The internet has ushered in a plethora of wannabe film critics, that have very limited knowledge or experience in or with films. It is in this knowledge that educated criticisms can be made and drawn that are concise and constructive. Anybody can be a film reviewer today, but only someone who understands the details of film, can write truly great reviews. One of the world’s top film critics, Leonard Maltin talks about the challenges of film criticism today, and how Hollywood is killing the film industry.
In a recent interview with Screen Daily, Maltin says that we can partially blame social media and the internet for the dilution of film criticism:
“There’s no shortage of good and intelligent film critics. There’s a lack of interest and there’s a dilution of criticism in general because of the internet and social media.
On one hand one has to applaud the democratization of communication. There are no gatekeepers, so everyone can… write as they please. But the flip side of the coin is there are no standards being upheld, that’s risky, that’s dangerous.
When people ask me what qualities critics should have I have a stock answer, it should be equal parts passion and knowledge, and the knowledge comes from experience. If you’ve never seen silent films, or foreign language films, if your education with film begins with ‘Star Wars’ then you’re handicapped.”
Maltin went on to talk about how Hollywood’s need for big blockbusters are killing the art in film, and by pushing away artistic films are driving them to television, and ushering in a television renaissance:
“None of the studios are financing… or backing intelligent, adult material for the big screen [though] there are exceptions here and there. They’ve done this to themselves. They’ve driven people towards high-end television. TV outlets are giving [filmmakers] the opportunity to do something creatively rewarding, so how can they not jump at the chance at that, no matter where it ends up?
For the most part more people will see an HBO movie or show in one night than would see it in the widest theatrical release, unless it’s The Hunger Games. They’ll reach more people. Every filmmaker, actor, writer producer wants an audience. The truth is self-evident and yet my favourite film this year is Get Out, which comes from Universal, which backed Jordan Peele who had never made a movie before. I think he’s an important new voice in American film so every now and then stuff gets through.”
You could look at Maltin’s comments as being pompous, but he has a point. How can you really say that Star Wars is the best film ever, when you really have never seen any older films that at one time were also considered ‘the best ever?’ An old art professor of mine used to say, “You like this piece of art, but what about it do you like. ‘I like it’ really isn’t a critical stance.” It is only when you dive into the vocabulary, techniques, and styles of film, can you really talk critically about them.