Eric Kohn, Indiewire’s Deputy Editor and Chief Film Critic, recently did a Reddit AMA to answer some hard-hitting questions about the current climate of film criticism and where the independent movie industry stands in our contemporary cultural landscape. Reddit users also asked about his favorite movies and filmmakers during the event.
Here are some of the highlights:
How do you feel film criticism has progressed with the rise of social media? Where would you like to see film criticism go?
In general I would say that film criticism has become a more exciting and diverse process than ever before. It’s certainly true that there are fewer traditional newspaper jobs along these lines, which is troubling, but conversely there are multiple ways in which a critical mindset can be found in a variety of settings, from personal blog posts to video essays and podcasts. This is a really positive development to arrive alongside our cluttered marketplace. Everyone can customize the kinds of voices they want to hear from. I’d love to see more cultural criticism that cuts through the noise and pinpoints great movies/TV/games/whatever that’s worth talking about, whether or not it’s receiving a ton of attention due to marketing dollars.
Are you amongst the people who believe there’s been a changing of places between movies and TV, i.e. that cinema is now TV’s embarrassing relative?
Yes and no. We launched a TV section at Indiewire a few years ago for a reason. I think that TV has become a more hospitable arena for in-depth storytelling, particularly now that everyone is accustomed to binge-viewing and shows are being crafted to complement that tendency. That also gives the movies license to get weirder. Last year’s most talked about titles, “Boyhood” and “Birdman,” would not have worked as TV series. Cinema is a place for experimentation with the moving image; TV is now the dominant arena for putting rules that work into action. So it’s an exciting time to be watching both media converge and diverge in different ways.
How do you feel VFX has affected independents movies?
VFX is cheaper and makes it easier to experiment. Before he made “Godzilla,” director Gareth Edwards directed a terrific little movie called “Monsters” about an alien invasion with VFX produced on his laptop (and disaster scenes shot at actual sites of natural disasters). That’s one of the more extreme examples in which affordable technology is yielding more intriguing stories than Hollywood could dream up.
In regards to your article yesterday about the success of “Jurassic World” and the relative lack of it for movies like “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl,” where do you think indie movies should go from here?
VOD is totally a viable option. I think we are seeing a steady emergence of middlemen in the indie arena who can help little movies find their ways into the world through grassroots methods. Microcinemas are one option. Then, yes, companies like Netflix can provide a bigger field to broadcast certain worthy titles to the masses. There are a lot more possibilities than ever before.
Do you think Rotten Tomatoes helps/hurts film criticism?
The problem with the Tomatometer is that it doesn’t have a brain, so it doesn’t really provide you with a sense for the nuances of critical discourse. But it does provide a reliable access point for popularizing the idea of critical opinion as an important aspect of our culture, so it’s not a terrible development. It’s just reductive. If you want something more you know where to find it. Of course, our own Criticwire Network aggregates critical opinion using a letter grade system that I think is slightly more accurate at reflecting consensus.
If two of these three filmmakers had to be erased from history/existence, who would you keep around: David Michod, Adam Wingard or Ana Lily Amirpour? Why?
Oh boy, what a fun and slightly morbid question. What if I could combine them into a single Captain Planet-like entity? But if not, I’d go with Amirpour because the other guys have already made a bunch of movies and Amirpour’s just getting started.
What’s the best movie ever and why is it “Boogie Nights?”
If the entire movie universe is made of PTA movies, I prefer “Punch Drunk Love.”
Do you call your fans Kohnheads?
I prefer “Kohners.” Is that lewd?