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Criticwire Survey: Why Tweet?

Criticwire Survey: Why Tweet?

Q: In separate interviews this week, both the director and president of the Cannes Film Festival said that instant Twitter reaction to films has damaged the “general spirit” of the festival. What effect do you think social media has had on criticism — both generally and for you personally? How do you use Twitter, Facebook et al. as a critic, and if you don’t, why not?

Matt Zoller Seitz, RogerEbert.com, Vulture

I’m not sure it really gets us anywhere, talking about whether instant Twitter reaction to screenings is a good thing or bad thing, or even what it is doing to the fortunes of movies that play festivals. It is a thing. It has been happening to one degree or another for years. And before there was Twitter, there were wire service stories and dispatches by critics for major publications that gave instant reactions to movies, though of course instant meant the next day for the most part. Such pieces could damage the prospect of the film, not just by personally describing it in negative terms, but by reporting the negative reaction of other viewers, such as booing or arguments amongst the membership of prize-giving juries.

Many professional critics and a good number of full-time unpaid film bloggers do go on to write more substantial pieces about the film they see at festivals. And there are a number of critics out there perfecting the terse, multiple tweet review into an art form of its own.

The important question, to me, is: do Twitter “reviews” of movies, and festivals or in regular release, have any value whatsoever beyond the day they appear? For the most part I believe they don’t. They are the social media versions of a standing ovation, tepid applause, a yawn, or a raspberry. I am told that the youngest generation of film lovers seeks out tweets about movies they’ve just seen, but I follow a lot of them and I don’t see a whole lot of evidence of this happening.

What I do see are people linking to full-length reviews. I myself am heartened when people link to something I wrote years ago, in some cases a review that I forgot even writing. I very rarely see anyone linking weeks or months later to an instant reaction that I tweeted after a screening. If we feel any disquiet about the role of Twitter in shaping perceptions of films, perhaps we might be heartened by taking the long view.

Eric Kohn, Indiewire

My first tweet, in 2008, was simply “Filing.” Nearly everything that has landed on my feed since then has stemmed from that statement. When I started using Twitter, it was the glue that held together my freelance life, the best immediate platform for sharing all my bylines in one place. These days, it fulfills that job in a broader sense, by reflecting the intersection of my personal and professional sensibilities as they relate to the work I do with my colleagues at Indiewire — as well as how my life beyond the site informs my role within it. I see Twitter now as a means of contextualizing my sensibilities in real time. I don’t get drawn into prolonged debates, though I can tell that for certain critics, Twitter can be a very constructive platform for just that.

Frémaux is understandably distressed by the combination of speed and concision that seems to be overwhelming more substantial debates about movies. But he’s wrong; those debates are proliferating, partly because they’re being enhanced by the broader access points that Twitter provides. If one tweet starts a conversation, that’s one more conversation about the movies that wouldn’t otherwise take place. At a time when the marketplace is more cluttered with media than ever, we need all the movie-related spats we can get. Online conversations about movies are living proof of a vibrant film culture.

I think Twitter/Facebook’s chief value for criticism is much the same as the huddle of critics you’ll typically find outside a venue following some film festival screening. It’s a window into a curated, but highly fragmented, conversation. That’s how we process the world on a day to day basis in the 21st century, so it’s a pretty good model for one way in which criticism has evolved to meet new media paradigms. (Worth noting that Girish Shambu delves into this topic in great detail with his excellent new book “The New Cinephilia.”) Of course, these platforms aren’t very effective at filtering out extraneous noise and stupidity. But the onus is on the user, not the platform, to figure out how to parse the negative and positive contributions. Kind of like the role of a good film critic.

Farran Smith Nehme, New York Post, Self-Styled Siren

In a way, I admire Thierry Frémaux for going after all the tweeting, because from a PR standpoint, as far as I can see, tweeting is good. Many’s the time I have been at a screening where the flacks and the talent were urging people who liked the movie to tweet about it. And hearing that Cannes hated something — well, it’s still publicity. I figure Frémaux must genuinely find tweets distasteful, and prefers the measured, marinated take.

