On Sunday afternoon, I attended a panel at the AFI Dallas Film Festival, about the current role of the film critic. It was a good session, with some outspoken opinions about what film criticism is and has become, as a form of journalism. But, it didn’t take long before the question was raised: what of the diminishing number of film critics in America today? More and more entertainment journalists have been shown the door in recent years, much of it due to budget cuts as a result of low print readership. One of the panelists, Dallas Observer entertainment writer Robert Wilonsky, bemoaned this growing a trend. And, as part of the shrinking Village Voice Media family, he sees it more than most.
So, it wasn’t much of a surprise on the drive back to Austin today, to receive word that Newsweek‘s David Ansen has announced plans to exit the magazine by the end of this year. Ansen, a 30-year veteran, has long been one of the most respected film critics writing for a mainstream magazine. I met him for the first time at the Denver Film Festival last year, and was shocked by how cool he was. Not many film critics of his age are, well, cool. Then again, there are not many film critics his age still working at such a capacity. To see him go, is a sad thing, but it is worth noting that he was not dismissed. Ansen simply chose to accept a proposed buyout deal, because he felt it was a good time to step down. Anne Thompson quickly followed up with Ansen to get more:
“Obviously the climate at newsmagazines is not great,” said Ansen. “More cost-cutting, more trimming.” Ansen looks forward to writing books, teaching, and “not going out to screenings every night,” he said. “I want to watch DVDs of movies I might actually like and read a book or two. Face it, a lot of movies are not that interesting to write about these days.”