Film critic speaks to Laurier class

The unavoidable stigma that film critics encounter is the belief that their career is superfluous. We all watch movies, we all have an opinion; so who determines ones ability to be a consistently credible critic?

Acclaimed journalist and film critic Adam Layman spoke to a Canadian Film Studies (FS244) class at Wilfrid Laurier University last Wednesday, delving deep into the downfalls of the career and not shying away from addressing these and other stereotypical assumptions about critics.

Layman has an extensive resume in film criticism as a contributing editor for Cinema Scope, a film critic for the Grid and a frequent contributor to the Globe and Mail.

During his presentation at Laurier, Layman intelligently described the progression of film criticism in North America and the “crisis of confidence” amongst this generation of film critics.

As Layman explained, with the rising popularity of film studies and film theory, the 1970s led to a new generation of critics who found interpreting the medium of film to be tremendously relevant. These critics initially had the ability to influence the opinions of the public with their criticism.

According to Layman, this overtly persuasive element of film criticism prevalent in previous decades has been lost.

Film enthusiast and Canadian film studies student John Peckitt spoke to The Cord following the presentation, saying, “Layman’s overview of film criticism was interesting. There was a time when a review could change everything,” in regards to the ‘tastemakers’ Layman discussed of the 60s and 70s who could make or break a career with a single review.

The specific “tastemaker” Layman focused on in his own presentation was his idol, Pauline Kael. Kael’s career is influential for aspiring film critics – as she was one of the pioneers of film criticism.

Layman differentiated his own career from that of Kael through a look at the momentum and evolution of film criticism. Gone are the days when the opinion of one or two critics was regarded with the utmost authority, as there are now more film critics than ever.

Despite the numerous negative aspects of film criticism discussed by Layman in his presentation, he made clear his convictions about the importance of certain traits in the profession, saying, “Honesty is the only hard and fast thing I stick to.”

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