You couldn't tell by his kind smile and steady voice, but Star magazine film critic Marshall Fine has a lot of reasons to be pessimistic about the future of criticism, a role he calls a "dying species."
Fine spoke with students at an informal presentation in the Union's MOSAIC room last Friday. Much of what he had to say has been echoed by many professional journalists all over the country and disputed by plenty of others. Calling our world a "post-literate society," Fine elaborated by lamenting that people are no longer interested in long stories.
To attest to this, he recalled his work in decades past when he would review five or more films a week and write between 500 and 1,000 words on each. Today, he covers about three movies a week and is limited to a paltry 200 words per article. The reason, he said, is that the media has become less about informing and more about distracting, particularly in a world of perpetual technological stimuli.
A graduate of the University of Minnesota, Fine has written biographies about acclaimed directors Sam Peckinpah and John Cassavetes and seminal actor Harvey Keitel. He most recently filmed a documentary about criticism pioneer Rex Reed titled Do You Sleep in the Nude? His extensive experience has left considerable scar tissue on his wounded outlook of the media industry.
Fine prophesized about the future of many media outlets. For example, the advent of downloadable content and services like Netflix has persuaded him to consider that the majority of film will be watched at home, and attending a movie theater will become "more of an event." He also predicts that film and music criticism will be erased from most local newspapers, having purpose only in big cities like New York and Los Angeles, where there will still be a hotbed of art house and independent material. Everyone else, he claimed, will simply utilize film and music reviews via newswire from these larger areas.
His bold claims were not without their skeptics, like one attendee who challenged Fine's conjecture that people aren't interested in long writings anymore. The audience member offered Fine the example of J.K Rowling's wildly popular Harry Potter series, which Fine acknowledged as "an encouraging sign."
But there wasn't any further encouragement from the critic, who failed to illustrate much of a horizon for aspiring journalists. He did, however, present a message to hopefuls who plan to embark on the hazy, unclear path of film criticism and journalism in general - do it, but make sure you do it for your own self-fulfillment.