I’m the new guy.
Like anyone who cares about movies, I’ve been a dedicated follower of Matt Singer’s work in this space. Launching a blog about film criticism in an era where critics’ jobs are being axed left and right might have seemed like a counterintuitive move: If, as populist prophets are fond of saying, professional critics are like buggy-whip makers in the automobile era, then a publication devoted to them is the modern-day equivalent of Buggy Whip Digest. If you’re reading this, chances are you don’t believe criticism is obsolete. (SPOILER: Neither do I.) But I do think it’s frequently misunderstood, less in terms of its content than its function.
The purpose of criticism, at least as I see it, is to start a conversation, or to feed one already in progress. Reviewing, in the consumer-guide sense, is fast becoming obsolete: If all you want to know is whether a given wide release is worth your hard-earned $12, then one opinion is as good as any other, and you’re probably better off listening to your friends. But a well-informed, eloquently reasoned exploration of how a movie works, or how it fits into a larger context, is not so common, or so easily replaced.
The mission of Criticwire, as Matt established it and I envision it, is to find and further that conversation, whether it starts with a mainstream news outlet or an obscure blog — or a Gamma-irradiated freak with a regrettable fondness for the Caps Lock key — and to add our own voice to the choir. (Speaking of Matt, you’ll be able to read him at The Dissolve, Pitchfork’s movie-focused sister site, soon.) I’m particularly interested in what happens when writers, professional or otherwise, step away from the new-release grind and forge their own path, or when smart people from outside the sometimes incestuous circle of dedicated film writers bring a new perspective to the table. If you come across an article that deserves a wider audience, or write one yourself, drop a line to sam [at] indiewire [dot] com. (That email isn’t currently active, so give it a few.) You can also find me on Twitter.
Criticwire will be changing over the weeks to come; Indiewire’s Eric Kohn and Dana Harris have been kind enough to give me plenty of leeway, and I’m as interested as anyone to see where it takes me. But the biggest and most immediate change will be that we’re expanding Criticwire’s scope to cover television as well as film. The mediums have their distinctions, but with so many gifted artists working in both disciplines, and so many sharp critics writing about both, it seems only natural to acknowledge that the once profound chasm between TV and film has become a continuum.
With that said, I’ll stop talking about the business of Criticwire and start doing it. Here’s to the conversations to come.