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Movie Mom

Ebert on Why Today is the Golden Age of Film Criticism

posted by Nell Minow

There have been many articles about the end of the era of the movie critic as print media cuts have led to the departure of many of the best-established and most widely-read commentators on film. But Roger Ebert says this is the golden age of film criticism.

Never before have more critics written more or better words for more readers about more films. But already you are ahead of me, and know this is because of the internet.

Twenty years ago a good-sized city might have contained a dozen people making a living from writing about films, and for half of them the salary might have been adequate to raise a family. Today that city might contain hundreds, although (the Catch-22) not more than one or two are making a living.

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Film criticism is still a profession, but it’s no longer an occupation. You can’t make any money at it. This provides an opportunity for those who care about movies and enjoy expressing themselves.

I am honored to have my photo included among the critics he discusses. When people ask me how to become a movie critic I say, “I just waved my magic wand. You’re a movie critic! All you have to do is write reviews.” And if they ask me how to become a good movie critic, I say, “It takes more than loving movies. It takes more than having opinions. It takes more than knowing a lot about movies, though all of those things are important. You have to be a person with a full life, a vitally engaged head, and a heart that is open to experience and learning. I can’t bear talking to people who think they know movies because they can keep all the IMBD data in their heads.
A movie critic is first and foremost a writer. And if you ever want anyone to read your reviews they had better be lively, informative, and vivid. Most of the movies you see won’t be very entertaining or filled with insight, but your reviews have to be both, every time.” Watch a lot of movies, yes, but read a lot of books and live a lot of life because you will need all of that. The readers deserve it, and you know what? The movies and the people who make them do, too.

  • Alicia

    This is great advice, Nell. I started a film club with a couple of friends ten years ago, and I’ve been writing “blurbs” promoting the movies ever since. It’s led me to consider getting a degree in Film, even though I have no desire to “write screenplays” or “direct.” I’d love to write about movies. And Washington, D.C. is a great town for film buffs.

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/moviemom/ Nell Minow

    Alicia, you should write about movies! You are very knowledgeable and you write beautifully. If you do, let me know and I’ll post a link.

  • Alicia

    Thanks so much for the encouragement, Nell. I may just give this a try some day soon.

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