I’d like to answer from a different angle, though, which is how it affects a critic’s brand, so to speak. There are certainly film writers who’ve built a career on the whole “FIRST!” routine, though I think that’s increasingly hard to do. There are also some who excel at witty 140-character insta-reactions. But it’s interesting that some of the best and most prominent critics either aren’t on social media (I wonder if Manohla Dargis uses her computer for much more than email) or, if they are, maintain silence until after the review hits. I think that’s an approach with some advantages. I am all the more eager to read a review from a critic I admire when s/he hasn’t tipped me off already. Maybe an alternative way to build an audience is not to make your longer opinions anticlimactic. When the late-year frenzy rolls around, I’d love to see a critic stumble out of a screening and tweet something like “Knight of Cups (2015, Malick) Verdict: Wouldn’t you like to know.”

Alonso Duralde, TheWrap, What the Flick?!

Generally, my Facebook and Twitter feeds exist to guide people to my full-length reviews. If I’m at Sundance seeing a world premiere, however, I’ll dash off a quick thought or two for people who are hungering for feedback, and while I don’t see anything wrong with that, such a brief and dashed-off opinion is no substitute for a fully fleshed-out review. The Cannes folks would be better served updating their dress code for women on the red carpet.

Peter Howell, The Toronto Star

Hasty words rarely improve an argument, so I understand where Thierry Frémaux and Pierre Lescure are coming from in their dislike of tweeted reviews. But it seems to me that they may be a couple of years behind the Twitter curve. I noticed this year that fewer critics were tweeting instant reviews than in the past. Or so it seemed to me. So the problem, if indeed it is a problem, may be a self-correcting one. And snap judgements at Cannes are certainly not a new thing. My first visit to the fest was in 1997, when Johnny Depp’s directorial debut, “The Brave,” was roundly booed by the assembled media, effectively strangling the film in its cradle long before Twitter was around. Ditto for Vincent Gallo’s “The Brown Bunny” in 2003. My own habit now is to avoid tweeting immediately after I see a film, so I can reflect on what I’ve seen and try to think of something worthwhile to say about it in 140 characters. Most films at Cannes are worth taking the time to ponder.

Carrie Rickey, Yahoo! Movies, TruthDig

I’m old-fashioned and I’m on Twitter. If it’s before the week of release, I rarely tweet about a movie. And I generally tweet only positive reactions week-of. A tweet doesn’t give one’s followers anything but smart-assery or thumbs up or down.

Still, to Cannes’ Thierry Lemieux I would say: Le cheval is out of le barn. To criticize the festival’s selections is not the same as criticizing the Festival. 

Scott Weinberg, Nerdist

The uber-elite always seem to dislike an open forum. Yes, there are always a few people who have to be “FIRST!” and sometimes they say stupid things. So what? We can decide for ourselves which opinions have merit and which ones do not. As for people who tweet during films, here’s a solution: don’t give those people press passes next year. Problem solved.

Richard Brody, New Yorker

Having never been to the Cannes festival, I can’t speak to its “general spirit,” but whether or not the program this year was generally as mediocre as some have claimed, the festival will survive some tweets about it, just as it survived François Truffaut’s mid-’50s invective. What ultimately gets remembered about a festival is its handful of exceptional films, not average grades. Now, to the question: I tweet because, one day about six years ago, a colleague at the time, Thessaly La Force, came over to my desk and said, “There’s this thing called Twitter and I think you’d enjoy it.” Hedonist that I am, I tried it; I liked it. A big reason why I liked it is that, just around that time, David Hudson, whose indispensable blog I followed more closely than Mets box scores, migrated his updates to Twitter, and lots of movie people followed him there. So when I got to Twitter, I was in instant virtual conversation with people who shared my passion for David’s subjects, including people I knew and people I knew by sight from screenings but had never met. I wasn’t tweeting into a void but edging into a conversation already in progress. There were hiccups along the way, notably, the difficulty of controlling tone in 140 characters or less, which resulted in silly spats with a few people I consider friends in real life; had we discussed the exact same differences over coffee, we’d have laughed our way through it. So the answer to the question, “Why tweet?” is, “Why not?” 

