Leonard Maltin On Modern Film Criticism Issues

With the internet has come the democratisation of film reviewing. Now anyone can be a film reviewer, and their reviews don’t have to be that good.

Long-form review essays are easier to publish than ever, but are few and far between. Sadly they’ve mostly given way to vox pop style podcasts, YouTube videos and social media hot takes along with film review score aggregate sites like Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic.

One of the most famous of U.S. film critics is Leonard Maltin who has spoken about today’s world of film criticism with Screen Daily, saying:

“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 also spoke about how Hollywood studios, in chasing tentpoles, have only have themselves to blame for rise of high-end television:

“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.”

A few notable critics and outlets still publish long form reviews, and the blossoming of the internet has led to a number of celebrated online film reviewers who wouldn’t have gone through the regular journalism route. Does Maltin have a point about modern criticism though? Have your say in the comments below.