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Stephanie Zacharek Laid Off By Movieline; Film Critic Position “Eliminated”

Stephanie Zacharek Laid Off By Movieline; Film Critic Position "Eliminated"

On Twitter, film critic Stephanie Zacharek announced that she has been laid off by Movieline. July 13th will be her last day at the site; her position (“Chief Critic,” according to the masthead) is being “eliminated.” I reached out to Movieline for clarification about the future of criticism at the site — is the “Chief Critic” position eliminated? Will their other critics, Michelle Orange and Alison Willmore, see more work? Will they be hiring someone else? — and got back a “No comment.”

The immensely talented Zacharek moved to Movieline a little over two years ago, after eleven years at the venerable culture website Salon. Her layoff is especially sad because Movieline has become such a vital destination for smart film criticism in recent years. Between Zacharek, Orange, and Willmore (who, full disclosure that you all already know, is my former colleague at IFC and current colleague at our Filmspotting: Streaming Video Unit podcast), Movieline had one of the best film critic staffs in the country, and they could always be counted on for fresh, fair takes on everything from blockbusters to indies. Last week, Zacharek had me chuckling at her water main break drenched review of “Piranha 3DD.” This week, I greatly admired her thoughtful take on “Prometheus.” I guess Movieline thought her work wasn’t essential to their mission, but I know I speak for a lot of people when I say she was the number one reason I visited the site.

Zacharek’s untimely departure from Movieline reminded me of something she wrote in her final post before she left Salon.

“When I was a journalism student in the 1980s, if you had told me that by 2010 it would be nearly impossible for a smart, experienced professional to make a living wage as a journalist or editor, I’d have accepted it only if you’d told me that by that time, we’d also be zooming around in flying cars, like the Jetsons. Journalism, as a profession, is in danger of dying; I’m still waiting for that flying car.”

We’re all still waiting. But in the meantime, someone should hire Stephanie Zacharek.

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charlie adler

completely agree, Zacharek was the main reason for visiting ml


My very favorite critic is Manohla Dargis, but I have always appreciated Zacharek. Its a shame that she was laid off. Shame on you Movieline!


She's the most talented movie critic in the world. I've just realized that she's also the only person I follow on Twitter…
I've been reading her articles for 12 years and believe me, you can learn more from her reviews than you can ever learn at any film school. And let me add this: she always asks for truth in filmmaking. That's why I love her work.


Must say, I never found Zacharek to be particularly original or insightful. When a critic is good, one can learn a different perspective from them even when one disagrees with them. That was never the case with Zacharek.

Judy L

Stephanie is the ONLY reason I visit Movieline. She is the best and most thoughtful film critic in the world and this is a tragedy.

Pauline Krull

Willmore and Orange are fantastic and tremendously underrated. Superior to Zacaharek, who seems to be more interested in what clever sentences she can come up with than actual passionate discourse. Name a single movie championed by Zacahrek that we owe discovery to her? A single review of hers that's landmark, that shifted your understanding of a movie (Piranha 3DD? Is there really an audience waiting on baited breath with her thoughts on that movie?) Pageviews aside, what effect is film criticism having if at all?

Movieline is horrendous though. I can't tell if Jen Yamato works in PR or journalism. Van Airsdale is such an obnoxious bitch and it infects the site. It's a site that doesn't love movies or the effect they have on people. The IM exchange between Yamato and Airsdale about Red Tails with Tyler Perry jokes was particularly odious.

I hope someday Orange, Willmore and Kartina Richardson (formerly with Ebert presents) get their due as brilliant, passionate film writers. Those three make me desperately want to see and think about certain movies. Zacahrek wants to dictate to me how she's superior to them. I don't celebrate anyone losing a job, but until film critics learn to share love with us again instead of jaded trivialities it won't matter.


Email at:

Let them know this was an idiot move.

Sevin Okyay

So sorry to witness another sign that journalism may really be dying. Sorrier still not to have an address for the time being in which to find Zacharek and read her reviews. However, it's Movieline's loss, I believe that Stephanie will pop up somewhere soon enough. She is one of the very best for me. My best to her and to Charles Taylor, the articles of whom I have also read with pleasure.


Good riddance to one of the worst critics in America.

