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Roger Ebert Says the Web Has Spawned a 'Golden Age of Film Criticism'

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With newspapers shedding film critics left and right, and amateur movie blogs gaining steam, many old-school academics and film journalists are blaming the Internet for what they call the 'Death of Film Criticism.' On the Web, literally everybody is a critic -- and that, some argue, threatens the very art of film criticism, itself. Roger Ebert, however, begs to differ.

In a recent essay for the Wall Street Journal, the legendary critic argues that the Internet, new media and digital video haven't killed the art of cinematic writing, but have instead spawned what he calls a "Golden Age of Film Criticism." Thanks to the Internet, Ebert points out, the average Web surfer can instantly access a wider variety of opinions and film critiques than ever before. And, while every basement blogger may not be the next Andrew Sarris, Ebert insists that this increased volume of opinion can only enrich and enliven our cinematic discourse. "More filmgoers are reading more good writing about more films, new and old, than ever before," he writes. "They are also reading more bad writing, but there you go."

After losing his voice to cancer last spring, Ebert immersed himself in the overlapping worlds of social networking and online criticism, to the point where he now refers to the entire Internet as "my own social network." Through this immersion, Ebert has discovered scores of new critics, many of whom, he says, "are New Media to their bones." Thanks to the Web, today's online critic can pepper their essays with streaming video or audio, and can endlessly annotate their arguments with links to citations and resources. Video essays, meanwhile, have created an entirely new expository genre, which, like any other online medium, are rendered even more dynamic by endless comment threads.

Underpinning this entire movement, of course, is streaming video. With online services like Netflix, Hulu and Vimeo, anyone with an Internet connection can access virtually any film ever produced with the click of a mouse. With augmented access to films, and with the instant audience that the Web provides, it's no wonder that the sheer quantity of film criticism has increased in recent years. And, as Ebert eloquently argues, so too has the quality.

Tags: blogs, DeathOfPrint, film, FilmCriticism, FilmCritics, journalism, movies, NewMedia, RogerEbert, StreamingVideo, top, Web