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by Eugene Hernandez
December 14, 2009 4:34 AM
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Eugene Hernandez: Tracking the Critics

Images from "Trash Humpers," Summer Hours" and "The Hurt Locker."

December 14, 2009, New York, NY -- In theaters, via VOD, online and DVD, more and more movies are available on various platforms these days, but with so many options, how do you filter to find new and classic films? Personally speaking, I mainly rely on friends and film critics.

For the past few months I've been thinking a lot about how moviegoers make decisions about what to see. In the coming years, as new outlets for movies mature, will films continue to be filtered by critics or ultimately by audiences themselves?

indieWIRE Surveys Critics & Bloggers:
Best of '09 | Best of the Decade | New Releases

In recent columns, I've been making the case for critics. Film criticism still matters, despite the fact that fewer film critics are getting paid to share their passion with moviegoers and even though audiences are relying on new tools to share information and insight, I wrote in October. And as I added in a follow-up a few weeks later, over the course of the next decade more than 5,000 films could find some sort of substantive release, but the definition of distribution will evolve considerably as digital devices and platforms augment (or in some cases replace) traditional models of getting movies to audiences.

What can we do, I wondered, to foster a dialogue around these films as moviegoers find new ways to filter content and movies are curated by people and groups in new ways?

Critics are crucial part of this dialogue and process.

While there may be fewer film critics getting paid to write reviews these days, there's certainly no shortage of opinions on film from emerging and established writers and bloggers alike. At indieWIRE, we've spent the latter part of the decade developing numerous ways to harness critical opinions of films.

An annual poll, the best of the decade and an ongoing survey of new movies in theaters, indieWIRE is now surveying many opinions on new and old films.

Back in 2006, when the Village Voice abandoned its annual year-end survey film critics, Dennis Lim approached indieWIRE about continuing the tradition. We jumped at the opportunity and worked with Dennis, Anthony Kaufman, Ben Kenigsberg and more than 100 film critics to consider the best of the year.

Now an annual tradition, this year's ongoing poll -- which continues for another week -- is surveying the best of the year and the best of the decade. As of this morning, we've posted the ballots of fifty film critics and bloggers. We're halfway there and will keep updating them over the next week.

"When we did our first poll in '99, it was before the explosion of film blogs and websites," Dennis Lim told me. "There was no real counterpoint to the groupthink of critics' circle awards and there were many critics and writers whose tastes and opinions weren't represented in the year-end accounting." Continuing in comments to me last year, Lim added, "Obviously it's a different landscape today and at this time of year especially, it can seem like there are too many lists, too many blogs, too much white noise. But even more so, you could argue, the poll serves a valuable aggregating function, by trying to tease out a consensus from a loosely defined community of serious, cinephilic writers."

Olivier Assayas's "Summer Hours" - winner of the best foreign film prize with critics in L.A. and Boston yesterday - is currently atop the list of the best film of the year, with Tarantino's "Inglourious Basterds" very close in second place. Harmony Korine's "Trash Humpers" is atop our roster of best undistributed films and Kathryn Bigelow is leading in the best director category for "The Hurt Locker," which won a number of best film prizes with critics groups in recent days. This morning, we posted an ongoing round-up of recent critics group and other award winners in the long run up to the Oscars.

Meanwhile, we also recently launched criticWIRE, a new ongoing survey of 100 film critics who are grading recent releases. Every day we're linking to individual critics and bloggers pages, as well as their reviews of the films themselves.

This week, Jean-Marc Vallée's "The Young Victoria" is leading criticWIRE list of new films opening in theaters this weekend. A handful of critics have graded the film, so far, giving it a 'B' grade thus far this year. And today we're tracking a list of films currently in release and their criticWIRE grades. Each film page also has a place for indieWIRE readers to also grade a film, we invite you to join the group and rate releases.

Meanwhile, critics are voting today in New York City and we'll have the winners from the New York Film Critics Circle this afternoon here at indieWIRE and will be tracking the results of our annual and decade poll throughout the week, with the final results announced next week.

We hope you'll join us as we track the critics.

Eugene Hernandez is the Editor-in-Chief & Co-Founder of indieWIRE and can be reached on his blog, through Facebook or via Twitter: @eug.

PREVIOUS WEEKLY COLUMNS:
12.07.09: The Future of Festivals? |11.30.09: Paris, City of Cinema (or, In Bed with Agnes) |11.23.09: Frederick Wiseman = The Greatest | 11.16.09: For The Love of Movies | 11.09.09: Building Buzz | 11.02.09: I want it like I wrote it. | 10.26.09: “Precious,” $1 Million or $100 Million? | 10.12.09: Critics (still) Matter | 10.05.09: Is There a Doctor in the House? | 09.28.09: The Indie Summit | 09.21.09: The Oscar Marathon | 09.14.09: DIY v. DIWO | 09.08.09: SPC v. IFC | 08.30.09: Saving Cinema | 08.23.09: Nadie Sabe Nada | 08.16.09: Movies, Now More Than Ever | 08.09.09: It Came From The 80s

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