Entertainment Weekly‘s Owen Gleiberman becomes the latest to take on the "Do film critics still matter?" existential crisis (If a critic writes a bad review and people go see the movie anyway, does that critic spontaneously cease to exist?):
More to the point, why on earth would a critic cease to matter simply because a movie that he or she didn’t like became a huge box office hit? I’ve been in more screening-room conversations than I can believe in which some critic I like and respect, speaking about the latest X-Men sequel or what-have-you, will say, with a rueful defeated chuckle, ”We’re irrelevant on this one!” My response is that we’re never more relevant than when people are going to see movies and doing it enthusiastically. The notion that a critic’s job begins and ends with our power to help films become hits is a specious one nurtured by marketing executives, and I’m always astonished when critics themselves buy into it.
Consider the comparable situation with, say, political pundits. Should an editorial columnist who was staunchly against the Iraq war, and had no discernible influence on either the Congress or political opinion at large, be considered "irrelevant"? Was the war itself "columnist-proof"?
Hilary Duff has issued a stinging response to the New York Times movie critic who described her acting as "talent-challenged." Stephen Holden has consistently slammed Duff’s teen comedy movies and singled out her performances particularly. But Duff insists she isn’t making movies for New York Times readers. She tells Elle magazine, "He doesn’t really fit the demographic. So I could really care less. Look at me, and look at where he is – sorry! Would he prefer that I take some super-adult role that is inappropriate so I would have no place to grow? Suppose the next thing I did was this super-edgy independent movie where I was pregnant or shooting up. What would that do to my fanbase?"
Beloved, we give you three years before the fact that you go topless is the main sell point of a straight-to-video release in which you play a stripper-turned-assassin.
Elsewhere, this argument seems to be encouraging critics who are given the chance to review a film of the apparent critic-proof variety to attempt experimental "humor" pieces. At least, that’s how we’re assuming Manohla Dargis‘ review of "Garfield: A Tale of Two Kitties" came to be, written in a feckless "shouting out into the void"-style "As Told to MANOHLA DARGIS by LORD DARGIS" (Dargis is the name of the film’s villain, played by Billy Connolly). Cute, but we weren’t a fan of the technique when back when Anthony Lane wrote his review of "Kingpin" in the style of Jane Austen (in made sense in context, sort of), and that was at least amusingly snide. More! Acid! Or failing that, more entertainment value. For our favorite complete departure from normal review format, we turn always to Matt Zoller Seitz‘s review of "Sphere": "Envision an empty room…"
+ Screening Call (Entertainment Weekly)
+ Duff Slams New York Times Critic (WENN)
+ An Overweight Tabby in London in ‘Garfield: A Tale of Two Kitties’ (NY Times)