Film criticism today: Lawrence Frascella speaks at Union

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By Clara Boesch

On April 17, the film studies and modern languages departments brought Lawrence Frascella to speak about his experiences as a film critic. Professor Jim DeSeve led the discussion, joining Frascella before an intimate audience.

Frascella is a renowned movie critic, writing for publications such as Us Magazine, Entertainment Weekly, Aperture, Harper’s Bazaar and Rolling Stone. He also published his own book,  Live Fast, Die Young; The Making of Rebel Without a Cause, which documents the making of the classic James Dean film.

The conversational mood of the evening was set as Franscella opened his talk by asking for questions from the audience.  The ensuing discussion touched on the history of film criticism, the evolving nature of the field and personal anecdotes about both the glamorous and tedious aspects of the job.

The role of a film critic has greatly changed throughout cinematic history. The earliest critics were employed to persuade viewers of the artistic value of cinema.  By the 1950s, critics’ opinions were divided over the various genres dominating the Hollywood film scene, such as film noir, western and musical.

Following the rise of the blockbuster in the 1980s, critics preferred the smaller, more exploratory films of the 1990s. This period marks the beginning of Frascella’s career.

During a typical week, Frascella gets to attend private screenings of unreleased films in state-of-the art theaters.

However, the job is also exhausting, as Frascella will sometimes see up to three films in a day.  The industry is also highly competitive, and Frascella has felt pressure to give a biased review.

Frascella recounted a time when he was offered the opportunity to view a screening of the unfinished animated Disney movie Beauty and the Beast. Grateful for the unique opportunity, Frascella soon realized that the experience was a ploy to wrangle a favorable review.

He argues that traditional film criticism is a dying profession today. With the decline of print media, moviegoers rely on the web for advice on what to see.

However, Frascella is optimistic about the rise of amateur bloggers, often finding it to be some of the most insightful film criticism on the Internet.

 

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