Inspired by a recent USA Today article pointing out the discrepancy between critically panned films like 300, which earned big bucks, and critcally lauded films like ZODIAC, which did not, Peter Rainer writes a defense of film critics.
His essential point is that, if critics were merely rubber-stamping the big box office winners, they truly would be unnecessary; the very fact that they disagree with popular opinion and occasionally swim against the tide of Hollywood hype is what makes serious film critics necessary. Rainer points out that this is taken for granted in other forms of criticism: no one suggests that book critics are out of touch if they pan trashy Jackie Collins novels - or food critics who have nothing good to say about McDonald's Happy Meals.
Rainer goes on to cover some territory I mined previously in my essay "Phony Film Critics": studios try to marginalize critics by freezing them out of pre-release screenings or by denying access to stars for interviews. And too many "critics" are eager to play this Access Journalism game, penning loud-mouthed praise in exchange for access to high-profile interview subjects.
My only disagreement with Rainer is in regard to terminology. He calls these over-eager stenographers ""blurbmeisters, who can be relied on to provide snappy qote lines for ad copy..."
With all due respect, they are not "blurbmeisters." They are "QUOTE WHORES."
And by the way, CHILDREN OF MEN and STRANGER THAN FICTION are two of the best films released last year, even though their combined total gross probably doesn't equal what 300 made in its first weekend.