Many of my favorite critics are there, and it’s a pleasure and a privilege to chat with them — and an equal privilege to chat with a wide range of people, in and out of the business, who care about movies and other subjects of mutual interest, to hear from readers, to share pleasures and to share in those of others, and to catch opinions flung out on the wing, whether regarding pleasures or revulsions. Twitter is a great virtual café; it’s also a crucial source of news — artistic and political, local and world-wide. There’s not much downside; even the amount of time involved is less of a burden than the time spent defending it. As for critics tweeting during screenings? They shouldn’t be on their phones in any case. If distributors at festivals imprudently lunge into a buying frenzy because of early Twitter-buzz, that’s their own fault, not that of critics, who are barely getting started on the films in question, and it certainly isn’t Twitter’s fault. The effect of Twitter on criticism? It improves it, because ideas get shared and discussed more readily; it puts the proverbial bloggers-in-their-pajamas, as well as writers at smaller-circulation publications, on the same playing field with wide-circulation veterans; some of the best critics around are self-published bloggers and freelancers, so a system that brings them to well-deserved prominence is all to the good. Not to be all Panglossian about it, though — the machine of mutual reinforcement solidifies orthodoxies and amplifies consensus; but since we started with Truffaut the critic, let’s end with him: everyone is someone’s Verneuil — someone’s mainstream — and someone else’s outlier.

Charles Bramesco, Random Nerds, The Dissolve

My relationship with Twitter is a complex one, in that I know I spend too much time on it and arguing with strangers all day is detrimental to your mental health, but I’m fucking addicted and can’t stay off of that goddamn web site. I love it there! As a critic, you can shoot the bull on any topic under the sun with a host of colleagues any hour of the day. I’ve made a number of connections through Twitter and met some dynamite people, so as a social tool, I can only give it my highest praise.

But as a tool for criticism, that’s another matter entirely. There’s something to be said for brevity as a method of whittling down a thought to the its very essence. (It was at this point that I took a break from writing this response to go check Twitter. Jesus Christ.) But for the most part, I think Twitter’s not the best way to conduct in-depth debates over film minutiae. That kind of talk necessitates more than 140 characters. During film festival season, however, I do appreciate Twitter. Hearing the reports from a film world premiere trickle in real-time is weirdly thrilling for hitting “refresh.” It’s worth the agony over knowing that as a peasant, I won’t be seeing these pictures for about a year.

Daniel Fienberg, HitFix

Twitter is still a curated feed and the idea that “The Internet” is replacing critics is only true if you think a tweet from somebody with 50 followers means the same as a tweet from somebody with 50,000 follows and if you think that the difference between somebody with 50 followers and 50,000 followers is just dumb luck. But no, Twitter reaction hasn’t damaged the “general spirit” of any film festival. A good, 140-character tweet, or even a clever series of three tweets, isn’t likely to replace a good, full-length review any time soon, but a good 140-character tweet, or a clever series of three tweets, beats silence, which I’ve been told by publicists a dozen times at Sundance. I can’t say how many times a few interested and interesting tweets have attracted my curiosity to a festival film that I knew nothing about and, in that case, I’m far more likely to take heed of those tweets than of a full review that I might not read because I might not want to have my own opinion wholly influenced.

But Twitter is a part of the mechanism of communication and buzz and, when warranted, the love of unknown cinema, which is EXACTLY the “general spirit” of any film festival. Is it incumbent on those of us who do tweet at film festivals, or any event or in any reactive situation, to try to not go off half-cocked and to try to give at least some consideration to what we put out there? Sure. But that’s always the case. And it’s always the case for anybody to determine whether or not the people they follow tweet with due consideration and with sufficient intellectual measure. But Twitter and Facebook and several other things are all just part of an expanded online brand presence and as pretentious as that sounds, that’s what folks have to do in 2015. But there are good brands and bad brands and that’s no different now than… ever, I guess.

