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On TikTok, movie critics say by any other name

by Stewart Cole

Many creators, most in their 20s or early 30s, specialize in a particular niche. Joe Aragon (Cinema. Joe, 931,000 followers) is known for his breakdowns of future attractions. Monse Gutierrez (cvnela1.4 million followers) and Bryan Lucious (stoney_tha_great, 387,000 followers) demystifies and ranks horror movies. Seth Mullan-Feroze (sethsfilmreviews256,000 followers) leans towards art house 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 notable movie. And while most expressed admiration for traditional critics’ understanding 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 several to point to review aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes, where “Top Critics” ratings often differ greatly from those of casual users, such as evidence that the critical establishment is out of touch. “They watch movies and they’re just looking for something to review,” he said. “Fans watch movies looking for entertainment.”

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

“There’s always this denigration of these so-called ‘other’ critics as somewhat elitist and old-fashioned while you present yourself as the new vanguard,” said Mattias Frey, head of media, culture and creative industries at the City. University of London and author of ‘The Permanent Crisis of Film Criticism’. He defined criticism, by any name, as “reason-based evaluation,” citing the philosopher Noël Carrol.

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