Movie Critics: Roles, Duties, Responsibilities

I have been a film scholar and film critic for over three decades, during which I have continued to struggle with the very definition of my “position” or “work,” namely, my duties and responsibilities, but also my privileges, as a critic.

I have realized that if we are to avoid reproducing the very forms of power that we seek to challenge, then we cannot uncritically adopt and recreate the prevailing categories and dominant modes of filmmaking, which in many ways have been responsible to all kinds of oppression–along social class, race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation and other variables.

I have realized that, individually and jointly, we must embrace a more active conception of criticism, one that sees the very act of criticism as a necessary social and political activity.

We are often charged with the claim that, as a group, we are more forgiving (i.e. more generous), when we evaluate indie filmmakers, or less commercial filmmakers, a charge that should be put to empirical testing and verification.

There have radical changes in ideological, theoretical, and aesthetic positions.  However, these changes have had little effect on which films  I value and appreciate, but a more drastic effect on why I value them.

There are levels of creativity for the artist and level of evaluation and appreciation for the critic that often transcend ideological differences among critics.  This may be the reason why both right-wing critics and left-wing-wing one like John Ford‘s 1956 The Searchers (considered to be his masterpiece).