At what point do you stop taking a movie blog seriously? Can you ever take a movie blog seriously? And, most importantly, what is a movie blog? I like to think an opinion-based website that allows readers to comment is probably the best definition of a blog. Thus, Cinematical is a blog, JoBlo is a blog, AICN is a blog, and so on. But at what point does the "movie blog" become the "marketing blog" -- a site somewhat controlled by the studios; one that has no problem pimping out certain projects if it means they'll be on the "extra special" list when it comes time for interviews, scoops, etc. That's what The Guardian thinks happened to AICN (or Ain't It Cool News) right around the time AICN chief Harry Knowles began receiving private advanced screening invites and phone calls from folks like Sylvester Stallone and Bruce Willis. The site for fanboys, written by fanboys, had become (in The Guardian's words) "smug and pedestrian." Essentially, they jumped the shark.
Still, though, folks run to AICN for the latest "test screening" review, major inside scoop and/or ridiculous foul-mouthed banter between the site's authors and their brain-damaged commenters. All that's really changed, in my mind, is that the site is now being used by Hollywood as a go-between -- they don't know how to communicate with today's youth, and so they'll use this site (and its young-at-heart writers) to translate for us. But it's not like this doesn't happen at other spots around the net. Folks call us out all the time for being a part of a major corporation (which, in all honesty, we are), but that does not (and will not) stop us from telling you what we really think. Just the other day, a fellow online writer was telling me how a studio publicist took a bunch of other online writers out to dinner. I wouldn't be surprised if they walked away with a few hats and t-shirts as well. It's kind of like a parent trying to buy their kid's love (with a bunch of flashy items, like an iPhone or what have you).
And if that's what "jumping the shark" is, then AICN is definitely not the only website guilty of it. In the end, though, it's a catch-22. As with most things in life, if you don't scratch their back, they won't scratch yours. And everyone, including The Guardian, is guilty of taking one for the team if it means your readers would really like a particular piece of content ... like an interview with Stallone, or a gallery of Harry Potter photos.