photo credit: Wilson Morales
This year's Masters of the Web panel was framed as an "Expression of the subjectivity of film - a look at the diversity, expression, and perspectives" through which the medium is funneled to the masses by some of the Internet's most respected voices on the subject. Moderated by Transformers 2 scribe Roberto Orci and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World director Edgar Wright, the spirited conversation that went down in ballroom 32b Thursday afternoon was practically pornographic for any voracious film nerds who get excited by the sight of bylines in the flesh.
It was easy catnip for the handful of people out there who want to know what CHUD's Devin Faraci's face looks like while he's listening to Screen Rant's Vic Holtreman (spoiler alert: slightly pained yet impressively zen), but methinks that the discussion produced some insights that would have been of interest to a substantially wider audience, and anyone with even a passing curiosity for this industry might have gleaned a tidbit or two as to how criticism functions in a world where the voices are fragmented across global networks of information and opinion.
Beyond Faraci and Holtreman, the panel was rounded out by Cinematical's very own Erik Davis and Jen Yamato, Comingsoon.net's Ed Douglas, Joblo's Mike Sampson, and Latino Review's George "El Guapo" Roush. And Roberto Orci was quick to remind us all that every one of them despised his Transformers 2, going so far as to quote Faraci's particularly scathing review.
These are the five things that stuck out from the way-too-brief dialogue.
1. The integrity of their word is pretty much the only thing online film writers have. When pressed as to how they have to consider the responses of their subjects to their often critical pieces, Faraci opined, "You can't weigh that at all... If readers think I'm soft-balling or sucking dick, they won't come back." Roush followed, "The readers come first... Don't make bad movies, and we won't trash them."
This might not seem to be particularly revelatory, but when you consider the friendships that can ferment between web-folk and film folk on set visits, at Comic-con, etc... it's crucial to keep in mind. Mr. Erik Davis then shared an anecdote about how Zack Snyder was very vocal about Davis' dismissal of 300, but mentioned that it's easy to be honest because, "The good thing about what we do is that there's always going to be a next movie."
2. It's strange how you never see Roberto Orci and dead Other / Tom Cruise cousin William Mapother at the same place at the same time... Observe:
It's like Marc Cuban and Will Forte had twins.
3. Gossip is an ugly business. Everyone's gotta eat and hits make the world go round, but gossip-mongering isn't a satisfying business. Mike Sampson put it best when he suggested that to see how pervasive the tendency is in the industry, "All you have to do is look at how many headlines end in a question mark." Douglas confirmed, "Rumors take up so much time... we'd rather just be a news site." But Faraci illustrated how the issue isn't always so black and white, opining with a sigh that "There are sites that make their living posting bullshit Batman 3 rumors... but a story can be correct today and not correct tomorrow, it doesn't mean it was never correct in the first place."
4. Women can - and do - rule the web. Ms. Jen Yamato may have been the only girl present on the panel, but that won't be the case next year, as the crowd was promised that the panel would be roughly 50% fangirl in the near future. Judging by the healthy applause her contributions to the conversation elicited from the crowd, Yamato is doing an exceptional job of holding down the fort for the fairer sex.
5. The fanboys have fanboys. Online film writers are not exempt from the hysteria of crazed fans that comes with having an abstract public persona of any kind - given that disparate readers have only the blogger's words to go by, it seems as if some particularly forthright opinions have become interpreted as personal, physical attacks, and digitally diffused words have sometimes become grounds for very real moments of awkward retaliation.
Faraci began the exploration as to the double-edged underbelly of anonymity, saying "Every reader who I meet in person is really sweet - every reader who e-mails me calls me a fat douchebag." Roush followed that up by sharing the story of a fan who perennially threatens to come to Comic-con and beat his ass, which lead to a funny moment where a guy in the front row raised his hand. After Yamato sighed that "I has a surprising lack of crazy fans, and could use some more," the same guy in the front row raised his hand again.