San Diego Loses a Critical Voice
I just heard from fellow film critic and Film Club co-host Scott Marks that the San Diego Union Tribune has let go their film critic David Elliott. (I haven't contacted the UT to get any details, however.) I may not agree with David's taste in movies but I think the decision to let him go and to apparently run wire reviews instead is a bad decision. Every community needs a diversity of critical voices whether it's about movies, theater, music, pop culture or politics. David contributed to that diversity of voices in regards to film, and that voice will be missed.
Scott Marks, who has been friends with David for decades has written about this on his blog . (And despite the sad news the photo of a young David and Scott will make you smile.)
The UT's decision reflects a trend that doesn't bode well for film criticism. In our fast food, consumer economy people what a thumbs up/thumbs down (thanks Siskel and Ebert) or star rating so they don't have to read about a film. A site like rottentomatoes.com , while doing a nice job of bringing together a lot of diverse opinions and making them readily available on its site, also distills the opinions of some 200 critics into a single rating. So once again people don't have to read any reviews they can just look at the Tomato rating and decide that if more that 75% of the critics agree that it's good then it's worth seeing.
I've always felt that there are two main and different types ways of writing about film. Reviews tend to convey what a film is about and recommend whether or not you should see the film. But then there is film criticism, which is almost better read after you've seen a film. This kind of writing is more about discussing the film -- what it tries to do and how it tries to do it. I hope there will always be room for both kinds of film writing. With the Internet and the ability of anybody to be able to put up a site and write reviews, there is the potential and opportunity for a great diversity of voices. Maybe we'll be able to find David Elliott's voice out there contributing to the discussion. As for San Diego, it is sad for a city of our size to lose a local critic and to have its biggest paper without a full-time film critic covering San Diego cinema.