With the demise of “At The Movies,” a show birthed from Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert, delivering the most mainstream culturally significant boost to film opinions out there, we are finally seeing the end of an era. That era ended a few years ago, but now the show is officially off the air even if it was only a shadow of its former self to begin with.

Yesterday, we also saw the seemingly endless bemoaning of the state of modern criticism from Kevin Smith as he posited a new design for how he wants his movie rated:

  1. Critics would have to pay.
  2. He would choose 100 random twitter followers (who would “give the movie a chance”) and trust in their opinion.

We are entering an age of the hive mind where we check out how strangers have rated restaurants to see if we want to eat there, how strangers have ranted or raved about hotels to see if we want to stay there, and, more to the point of this site, how strangers feel about films to see whether or not we want to see them.

There’s so many facets to this discussion that it’s difficult to know where to start, so I’ll just toss out a few random discussion questions:

  1. Would picking 100 people at random produce equal or better results in film criticism than the same number of pros?
  2. Why or why not?
  3. Should critics even be concerned with guiding people to or away from the box office?
  4. Who do you trust as a source for movie opinions?
  5. If you said FSR, what’s wrong with you?
  6. What do you need/want from critics?
  7. Can you get that by picking random people and asking for opinions?
  8. Can you tell how much I love lists?

My personal opinion is greatly marred by my chosen profession, but the standard argument goes a bit like this: everyone can have an opinion, but not everyone can effectively communicate it. The hive mind is bringing about a new age of democratization where the “Expert” is being left in the corner to yell to no one in particular while the average of a large number of people is being taken more and more as the “truth” about something.

But, then what do we base the worthiness of the random horde’s opinion? Call the expertise of film critics flimsy or fleeting, but at least it’s something. Taking a group of people who might have seen anywhere from 0-100 movies in a year and asking their opinion about The Hurt Locker seems pointless. What does something being 67% fresh mean anyway?

The death of At the Movies looks like it’s coinciding with the death of the expert.

I’ve said too much. I want to hear from you, dear reader.

I also want to take this out of the hypothetical and put it to the test with real-live, real-random twitterers. Might make a good For Science article…

What do you think?


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