew O'Hehir explained the editorial process through which his reviews undergo. It's quite a bit different from print.
It was a rather rousing discussion and one I hoped that would continue over drinks but the panelists scattered to the four winds afterwards.
As we were wrapping up someone mentioned, "If you want to read more of our reviews they're all available on RottenTomatoes.com to which I had to add, "Except me."
I found out yesterday that my application to the OFCS (Online Film Criticism Society)--a gateway to Rotten Tomatoes--has been refused. "The vote didn't go your way," is how it was explained to me. I had thought I was a shoo-in after being both online (eleven years) and writing reviews (fourteen years) but it's not in the cards to be part of the club, I suppose.