Ben Travers, Indiewire

Having never been to Cannes, I don’t think I can comment on the “general spirit” of the festival. However, I don’t think instant reaction is a bad thing. How a film (or TV show, play, piece of music, etc.) makes you feel immediately after it ends is a huge part of judging the experience. Twitter provides an outlet for those feelings, and — for the most part — good critics tweet well and bad critics tweet poorly. It’s up to the users to choose whose voice they listen to by carefully selecting who shows up in their feed. If you go searching for information that’s trending, it’s still up to the user to interpret what’s out there — who’s a credible source, who’s trolling for retweets, and how much thought went into those 140 characters. 

To me, that’s the beauty of modern criticism. Anyone looking for short, topical reviews can still find them from brilliant minds via Twitter. Those same critics are providing in-depth analyses, as well (and usually linking to them in the same tweets), but the reader gets to decide how deeply they want to invest. I try to keep that in mind with my own social media use: tease a story for those who want it, but provide enough information up front for those who don’t, all while establishing a personality people will want to keep in their feeds. Do I do this well? Probably not, but enough people do to make social media an integral part of the critical landscape. It’s where the discussion is happening, with or without us, so why not start there?

Joanna Langfield, The Movie Minute

I broke my foot. Well, it was a fracture, really, but it was enough to keep me grounded for a while and unavailable to run screaming whenever anyone asked me to start a Twitter or Facebook account. So, trapped, I did. While it was never my intention to post pictures of my breakfasts, I knew many of my syndicate’s affiliates wanted to link my reviews to their sites and many of my colleagues were expanding their “brand” by, in effect, mastering their own destinies on social media. I began to tweet my reviews, discover old high school theater pals and even make a few new friends, or at least friends by what the 21st century definition of that may be. 

My foot healed but my love/hate relationship with social media has not. As someone who began her broadcast career in the wild and wooly world of talk radio, I was accustomed to interacting with my audience and still get a kick out of the back and forth posting can bring. I have learned to rely on the Internet for breaking news and exposure to some really great thinking out there. The inherent narcissism of the whole thing still makes me queasy as does the vehement snark that seems to define much of what goes on, both from professionals and lay people. I keep threatening that someday, I’m going to actually publish the snappy retorts that pop into my mind when I read this stuff. Maybe next century. As with breaking news, it seems studied or at least considered thought about film can take a back seat to immediacy. And, honestly, is there anything better about a birthday than getting all those amazing greetings on Facebook? And so, we tweet. To paraphrase Woody Allen, I guess most of keep going through it because we need the eggs, for whatever real and virtual reasons.

James Poniewozik, Time

In TV criticism, we have our own, less lush versions of Cannes—the TCA critics’ press tour and the upfronts—and now and then the networks grouse about critics tweeting from them, tweeting responses to review screeners, and so on. Sometimes it’s justified (especially, say, tweeting snark about what somebody’s wearing to a TCA session). But big picture, I don’t think that bringing the wider audience into the process hurts anyone (save maybe for shows that were going to get hurt eventually anyway). And I don’t think it hurts criticism to show that we critics too, sit in front of the tube and have gut reactions; that we later process them and make sense of them; and that we maybe even eventually change our minds.

So I use Twitter all the time professionally, but I don’t do much in a tweet that I’d call actually criticism. It’s more like the acids in a primordial puddle that may eventually get hit by lightning and turn into actual living criticism. It’s asking questions and joking and sounding out people’s thoughts — all the stuff that I’d do if I were watching TV in the room with them, except now I can bother you with my lame jokes instead of my wife and kids.

