On TikTok, movie critics go by any other name

Many creative people, most of whom are in their 20s or early 30s, specialize in a particular field. Joe Aragon (Cinema Joe, 931,000 followers) known for his details of upcoming attractions; Mons Gutierrez (cvnela1.4 million followers) and Brian Lucius (stoney_tha_great, 387,000 followers) demystifying and ranking horror films; Seth Mulan Feroz (sethsfilm reviews256,000 followers) towards the House of Art and Foreign Cinema.

Unlike the movie sections of major metropolitan newspapers or national magazines, the people at MovieTok generally don’t aspire to review every noteworthy movie. While most admired traditional critics’ understanding of film history, they tended to associate the profession as a whole with false or unearned power.

“A lot of us don’t trust critics,” said Lucius, 31. He was one of many who pointed out the review aggregation site Rotten Tomatoes, where scores for “top critics” often differ widely from those of average users, as evidence that the critical establishment is far from reality. “They watch movies and are just looking for something to criticize,” he said. Fans watch movies for entertainment.

MovieTok’s creators aren’t the first in the history of film criticism to rebel against their elders. In the 1950s, François Truffaut, Jean-Luc Godard, and other Cahiers du Cinéma writers all repudiated the nationalism of mainstream French criticism. In the 1960s and 1970s, New York critic Pauline Kael attacked the morality associated with Bosley Crowther, a longtime New York Times film critic, and others. Film bloggers in the 2000s accused print critics of indifference or hostility to superhero and fantasy films.

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“There’s always the denigration of so-called ‘other’ critics as somehow old-fashioned elitist while presenting yourself as the new avant-garde,” said Matthias Frey, head of the city’s Department of Media, Culture and Creative Industries. University of London and author of The Permanent Crisis of Film Criticism. He defined criticism, by any name, as “an assessment based on reason,” citing philosopher Noel Carroll.

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