AFF: Film Critics and the Industry Panel

Print and web critics wonder if they still matter

AFF: Film Critics and the Industry Panel

When elite members of the print and online film criticism community gathered to talk shop at Friday’s Film Criticism and the Industry panel, the movie that was on the tip of everyone's tongue? Transformers 2. Yeah, we didn’t see that coming.

Actually, Transformers 2 was used repeatedly as an example of a “critic-proof” movie – a topic that was at the very heart of the discussion. Moderator Charles Ealy (The Austin American-Statesman) opened the panel by posing the question, does film criticism still matter?

The xy-heavy panelists were a mix of print and online critics, including Chris Vognar (Dallas Morning News), Chase Whale (Gordon and the Whale), Neil Miller (Film School Rejects), Kenneth Turan (Los Angeles Times), and David Denby (The New Yorker). Vognar responded first and from the perspective of a print critic: “We’re an endangered species,” he said. “I don’t know if that makes us matter more or less.”

Denby had the answer. “I think we matter more than ever, because I think the system is totally corrupt.”

“If Jackass 3D is going to make 50 million, fuck it,” he continued. “There’s nothing you can do.”

The better way to expend one’s energy, he said, was to champion smaller films and help the audience “find its way to important work.”

The bulk of the discussion was an engaging back and forth about the panelists’ frustrations in dealing with the studio marketing machine, which often blocks critics’ access to certain movies and then leans hard on them to get the word out about smaller, less easy sells.

“When they need us, we can’t beat them off with a rolled-up newspaper,” Denby said.

There was no visible “us versus them” divide between the print and online critics, although the Austin-based Miller did touch on some detractors’ interpretation that online criticism is dealing print a death blow. “One of the common [complaints] is that we’re trying to destroy print criticism. While that sound epic, it isn’t true. We’re trying to create jobs.” He pointed out that his site has created a full-time paying jobs for a number of contributors, a still somewhat rare achievement in web journalism.

Miller, who is Austin-based, also had a fun response to an audience question about the critics’ process. From up onstage at the Alamo Ritz, ge recounted seeing a movie at the Drafthouse and having a flag raised against him by a fellow audience member because he was taking notes too loudly in “my Ninja Turtle notepad.”

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More Austin Film Festival
Gary Hart Biopic <i>The Front Runner</i> to Close Austin Film Festival
AFF Announces Second Wave
New films by Yorgos Lanthimos, Asghar Farhadi added to fest

Richard Whittaker, Sept. 12, 2018

AFF to Honor Larry Wilmore
AFF to Honor Larry Wilmore
Festival celebrates long impact of writer and comedian

Richard Whittaker, Aug. 28, 2018

More by Kimberley Jones
Barton Springs Pool Will Require Reservations Starting May 21 
Barton Springs Pool Will Require Reservations Starting May 21 
No more sauntering into Austin’s natural springs fed pool on a whim

May 7, 2021

We Have an Issue: Don’t Forget to Vote on Saturday
We Have an Issue: Don’t Forget to Vote on Saturday
A weird election, but an important one, too

April 30, 2021

KEYWORDS FOR THIS POST

Austin Film Festival, David Denby, Neil Miller, Chase Whale, Chris Vognar, Kenneth Turan, Transformers 2

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle