A new power in the film reviewing universe is in the works. As if God could answer the prayers of hipsters, geeks, and snobs any more clearly, the Pitchfork music empire is joining forces with former staffers of The Onion’s A.V. Club, with the goal of expanding its rich critical cast into the world of movies.
The site will be called the Dissolve, presumably taking after the classic transition from scene-to-scene in so many movies old and new. It will debut with a staff of eight including, but not limited to, former A.V. editor Keith Phipps, who is culturally perceived as residing over a golden era of The Onion’s serious, media-driven section. Now it lacks the truly nerded-out gleam, and, quote-unquote: "Isn’t as cool as it used to be."
Pitchfork, like fixed-gear bikes or pickled vegetables, is synonymous with hipster culture, but embedded deeper within that plaid-clad stereotype is something quite powerful. The 50 or so folks at Pitchfork were and still are tastemakers. Their publication is a bastion of intense concern for music, and they are equally famous for pouring decadent prose into reviews of classic albums and newer, alternative music, as they are for systematically crushing music which they perceive as sub par. Say what you will about their scenester readership, but Pitchfork media is quite a testament to the might of the written word in the art world.
Movies need this type of critical angle. Movie criticism is in a post-Ain’t-it-cool news era. That is to say, the human encyclopedias — the fanboy kings — of film that dotted the internet were the first to diminish the power of more recognizable film critics, rendering your Eberts and your Roepers beached whales for a time. Then, Metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes made movie criticism a fat, aggregate metric. The print journalists and the web stalwarts were bonded together in pseudo-democratic, rudimentary percentages or “tomato-meters” to display to public whether or not the entire species of verified films critics thought a given film was worthy.
Now, Dissolve hopes to return to a golden era of film critique. Decorated individuals will write with meticulous detail, their opinionated views the art-form they care so much about. A great film critic isn’t just a glib-witted, bespectacled greaseball saying "yay" or "nay" from an ivory tower. A quality critic knows, and can even affect a zeitgeist, and develop the whole culture into something more profound than previously thought. Jean-Luc Godard and other French New Wavers were film critics in the now famous Cahier Du Cinema before they decided they could do it themselves, and now they are a classic instance of movie innovation. I doubt the elite eight of the Dissolve will elect to do the same so brazenly, but hey, at least A.O. Scott will have a few more peers at his level of the game.