And the jokes are important, actually. My theory is that jokes are the perfect format for Twitter, because a good joke conveys levels of meaning beyond its text — it’s a good way, in other words, to fit more than 140 characters of meaning into 140 characters. That’s a good skill to have no matter what length you write at.

As for Twitter replacing criticism: no. Twitter can, maybe, replace REVIEWING — i.e., saying “This is great” or “This sucks” — which to me has always been the least important part of criticism (compared with, “This is why this is great” or “The way that this sucks is important because ____”). I’m more than glad to outsource that.

I don’t really use Facebook, though, probably because I don’t really like people that much.

Neil Young, Hollywood Reporter

I mainly use Twitter to promote my articles and monitor the progress of hated rivals.

Mike McGranaghan, The Aisle Seat, Film Racket

That’s some hardcore hypocrisy on the part of the Cannes Film Festival folks. Booing of films is okay, but tweeting isn’t? Get bent! Obviously, a 140-character tweet isn’t going to take the place of a full review. That said, there’s still something valuable about an instant reaction. Sometimes that immediate response is the purest, most undiluted expression of an opinion. Overall, I think social media has been a boon for film criticism. I use most of the popular channels to build an audience, promote my reviews, and generally connect with other people who love movies as much as I do. There’s also something to be said for the fact that use of Twitter, Facebook, etc. allows readers to get to know their favorite critics a little bit better. Most of us throw in tweets/posts about other things occasionally: our personal lives, politics, humor, whatever. Anything with a personal touch ultimately keeps people more engaged. Sure, social media can be abused or misused. By and large, though, I think a lot of critics are finding its true potential. 

Joey Magidson, The Awards Circuit

I suppose in this instance I’m a hypocrite, since I do think that social media has had a negative effect on criticism, but all the same I’m quick to post on Facebook and send out a tweet on Twitter as soon as I get out of a (non embargoed) screening, festival or otherwise. In terms of its purpose, I think there’s some good to be found in helping build the buzz for a deserving film as well as letting readers know what content to expect, but the need to instantly judge something is hardly beneficial. Social media is a part of life now that’s not easy to ignore, so it’s not like we’ll ever see the day where instant reactions at a fest go away. That being said, it is a shame that it’s diluting criticism on the whole, potentially even removing the need for critics/reviews in the eyes of some.

Jeff Berg, Las Cruces Bulletin, Reel New Mexico

What a great question…. I completely agree w/ those two gentlemen. I cannot stand social media and that is not completely because I am a misanthrope. I find that the need for instant gratification by so many people in so many areas of their lives saddening and without merit. Will someone, some day, compile a book of Tweetie Quotes as opposed to Literary Quotes by the great writers of the time? Does Facebook do anything other than falsely support the fragile egos of those who think that having 399 “friends” really means something? Is there anything more shallow and empty as someone sitting at a keyboard and sending off a 40 character missive about how sorry they are that Soandso or Soforth passed away? Especially when they are sitting on a toilet?

I do not use Facebook or Twitter for any of my film writings and only a page under a false name so that I can access Facebook pages of others when I need to. For a long time, I only had one “friend,” a great one, a lovely past partner, but found that I needed to change that when I went to work at an arthouse theatre where all of my co-workers were younger than I and in general, their only way of communicating was via some source of electronica. Two of them, both wonderful friends, began a relationship and were (are) proud of the fact that they had never talked on the phone.

I also recall, years ago as a lad, waiting in breathless anticipation so that I could read the reviews in the Friday morning papers in Chicago. But now, someone forms an opinion 40 seconds after seeing a film and shares it with everyone but me.

Peter Keough, Boston Globe

It will be a sad day when the great tradition of film criticism including James Agee, Manny Farber, Pauline Kael, Andrew Sarris, Jonathan Rosenbaum etc. is reduced to 144 characters.

