There are a few cinema critics who still exert influence in their fields – the News of the World's Robbie Collin for blockbusters, the Guardian's Peter Bradshaw for world cinema, and the Chicago Sun-Times's Roger Ebert, who has managed to retain power in the old media by embracing the new. But generally speaking, the critic's influence is quickly diminishing.
The first episode in the revamped run of Film 2010, the BBC's flagship movie show – which aired last night to 1.1 million viewers, a 65% increase on previous host Jonathan Ross's farewell episode – tackled this problem in two ways. The first was to open up the format. Instead of one man in a broom cupboard, a seat filled most comfortably by Barry Norman, we instead had nominal host Claudia Winkleman sprawled casually alongside the Guardian's Danny Leigh in a sexy studio, with big red couch and bubbly purple background.
The second was to create a more shared experience – not just reading out viewers' tweets, but also recruiting a roving team: a geek boy (Empire's Chris Hewitt), an arthouse madam (newsprint critic Antonia Quirke) and a blogger so young he looked fresh from the womb (Charlie Lyne). So: not just one critic, but five, all eager to share the platform with you and your smartphone.
I fear this might be slightly overegging the pudding. One must applaud programme makerswho take a punt on new talent and recruit reporters with specialist knowledge. But last night it proved slightly difficult to get a handle on all the personalities or to relax into a consistent tone. The show brought to mind the mixed feeling that accompanied Late Review's decision to expand its pool of pundits after the soapy glory days of Allison Pearson, Tony Parsons and Tom Paulin.
Still, Leigh and Winkleman had good chemistry and Leigh (I admit, I'm biased, but still) was terrific. But is there something slightly saddening about the fact Winkleman was thought to require quite so many crutches? I've always found her informed and engaging in her own right.
The two big junket packages – about The Social Network and Despicable Me – were polished and professional, if a touch partial. This week their four-minute apiece running time could be editorially justified, with both films receiving two thumbs up, but it will be interesting to see how they handle similar spots when their reaction is less positive. It'd be good, too, if one of the (big enough, surely?) team conducted the interviews, rather than an anonymous one-camera set up. Then perhaps the talent time wouldn't be so eaten up with stars explaining the plot rather than answering questions.
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One has to congratulate the producers, however, on their timing: not just choosing to kick off during one of the few weeks of the year when there are fewer than six films released in the UK (a measure of just how frightened both the multiplex and the arthouse are of The Social Network) but also on the opening night of the London film festival. This provided the opportunity for a legitimately upbeat programme, though it did also require some manufactured pumping up of the festival's place on the world stage. The live after-party interview with artistic director Sandra Hebron, plus Keira Knightley, Andrew Garfield and Carey Mulligan, stars of the first film, Never Let Me Go, added an edge of genuine tension to the proceedings. Too much, maybe? If Hewitt is the superhero correspondent, why had he been assigned this?
The running time was filled out with a questionnaire spot – this week, Simon Pegg – plus the innovative idea of someone picking five clips on a certain subject. This week, Lyne chose his on the moon, which were fine, though it'd be good to see some older footage in the mix (rights trouble, perhaps?).
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