On TikTok, Movie Critics Go By Any Other Name

Many creators, most in their 20s or early 30s, specialize within a particular niche. Joe Aragon (Cinema.Joe, 931,000 followers) is known for his breakdowns of coming attractions; Monse Gutierrez (cvnela, 1.4 million followers) and Bryan Lucious (stoney_tha_great, 387,000 followers) demystify and rank horror films; Seth Mullan-Feroze (sethsfilmreviews, 256,000 followers) leans toward art house and foreign cinema.

Unlike film departments at major metropolitan newspapers or national magazines, individuals on MovieTok generally don’t aspire to review every noteworthy film. And while most expressed admiration for traditional critics’ grasp of film history, they tended to associate the profession as a whole with false or unearned authority.

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

MovieTok creators are not the first in the history of film criticism to rebel against their elders. In the 1950s, François Truffaut, Jean-Luc Godard and other writers of the journal Cahiers du Cinéma disavowed the nationalism of mainstream French criticism. In the 1960s and ’70s, the New Yorker critic Pauline Kael assailed the moralism associated with Bosley Crowther, a longtime movie critic of The New York Times, and others. And movie bloggers in the 2000s charged print critics with indifference or hostility to superhero and fantasy films.

“There’s always this denigrating of those so-called ‘other’ critics as somehow elitist and old-fashioned while presenting yourself as the new avant-garde,” said Mattias Frey, head of the department of media, culture and creative industries at the City University of London and the author of “The Permanent Crisis of Film Criticism.” He defined criticism, by any name, as “evaluation grounded in reason,” citing the philosopher Noël Carroll.

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