Joey Magidson, The Awards Circuit

I suppose in this instance I’m a hypocrite, since I do think that social media has had a negative effect on criticism, but all the same I’m quick to post on Facebook and send out a tweet on Twitter as soon as I get out of a (non embargoed) screening, festival or otherwise. In terms of its purpose, I think there’s some good to be found in helping build the buzz for a deserving film as well as letting readers know what content to expect, but the need to instantly judge something is hardly beneficial. Social media is a part of life now that’s not easy to ignore, so it’s not like we’ll ever see the day where instant reactions at a fest go away. That being said, it is a shame that it’s diluting criticism on the whole, potentially even removing the need for critics/reviews in the eyes of some.

Josh Spiegel, Movie Mezzanine

Twitter has no more power to kill film criticism than does any single critic or media conglomerate that cuts positions in arts writing of a given newspaper or other publication. Twitter has the ability to amplify the worst of humanity — take the innumerable people spewing racist, sexist, and otherwise hateful rhetoric at celebrities of any type as an example. But Twitter is a social-media tool that can be used well or poorly, from how a person tweets to what they tweet to who they follow. I find it to be immensely valuable, not just in keeping up with breaking news but in terms of being pointed to writing and writers I might not otherwise have found on my own. I use Facebook these days mostly as a platform to link to my writing or podcasts, but Twitter is for everything. (So maybe I use Twitter poorly as a social-media tool. Jury’s out!) I tweet out links to my work, but I also use it the way many others do, as a kind of living document of a given day, week, month, or whatever. 

Everyone uses Twitter differently, and they perceive it differently. The fun is when people — such as, I imagine, the Cannes organizers — who don’t use Twitter criticize it. This kind of complaint without engaging in what they’re fussing over is totally pointless. I could wonder why this is the year that anyone at Cannes is complaining about Twitter — maybe it’s because of the controversy over booting women out of a screening for wearing flats? Maybe they wanted a scapegoat of some kind? Who knows. But I find it difficult to buy into the concept that social media is a bad thing because it gives everyone a voice. Everyone should be allowed a voice; that’s not the same as suggesting everyone’s voice is worth listening to. If the Cannes organizers choose to only focus on how people tweeted a lot (and apparently tweeted during screenings, a claim I doubt), or that they were negative, that’s fine. But that’s not what Twitter, or social media, is. It’s a platform, and a necessary one.

Miriam Bale, Fandor

I tweet a lot. Ted Nope (a person who exists only on Twitter) remarked that I stopped reviewing and now just tweet.. It’s true, I lost a position after an argument with an editor and couldn’t find anything that paid comparably. So tweeting was my only critical outlet for much of last year. That’s kept my critical faculties limber and connected me with readers/viewers, which are the only reasons I wrote criticism before being paid for it mattered. I probably would have quit criticism altogether if it hadn’t been for hearing from Twitter followers (online and in person) that I had an influence on the way they see movies. It meant so much and gave me confidence, especially after struggling with an editor about issues about sexism and racism, and pushing for the validity of my instincts and observations. Twitter is the audience without the gatekeepers.

But Twitter observations are not reviews. Thank goodness. (You can find people with good taste, or similar taste to your own, on Twitter. Longform now has to be more than plot and value judgements.) I think that’s where quick tweet reviews fail, and especially at Cannes where the films are complex and time is needed to think about them. Twitter should not be a review summarized. It’s another form. I think Sam Donsky shows what’s possible with this new form, which is basically the best part of a review: the jokes and strange observations.

Luke Y. Thompson, Topless Robot

I depend upon drawing traffic to my site, so that’s the primary goal of my use of social media, and why – as I think was discussed in a previous poll – I RARELY ever reveal what my opinion is of a movie in a Tweet. I want people to see that I have a review posted, but they need to come to the site to find out what my take on it is. On Facebook I might tip my hand, but there I know I’m playing to friends and family. Instant opinion tweets after a movie, I don’t do — breaking news at festivals, yes. I will live-tweet reactions to live TV, like the Oscars or a WWE show — that’s just like engaging in conversation with a larger living room.

