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  • Michael L Bergonzi

Women and Film/TV Criticism

Historically, women in the United States have had to work more for less for centuries. From the pay wage gap to lack of representation in specific industries, women often have an uphill battle compared to men. One such vocation is film criticism.

According to, women comprised less than 20 percent of film critics in 2021. Men made up more than 80 percent. Local critic, Pam Powell of WCIA says she doesn't think opportunities are improving for women. At least not enough to "keep us on track with men in the industry." Her co-worker and fellow critic, Chuck Koplinski is a member of the organization responsible for putting on the Critics Choice Awards along with Powell. During their last visit, they met Branden Frasier and Michelle Yeoh, actors from two Oscar-winning movies of 2022. Frasier won best actor for "The Whale" and Yeoh for "Everything Everywhere All At Once," which won many awards including best picture.

Aside from watching films, Powell's most-liked activity being a film critic is meeting people in the industry. She remembers talking with Barry Jenkins "When you have that kind of an interaction, and that is meaningful that is my favorite part."

Chuck Koplinski and Pam Powell

Critic v Audience Scores: Rotten or Fresh

The COVID-19 pandemic incapacitated the movie and television industries by attacking box office performances of movies like "Tenet" and a slew of Marvel films. "Eternals"—the first movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe's (MCU) phase four was the first movie in the MCU to receive a rotten rating on Rotten Tomatoes at 47 percent. from critics and 77 percent fresh from critics. That divide has only gotten wider. "Ant-Man and the Wasp Quantumania" is the most recent MCU film and the beginning of phase five for the Disney-owned movie studio and the second to receive a rotten score on Rotten Tomatoes. While the critic rating is the same as Eternals, the gap between it and audience ratings has a 36 percent difference. The need for critic reviews on sites like Rotten Tomatoes seems to have become more divisive.

Hoyt Hilsman: Political Activist and TV Critic

That divide between the audience and critics makes the future of film criticism and newspapers a bit hard to predict. The death of publishing as a whole isn't a new phenomenon. People have been saying that for years with every new innovation. The most recent one is self-publishing electronic book (ebook) publishing and even that is over a decade old.

It's similar to how some midlist authors in traditional publishing from the big 5—Macmillan, Penguin Random House, Simon and Schuster, Harper Collins, and Hachette—have gone into self-publishing. Like them, some film critics are finding benefits in self-publishing their reviews, especially in podcasts. In fact, breaking into the film criticism market in the traditional sense is almost impossible due to the decline of video stores, implies Chuck Kaplinski of WCIA. You're more likely to go the indie route and start a website or podcast because breaking in is harder than a lot of other jobs at a newspaper.

Rotten Tomatoes has a set of criteria that those not affiliated with news organizations need to have. Among them, for podcasts, are "At least 200 ratings on Apple Podcasts with a minimum score of 4 stars." Though they will consider those who reach underrepresented groups on a case-by-case basis. For the vast majority of podcasts, 200 reviews is a steep hill to climb.

How the audience and the critics experience a film might also be a factor in the gap between their ratings. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, people have been experiencing movies in different ways. These include watching on their phone or tablet and having access to movies on platforms simultaneously with theaters. Powell says time has had little impact on how critics view movies. "

"You're seeing it with a bunch of other critics. Or if you go see a public screening, as opposed to a critics screening, and you're seeing it with a different group of people. And let me tell you, there's a big difference in that audience and those reactions."

Powell's Criticism Philosophy

Of her pet peeves in films, Powell dislikes over the top violence. She says, she's fine with violence as long as it moves the plot forward. She also doesn't like redundancy, being beaten over the head with a message, or when the musical score tells you how to feel throughout a movie. "I like to to think that directors and writers can give the viewer a little bit more credit, to have a little bit of intelligence, so that we can think for ourselves."

Her criteria for what makes a good movie is simple to understand. She likes a good story that is told well. "Everything else is just icing on the cake." When talking about what are some misconceptions people have about critics, Powell says, "we're all just looking to be entertained and to escape reality and maybe even walk in somebody else's shoes for a little bit, and have some empathy from someone maybe that you didn't have any idea about before."

Keeping distance from people in the film making process sounds like a problem of staying objective. For Powell, that's no neccesarily the case. She feels that meeting your favorite actors and directors, having them not be what you expect can color your perception of them in a film you might have loved otherwise. "Chuck and I got to the critic's choice awards every year and we meet—I can't tell you how many people within the industry. And, when you meet somebody who you idolize on the silver screen of just even on the T.V. screen, and they don't don't live up to that, it's hard not to see them in a different light."

Powell thanks Chuck for the opportunity that she may not have gotten otherwise due to the industries cutthroat tendencies. "It would be really nice to see more people help one another, lift each other up. Unfortunately this really isn't an industry that does that." She also says that to break in now, you need to knock some doors down to get opportunities. "I've enjoyed opening up those doors and when those doors don't open up, I do tend to go in windows and sometimes even down the chimney."

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