Off Topic: Film Criticism in the Age of the Internet

Jim Harper jimharper666
Tue Sep 23 08:59:17 EDT 2008

I too started my writing career in music, although not in print- I was contributing heavily to and writing audio biographies for spoken-word CDs. I still do music-oriented work from time to time but my focus has shifted to film. Much of it is online (I have been fortunate enough to find a website that pays and lets me review whatever I like) although I still prepare print articles and books.
I too agree with Theo Panayides' comments, the internet has been a major factor in the growth of film culture- the best sites and forums are clearinghouses for a vast amount of information about off-the-radar or non-mainstream films- but their impact on film criticism is less extensive. I don't think bloggers necessarily fulfill the same function as professional critics, although some of them do, and very successfully. Blogging also serves as an invaluable 'training ground' for aspiring writers; it's not easy to break into print- either in magazines or books- and blogging can be one way to hone your skills as a writer. In previous eras fanzines performed much the same service, giving talented writers their first break.

--- On Tue, 23/9/08, Mark Mays <tetsuwan at> wrote:

From: Mark Mays <tetsuwan at>
Subject: RE: Off Topic: Film Criticism in the Age of the Internet
To: KineJapan at
Date: Tuesday, 23 September, 2008, 12:10 PM

I?m pretty much in your boat Rob. I do music writing for print primarily these days (alt. weeklies squeezing out writers and all) and after focusing on music and before two kids I was blogging about film a lot. I?m on the same yahoo group as Steve (so are over half the people interviewed for the piece, hmmm) and the topic has come up there a couple of times and Ridley?s mentioned it as well. I?d take issue with Steve saying internet *criticism* aided the rise of South Korean cinema, extreme Japanese film makers, etc. I think it was more Internet chatter than criticism ? high tech word of mouth ? like posts on the now thoroughly discredited usenet groups. Internet critics, especially those of the Japanese film is dead variety, came late to that party. There are exceptions of course, and I?m thinking as I type this were those exceptions, like Midnight Eye, at the root of all the success. I mean, should Roy Lee and Nakata be giving Tom and
 Jasper a cut of the profits (you two or three can chime in and take credit if you like)?
The Net has definitely made it easier to see those kinds of movies, whether you?re downloading or ordering the cheap HK dvds. Having that kind of access probably pushed my writing career along a little faster b/c when Pulse, Jin-Roh, etc finally hobbled their way here I was the guy who knew about the stuff already. It?s the access to the material that is more significant to me than criticism or chatter, at least in terms of the on-topic works for kine-japan.
Writing for an alt.weekly I could, if the pitch was good enough, write about a wide variety of topics so, for little pay, I could write about an obscure director if indeed we were going to be able to see that film a year after it hit NY/LA/Chi.
Reed and Lyons only have security because they?ve been around longer and were in the right place at the right time. Lee definitely bounced back from the nastiness at the alt.weekly god paper, and if he choses can blog at will (does he?). 
As to the larger topic, I think Theo is salient on the impact of Internet critics.
Never knew D?Angelo was a one time Net only self published type dude. I?m now 40% less intimidated by him.

From: owner- KineJapan at [mailto:owner- KineJapan at ] On Behalf Of Rob Smith
Sent: Monday, September 22, 2008 9:50 PM
To: KineJapan at
Subject: Off Topic: Film Criticism in the Age of the Internet

Helo everyone.

This is not a Japanese film specific topic, but since so many of you work for newspapers (and I do, too, but as a music journalist, not film -- I just have a personal website to write about film on), run serious websites (Midnight Eye,, etc) or have had books on film published (and I'm sure there are some other bloggers out there, too), I'm curious on what the general take on the topic is from this list. 

"Film Criticism in the Age of the Internet: A Critical Symposium"
Cineaste, Vol. 33 No.4 (Fall 2008)

Some interesting points, I thought:

"There have been a few examples of Internet criticism making an impact on American film culture. It's aided the rise of South Korean cinema and mumblecore," says Steve Erickson of Gay City News. 
-To bring it on topic a little bit, I think this is also true of the "extreme" Japanese films and filmmakers, especially the likes of Takashi Miike and Hideo Nakataa. They were both cult on the internet long before Hollywood stepped in to remake or import their films. It's also true of smaller, or dramatic, directors like Shunji Iwai, Satoshi Miki, or Shinobu Yaguchi and had a definite impact concerning older, more obscure directors getting a spotlight, like Mikio Naruse before Criterion and BFI had put any of his films out on DVD, or before the Film Forum had their retrospective a few years ago. 
(I choose to not mention anime here, but the internet has clearly had the biggest imapct on that world than any other.)

This is by Self-styled Siren: "Criticism at the big media outlets usually has been release-driven, geared to reviewing a new movie in theaters or on DVD. Bloggers write about whatever we please, which I assume is why some professional critics blog on the side. In my case, the movies I care about are long, long past their release date. At the moment there's no mainstream print publication that will pay me to write about Jean Negulesco or three Titanic movies because I happen to feel like it." 
-This mirrors my own opinions, but I also can't help but feel a twinge of guilt for having my website when the likes of Nathan Lee from the Voice get fired (especially when the likes of Rex Reed and?Jeffrey Lyons are safely tucked into bed at night with their job security). It's something in my job as a music writer that I absolutely hate: if I get a CD in the mail a week late, I can't do anything about it. I love the freedom on my own website where I can write about whatever the hell movie from whatever year I feel like writing about, even if I don't necessarily take it as seriously (or shape it as much) as I would if I were writing a print review. 

J. Hoberman sums it up best, though, I think: "On the one hand, blogs are spontaneous and unedited; on the other, blogs are spontaneous and unedited."



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