Separately, because my site is a humor site as well, if I feel like telling a joke, I’ll put that on Twitter too. Best-case scenario is people like it and it builds my followers.

What effect has it had on criticism? Well, I will say the unanimously gushing Tweets following “Age of Ultron” made me extra-irritable that only I seemed to have been disappointed, and that might have made me more determined to make the other case, I suppose. Tweets also let me know when there was a junket screening that I wasn’t invited to, and thus, when publicists are lying to me about such opportunities not existing, something that has happened less and less since the dawn of social media. In my old print days, they just assumed we folks at rival publications never talked amongst ourselves, and now the conversation is public.

Scott Mendelson, Forbes

I generally use Facebook and Twitter to share my work and to offer periodic quippy observations of varying intelligence and humor. Yes, I do tend to offer a before-bed tweet of a given film that I saw that night (presuming an embargo is not in effect), be it highlighting a specific element or offering an offhand observation. But that 140-character comment is never intended to be a substitute for the eventual full-length 600-1200-word review. It is an appetizer or merely a teaser if you will, and yes I do it as much for my own amusement as for any real value. It is a conversation starter and arguably not meant to be used as a basis for instantaneous critical assessment. I’m not thrilled at the notion of a film’s critical fate being decided by a flurry of post-screening tweets being cultivated and presented as its own blog post by movie sites or trade sites, but that’s also an unavoidable situation in the current content-at-all-costs environment. In short, I use Twitter and Facebook for my own personal entertainment and to communicate with my peers. Beyond that, it’s out of my hands.

Tomris Laffly, Movie Mezzanine, Film Journal International

Twitter
damaged the “general spirit” of Cannes? I never attended Cannes before,
but thanks to Twitter, it is much closer to me than it’s ever been and
I’m grateful for that (like many other film lovers and writers who don’t
have the good fortunate of visiting the South of France annually.)
Speaking solely for the festivals I do attend (Sundance, Telluride, and
New York Film Festivals mainly), I find that social media mostly
strengthens the overall spirit. I can’t imagine, for instance, not using
Twitter for exchange of opinions and information during a festival like
Sundance where there are countless options and very little time to make
decisions. It gives me the reassuring feeling that “we are all in this
together as a community.”
Outside of the
festival circuit and during the regular day-to-day, the same could be said
about social media’s power to create a community of critical thinkers.
It is always valuable to me to know in real time and conversational form
what those I follow have thought of certain titles and what I should
add to my radar. Similarly, disagreements can be useful too — certain
Twitter debates I’ve been a part of (or simply observed) made me
reconsider films I’ve initially dismissed, or vice versa. To put it shortly, when I tweet out of a festival or after just a regular
screening, my only goal is to try and contribute to the community that
gives me so much, and continue to be a small part of it. In no way I
think Twitter or other social media diminishes the value of traditional,
long-form criticism. They aren’t mutually exclusive and they serve very
different purposes. Being able to convey rich, complex thoughts in 140
characters is definitely a craft in itself and it comes with certain
limitations. And those who are aware of said limitations (hopefully)
take tweet reviews with a grain of salt. 
Well,
these are roughly the positives from my perspective. I suspect many
will agree on the negative impact of social media: its tendency to feed
and encourage an “outrage culture”. When a topic or a person becomes a
target in real-time, I find it overwhelming that everyone has to say
“something” in order to stay relevant. We’ve all seen worthless topics
getting a lot more attention than they deserve as a result of this, or a
harmless misunderstanding or simple mistake being taken out of
proportion, analyzed and “think piece”ed (is this a verb yet?) ad
nauseam, often overshadowing something positive. Also, Twitter certainly
has a way to make one forget those you’re interacting with are real
people with feelings, sensitivities, insecurities and limits; and create
a tense/hostile environment. I don’t know if there is a solve to
this… Except for…. perhaps people should feel free to unfollow
accounts that consistently aggravate them? Who knows.

