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Disappearing Movie Critics

I started off as an intern at Newsweek, and one of the greatest things about my job was that, out of the L.A. office, I was sometimes able to go to movie screenings with one of my personal idols, David Ansen.

I know that's not the same as hearing the words Brad Pitt or George Clooney. But for someone like me, the chance to watch movies with Newsweek's movie critic was a huge deal. I grew up loving not only movies, but also movie reviews from my local critic (the Rocky Mountain News' Robert Denerstein), and Siskel & Ebert programs where the duo would just go back and forth so passionately about the moviegoing experience.

I didn't realize until today that this past March, the news magazine bought out Ansen's contract (and Denerstein's no longer with the Rocky Mountain News, either). Apparently, print film critics -- many of them prominent names for big publications -- are dropping like flies. Here's a recent departed list from the Salt Lake Tribune.

I understand the reasons. The Interent has made film criticism the ultimate democracy, and overall, that's great. With sites like Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic, and our own fan ratings and user reviews, consumers can quickly and easily find out the critical consensus, the word on the street, and how a movie played at preview screenings.

But it's still sad to see so many seasoned critics, with their unique writing styles and opinions, being lost in the shuffle. Ansen wrote for Newsweek for over 30 years. And while I love reading web reviews from Moriarty and James Berardinelli, I'll also sorely miss Ansen's byline in the magazine and its online version.

My hat's off then, to all the departed professional critics. Kudos, too, to Roger Ebert, the most popular critic of all. He may not be well enough to continue on with the t.v. show, but this stalwart of the field (who's always been a strong advocate of all things Internet) continues to turn out great movie reviews and commentary in print and on the web.

What are your thoughts? Are professional critics' reviews useful to you, or do you prefer to find out about movies from other sources?

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