In the last few days, I've read this Los Angeles Times article on Ben Lyons, one of the critics on the rebooted, Ebert-and-Roeper-less version of At the Movies, a few times. I've also checked out Stop Ben Lyons! a few times. This prompted me to watch some reviews on the At the Movies site. Do I think the overall nature of film criticism is going downhill? Nope. Instead, I'm getting a better understanding how I find out about movies and decide whether or not I should see them compared to how I used to find out about movies and decide whether or not I should see them.
There was a time when Siskel and Ebert was the only place I really found out about movies beyond trailers, commercials, magazines, and Entertainment Tonight. Like what 120 Minutes was to me as a music fan, Siskel and Ebert was where I could see more coverage on stuff beyond the mainstream. But this was in the mid- to late Nineties. Hard for me to believe because it doesn't feel like it, but this was ten years ago, and plenty has changed since then.
I took plenty of classes on film and TV critique in college, as well as on writing. I heard plenty about what makes a good film good and a bad film bad. I met quite a few people who spouted their opinions as facts more than opinions, and I found that distracting. I watched plenty of episodes of At the Movies with Ebert and Roeper but lost track when it disappeared from its regular schedule. Somewhere in between then and now I reached a point where I decided that I wanted to form my own opinions on movies rather than regurgitate other people's opinions.
Make no mistake, there are plenty of films that I'm on the fence about seeing. These are the ones that I pay attention to what respected film critics say. Sometimes their opinions are the dealbreakers for me. Then there are a certain few movies that I want to see no matter how bad the buzz is for them. Some current examples are The Spirit and Mamma Mia! (yes, Mamma Mia!). I have my own reasons to want to watch and decide.
I still read Roger Ebert's reviews because I like his writing and value his opinions. I don't always agree with him (his review of Bottle Rocket and his review of Southland Tales are just the beginning) but I am curious as to what he says. Again, if I'm that curious to see a movie, I'll see it no matter what critics say. I'm so invested in films in general that I'm not somebody who doesn't have time to look into movies, wonder how they got made, etc. I've got the time and the drive to do this, so why stop now?