Michael Pattison, Sight & Sound, Fandor

Tough one. Perish the thought of me siding with someone as palpably old-fashioned as Thierry Frémaux, but no professional film critic has any right to be tweeting or doing much else during a film besides watching it and taking notes (discreet torches welcome; lightsabre torch-pens not). At the same time, though, if ever there was a festival so badly in need of having its “general spirit” damaged, smashed and done away with, it’s the Cannes Trade Show, trading as Cannes Film Festival — a giant echo chamber of dime-a-dozen hot-takes, hyperbolic cul-de-sacs, shameful humblebrags and badly composed instagram photos of a lot of people queuing.
I use Twitter mostly for three things: to procrastinate, to remind people I’ve never met that one day they’d really like to meet me, and to channel my fluctuating fortunes as a freelance film critic into an ongoing vanity project. Being the social omnivore that I am, I’m happier when I’m away from it in all honesty but I can’t quite leave the sandpit, or the stage. It becomes an act, a performance. But some of it’s me. And by some of it I mean all of it.

Has social media changed film criticism? I think the thuddingly obvious answer here is no, at least not directly. I think Twitter might have helped accelerate a general “publish now, edit later” culture, but I hesitate to refer to the opinions put forth in tweets etc as criticism in the same sense as, say, a tl;dr tirade or even a trade review. Talking strictly about professional critics, the good ones are writing great criticism regardless of any social media presence (still no sign of Jay Weissberg on there), and the mediocre thinkers and writers are still filing mediocre, desperately in-the-box copy regardless of Twitter — they’re just plugging it on there with ICYMIs, and maybe testing their own instincts in an endless but mostly harmless pursuit of vindication.

If Twitter’s selling point in its early days was that the public could experience some kind of direct engagement with famous people, then it’s also allowed lesser mortals access to the people whose professional opinions were previously limited to monthly or weekly bylines, as opposed to the now theoretically endless stream of consciousness offered by the press of a button. So now it feels like there can be something resembling what we’ve always aspired to: a “dialogue” (even if there isn’t one, because the very same celebrity critics only converse with other celebrity critics; really, Twitter is a Madame Tussaud’s waxwork of our proverbial Closed Shop). But longform criticism — criticism per se, away from the timeline fads — is still written and still read by anyone who matters enough to read and to write it. And so long as people feel that criticism is a thing of value, they’ll seek out ways to publish it and they’ll seek out ways to read it. If that means short-sighted editors have to be left behind and that PRs are burned at the stake and that film festivals as we know them receive a wholesale facelift, then so be it. (Incidentally, some colleagues subscribe to the notion that writing reviews and writing criticism are two different disciplines, in which case Frémaux has created a straw man: not much criticism has ever been filed from Cannes to begin with — all of its coverage boils down to “this film was good, this film was bad”.)

I think Twitter’s at its most valuable, witty, educative, political and transformative when taken up as a legitimate means of permanent protest by those ordinarily excluded from the criticism’s more traditional platforms: women, transgender people and writers of color (this landscape is changing dramatically and rapidly). Sometimes it feels like these people are using social media to police everyone else’s complacency — including mine — which is no bad thing. The sad thing is how often they have to.

As T.S. Eliot (not Elliot, as one colleague across the pond was somehow allowed to publish recently!) noted, criticism is as inevitable as breathing. But laziness shouldn’t have to be… One knock-on effect of the “publish now, edit later” culture is how it’s also made everything easy, grabbable with one tweet. One trend I’ve noticed in recent years is that critics have exploited Twitter and their trigger-happy followers to do what historically we’ve called Research for them: an innocent, casual question about everyone’s favourite such-and-such is just a shameful way to source possible entries for next month’s listicle. To paraphrase that good po-lees Kima Greggs, a critic is only as good as her informants. But the cost of everyone being a critic? We’re now surrounded by “Herc” Hauks.

Q: What is the best movie in theaters?

A: “Mad Max: Fury Road”

Other movies receiving multiple votes: “It Follows,” “Heaven Knows What,” “Spy”

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