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From the Wire: Schwarzbaum on a Film Critic’s Mission

From the Wire: Schwarzbaum on a Film Critic's Mission

Film critic Lisa Schwarzbaum wraps up her twenty-two year tenure at Entertainment Weekly this week with a farewell essay about her time on the movie beat. She includes a few anecdotes — a “pissed-off wife of a wildly successful producer” once sent her a popcorn bucket filled with stones, because apparently when you’re the pissed-off wife of a wildly successful producer you’ve got plenty of time and money on your hands for bizarre, florid gestures — and leaves readers with what she believes is the mission of both film critics and their readers. What’s important, she writes, is not what we think about a particularly movie, “but why:”

“My part of the conversation is to use my own experience, analytic ability, aesthetic understanding, points of reference, writing skills, and — lucky me! — EW platform to explain how I come to, say, adore the ‘Lord of the Rings’ trilogy or despair of the hideous ‘Saw’ sensibility…. Your mission is to read with an open mind, watch movies with an open mind, and use the places where we diverge as inspiration for an ongoing conversation about this ever-changing medium we love together.”

In other words: the critic tells you what they think, not what you’re supposed to think. Don’t decide how you feel about a movie before you see it, and don’t attack people who disagree with you. All of these sentiments are Criticwire approved — good luck Lisa, and thanks for the conversation.

Read more of “Lisa Schwarzbaum on Loving Movies, Being a Critic, Engaging With You, and the Beauty of Agreeing to Disagree.”

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Edward Copeland

"In other words: the critic tells you what they think, not what you're supposed to think. Don't decide how you feel about a movie before you see it, and don't attack people who disagree with you." Amen, Matt. I don't know how many times in my life I've tried to get this concept through people's thick skulls. The problem is that (most) critics feel the need to have their opinions validated by someone else while regular folks do, so if a critic pans a movie they liked their lack of confidence turns into an attack on the critic. There are no right and wrong opinions when it comes to movies. It's all subjective. Critics know more about movies, but if a civilian likes something that I didn't that doesn't make either of us wrong. It gets especially insane now as we roll toward the Oscars. As a lifelong Oscarholic, I understand people who get upset when their favorites lose (or they think are about to lose), but I got past that for the most part when I was a teen and realized that the Oscars do not in any way, shape or form represent the final word in excellence in film. It's a glorified opinion poll. I think the Internet has made it worse. Oscars + Internet = Madness.

As for Ms. Schwarzbaum, I'm sorry to see her leave EW (and Ken Tucker as well). Two more reasons not to pick up what once was an interesting magazine cover-to-cover.

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