The woman incarnates everything that's wrong with the profession. She's obnoxious, supercilious, smug, self-satisfied, haughty, condescending, intellectually lazy, incurious, and not one-tenth as smart as she thinks she is. Also, she is (apart from her husband Charles Taylor) the most shameless copycat of Pauline Kael who ever lived. Almost all of her opinions were cribbed from Kael, nor would she ever budge an inch from a Kael-derived stance once adopted. Quite simply: the epitome of middlebrow poshlost smugness.

The simple fact is, there is no need for professional critics to exist at all. The internet renders them redundant. I've read plenty of superb film criticism over the years, but practically all of it was written by either retired critics (e.g. Rosenbaum, Kaufmann), dead critics (take your pick), or simply gifted amateurs (any number of excellent bloggers, who can go into far greater depth and precision of analysis than the space-constrained professionals). The pros rarely deliver the goods; certainly Zacharek, with her smug, hipster reverence for schlock and trash (because it feeds her infantile ego) and disdain for challenging art, almost never did.


This deeply saddens me not just because Stephanie is a wonderful, immensely talented writer, but a couple years back she wrote a lovely article about a noir montage I did, and having someone like her recognize my potential as a film editor is invaluable. I know Stephanie will land on her feet–maybe she can stop by Filmspotting in the meantime?–and I send my sincerest, best wishes to her and Charles.

MaryAnn Johanson

Roger Ebert wrote: The underlying problem may be that the internet survives on the assumption that people should be happy to work for free.

A bigger problem: A lot of people *are* working for free for big corporate sites with staffs and budgets that are paying everyone else but the writers. When pageviews are all that matter, thoughtful writing cannot survive.

Asian Movie Waif

The tone of Stephanie's writing is pleasantly conversational but it's steeped in knowledge, insight, really wicked wit (like her real person) and always gets to the heart of the film. I too laughed out loud when reading her and re-played her sentences in my mind. And what's really special to me is that both her writing and her person is impressive but not intimidating. Thanks for all this.

Roger Ebert

I admire her work so much. I hope she will find a new home shortly. Her husband Charles Taylor was also excellent at Salon. The underlying problem may be that the internet survives on the assumption that people should be happy to work for free. Sooner or later the rent will come due.


She is one of my favorite critics writing today, in that I took great pleasure in reading her reviews and while I don't agree with her opinion 100% of the time, she's led me to some movies that I adored ("Hellboy," "The Last Mistress") that I would never have seen without her prompting. I really hope she'll find a home for her writing!

Jake Jacobson

The car has flown. Inevitable? Infuriating. Living wage? Over. Movieline…now just another studio megaphone…grrrrr.


Another sad day for film journalism and all cinephiles.

Anselma Dell'Olio

The Number One reason for visiting Movieline? How about the ONLY reason I ever visited Movieline; not that I have anything against the site, just that she is the reason I ever checked it out. Zacharek will surely be snapped up pronto by a discerning publisher. Corky, dyspeptic and original, I look forward to following her wherever she decides to go, arguing with her all the way. In bocca al lupo, Zac! (Crepi il lupo.)

Guy Flatley,

Stephanie Zacharek is a lively, probing critic, an elegant writer who could never be mistaken for an on-line softie. So naturally she got dumped.

David Edelstein

One less magazine I'll visit to re-examine my responses and re-watch movies through the eyes of a unique and remarkable writer, and one whose bold earnestness routinely puts dodgy ironists like me to shame.


Sad for Stephanie, but was this worthy of an Indie Wire News Alert? Seriously?


Well sure, everyone's a critic, everyone can shout out on anything at any time. Why read well thought ought opinion/criticism.
What next – just say good, bad, indifferent…

Audrey Ewell

The internet giveth, and the internet taketh away. I'm just not sure if I totally like this brave new frontier we're building. Agree or disagree with a knowledgeable critic's take on film, I prize having people who recognize the influences and historical contexts of the films and filmmakers making movies today. I kind of hate the youtube era. Everyone's got an opinion. But the informed opinions are being drowned out in the pure volume of people shouting FIRST every chance they get.

Mark Rabinowitz

Ugh. The purge continues. Come on over to the old critics home, Stephanie. I'll make the gin and tonics.

Kate Erbland

While 8 times out of 10, I don't agree with Zacharek's opinions on films, that doesn't impact how much I enjoy her opinions and her style. She's one of the few fellow critics that I read religiously.

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