The Web Must Do Without Me
HENRY P. RALEIGH
I RECEIVED MY subscription to Premiere Magazine in February. I learned in the March issue of Variety, “Film Mags Drag”, that the April issue of Premiere might be its last. It was. I should have seen this coming. Not long ago some film critics complained they were being preempted by the increasing legions of self-professed critics cluttering the internet, none of whom appear properly qualified, not a smidgeon of art history or theory among them, few capable of knowing the difference between film noire and bête noire or any noire, for that matter — nor do they seem to care. It was reaching the point where the fine and fully qualified talents who write insightful and illuminating critical essays for major publications, like, ART TIMES, were now referred to as “print critics” to distinguish them from the undisciplined rabble that crowd the Web. In no time at all, the film industry was speaking sadly, almost nostalgically, of “long form movie journalism”. Those well-crafted and thoroughly researched print pieces written by informed insiders, like those found in ART TIMES, were being rapidly replaced by online celebrity gossip sites as TMZ.com and People.com and quick-take reviews available on Yahoo!Movies and Movies.com. Why even the venerable, intellectual Cahiers du Cinema was being forced online to a virtual digital edition in French and English — E-CahierduCinema.com. Oh yes, Variety has sounded the warning: Write Fast — Write Short. Research is a bother, isn’t it? If anyone is really interested in verifiable information — and who has the time, I ask you? — well, there is a movie database somewhere in the biosphere.
Considering the insidious trend to move everything, bag and baggage, online, in compressed, abbreviated form, I am compelled to assess my own professional position in this disturbing matter. I certainly do not wish to compromise my integrity and my dedicated attention to facts in my film reportage. And you may be sure I could never accept the practice, so common on the Web, of employing the term “movies” rather than the far classier “films”, or in more profound moments, “cinema”. I suppose I’d be required to have a snappy dot/com title — FILMBIZ or maybe CINELUVR. I’m sure I could come up with something clever.
Then there is the troublesome issue of the hipster, so-called, vernacular popularized by headline writers for Variety. This spreading linguistic cancer seems determined to eliminate all multi-syllabic words just to accommodate the “write fast/write short” needs of online reporting. Aud for audience, doc for documentary, a film festival becomes pic-fest, preem, indie, cabler, anni, perf —on and deplorably on. What is a “skein” or a “tentpole” in this movie babble? A dictionary won’t help you one bit. A perfectly meaningful, not to mention exciting and stimulating, critical statement as, “At the sub-textural level the director has probed the sexual sublimation of the marginalized Ür man” is reduced to “Crude Dude in Sic-Pic”. Or worse, “A deep-structure film exploring phalo-centricity surrounding a waitress in an urban diner” turns into “Fast Food Flick — Pastrami and Porno”.
There is no telling how far this thing can go. If everyone fancies themselves a film critic, and it is surprising how many people do, broadcasting their simple opinions all over the place, well we have critical chaos and how could I become part of this jabbering mob? Look, I just don’t think I can lower my critical and literary standards to such electronic drivel. Long form journalism is the only honorable way to go. And at any rate, I can’t work a computer to save my life.