Movies are Over. Again.

Karina Longworth’s report on a Telluride panel on the end of film (and film criticism) has me thinking about these issues once again. The panel, moderated by Columbia University film scholar Annette Insdorf and featuring filmmakers Paul Schrader and Danny Boyle, among others, revisits the “indie crisis” that received so much attention this summer around the time that I was finishing a draft of my book. It appears from Karina’s account of the panel that Schrader took the most extreme position regarding the future of cinema, stating that “movies are a 20th century art form, and they’re basically over.”

Instead, Schrader, citing the professional quality of many web series, seems to imply that feature-length movies will be replaced by short-form web content, and in fact, he plans to release his next “film” in multiple formats, including a twelve-episode web series that includes some (“X-rated”) content not included in the theatrical version (I’m not sure which version or versions would be included on the DVD). Other panelists correctly challenged Schrader’s more extreme position, noting that what we are experiencing is, in fact, the multiplication of distribution models, an argument that I make in the book. Certainly, many of these models will not work, but others will, a point raised by Michael Barker of Sony Classics. I disagree with Barker, however, on the idea that the indie film crisis can be attributed to the current “global economic crisis.” A number of Hollywood films have, of course, done quite well this summer.

In addition to the changing distribution models (and the implied changes to film content), the panel spent some time addressing the “crisis” in film criticism.  The consensus on the panel seemed to be that the full-time film critic is endangered as a profession but that it wasn’t clear yet how the blogosphere would work as an alternative.  For the most part, the panelists continued to assert that it’s difficult to identify consistent, insightful film bloggers (like Karina, I’d argue that GreenCine Daily serves this function rather admirably).  Like Dave, who commented on Karina’s post, I’m not terribly convinced by the “quality” argument, in that many film bloggers clearly have “expertise” that matches many professional critics.  It’s just a matter of learning to navigate the many insightful film blogs that are already out there.  Not much to add here, but it’s interesting to see how these issues are continuing to circulate.

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