Volume 14, Issue 6 / June 2010

Film Criticism and the Internet

In this issue Offscreen casts a somewhat inner eye at the merits of film criticism on the internet. In recent years there has been debate between the practitioners of print film criticism and online writing, probably best represented (if not also triggered by) a series of running symposia on film criticism published in recent issues of Cineaste, starting with the “International Film Criticism Today” symposium in Vol. 31, No. 1, December 2005, “Film Criticism in the Age of the Internet” in the Fall 2008, Vol. 33 Issue 4, and the “Symposium on Cult Cinema and Cinephilia” in Winter 2008, Vol. 34 Issue 1. The fall-out has been a series of niggling battles between the ‘younger’ medium (internet) and the ‘older’ medium (print), with proponents of the latter claiming that the internet has ruined film criticism (most recently by Armond White, discussed by Paul Salmon in his included essay), while champions of the internet (like ‘old timer’ Jonathan Rosenbaum, who claims he “lives on the internet”) take a far more level headed approach. Paul Salmon gets the issue off with a thoughtful overview of some of the main issues surrounding this debate. My own brief essay follows with the minor goal of laying out some of the strengths of internet writing (added to those noted by Salmon). I hold Daniel Garrett’s work, which has appeared in Offscreen‘s electronic (electric?) pages for many years, as a model of intelligent and forceful film criticism. Garrett’s writing always comes from a storehouse of personal expression (political, ideological, cultural, philosophical), but moderated by the reasoning mind of critical objectivity. Garrett opens his piece with a preamble on the cultural worth of the film critic and film criticism, before moving on to a series of mini-reviews of recent films which are again a model in succinctness. The final two pieces in the issue stand as examples of what we are talking about: good film criticism. These two reviews embody what I argue in my think piece “Film Writing and Sturgeon’s Law” constitutes the proper work of a film critic: writing that is informed by a background of proper contextualisation (national, industry, auteur, or genre). The two reviews, the first on the Bourne trilogy and the second on Green Zone, are written by first-time Offscreen writer Leon Saunders Calvert (who has a more involved essay on Batman, “How Christopher Nolan Made Batman Grow Up,” forthcoming in a future issue).

P.S. This issue is dedicated to the life and work of the great film writer Robin Wood, whose committed and intelligent film criticism, theory and analysis, and personal dedication to writing was and remains a model for past and future film writers. The issue photo of Wood was taken from Robin Wood’s blog. Wood passed away on December 18, 2009. (Donato Totaro, ed.)

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