Movie Reviews – Declining Importance?

Is the movie-reviewing business or rather, profession in doldrums? NY Times recently ran an article suggesting that movies increasingly are released without subjecting them to critical reviews. This may be in part due to the factors that go into ensuring a movie’s success. Initially, it was a symbiotic partnership that helped both – the movies and the critics – gain a fair share of the pie.

THE shrinking list of movies scheduled for review is just one more indication that the long marriage between print and film seems to have hit a midlife crisis. Historically, the movie business has supplied stars and stories for newspapers — not to mention almost $1 billion a year in advertising — and newspapers returned the favor by promoting and reviewing movies when they came out.

Sometimes such partnerships reached ridiculous levels when blatantly horrible movies received favorable reviews. I remember the time when TOI’s Khalid Mohammad was extremely stingy with the stars he used in ratings and effectively handed out only 1-2 five-star ratings per year. Then he turned producer-director with the release of Fiza and eventually crossed over to the dark side.

Nevertheless, movie studios are beginning to understand how little the critics’ opinion nowadays matter to the movie’s fortunes. As the NYT article mentions, The Da Vinci Code and X-Men got blasted for being third-grade movies but nevertheless went on to rake in the moolah at the box-office. The hype, Internet buzz, and targeting marketing got over the alleged shortcomings of the movie. Of course, such lackadisical qualities will not help a movie escape criticism but eventually when the box-office rules, little attention is paid to the ‘official’ reviewers. Perhaps the resident movie critic of the desi blogosphere could shed some more quality light on this trend.

2 Comments

  1. While waiting for the resident critic to answer, here are my unsolicited :-) views:

    1. Who needs real ciritcs when production companies can invent them – remember David Manning ?

    2. Roger Ebert mentioned once that movie critics at the previews are often handed cards with a favorable comment on them and asked to simply sign their name.

    3. IMHO, people don’t go to summer blockbusters expecting pathbreaking cinema (other than special effects – but even that has become so predictable) – so the panning by critics have little effect. As you mentioned, promotions through the internet, product tie-ins, publicity on TV etc does the job. So no need to pamper the press.

    For smaller independent films and foreign films, a good critic is still indispensible.

  2. Bongo, possibly the reviewing system was always biased but you had the occassional objective eye whom you could trust. But you are right about summer blockbusters, people do not go to the theater for meaningful cinema; they just like to see stuff blow up. The Oscar material comes post-thanksgiving.

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