John Nolte isn’t like most movie critics.
You won’t find Nolte, the editor-in-chief of Big Hollywood, navel gazing about the state of the modern critic or throwing roses at Michael Moore’s movies simply because they align with his world view.
He’s that rare right-of-center film critic, and he lets you know it up front. Nolte won’t be confused with Roger Ebert any time soon, all the more reason to check in with him and get his thoughts on the rise of the web-based movie critic.
(Note: WWTW is a frequent contributor to Big Hollywood)
WWTW: What was the trigger that made you take to the web to start sharing your movie opinions?
JN: My online writing started just after the ‘04 presidential election. I didn’t even know what a blog was until RatherGate and upon learning, very much like the idea of being able to self publish. Because political commentary is everywhere and my goal has always been to be a paid writer, I knew that there was really no point in trying to establish myself as a political commentator.
Thankfully, movies have always been my number one passion, and thankfully 99.999 percent of film writing is done by hard core Leftists who all sound alike, share the same opinions and contempt for their readers, and cover Hollywood from a slobbering point of view.
So this was the perfect unclaimed niche, tailor made for a right-of-center lover all all things film.
WWTW: Film critics can be steeped in film lore … or simply love films and have a knack for expressing said love without any formal training. What makes a worthwhile critic, in your opinion? Have your thoughts on this subject evolved since you became a critic?
JN: The amazing thing about film lore is just how much of it there is. For an art form that’s only a little more than century old, there’s still so much left for me to discover even though it’s been my primary passion for going on thirty years now and my profession for almost five. To be a worthwhile film critic, you should probably be both knowledgeable and in love with your subject.
Passion is what’s most crucial and I think in some cases formal training kills passion.
Look at Harry Knowles over at Aint It Cool News. No one would ever use his column as a writing sample to aspire to as far as grammar and sentence structure (or mine, for that matter), but so what? He’s living the dream because he watches everything, loves most all of it and then takes the time – not to show of a PhD level of knowledge or an English major from Stanford – but to share his passion.
I now try to avoid writing only a straight movie review, because frankly no one really gives a damn. Instead I try to make the review entertaining and even a commentary on other things – a standalone kind of piece that might work even if there was no film to review. My goal is to have people who don’t like movies still interested in reading my reviews.
WWTW: How has writing film reviews changed how you watch movies – or has it?
JN: I was never successful working in Hollywood but I had some successes, enough that for a few years I was able to work full time creatively in the indie world an even make a little money while doing so. It was this experience that not only changed how I watch movies but made it possible for me to review films with a hands-on knowledge of how they’re created. That’s not only helpful but represents an experience many film reviewers haven’t had.
It’s a brutal, exhausting, frequently humiliating and sometimes exhilarating education. But when it’s over you’ll never watch a movie the same way again. That experience was the best possible training for what I’m doing now, something much more valuable thatn any kind of film degree.
Tomorrow: Nolte discusses film critics letting their politics interact with their reviews and how the web is helping, not killing, the modern movie critic.