09/25/2009 10:00 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Why movie critics don't matter

Much has been written this past summer about the dumbing-down of Hollywood, the declining taste of the mass audience and the concurrent drop in the importance or influence of movie critics, as relates to those same movie-goers.

Some commentators point to the fact that the studios now regularly refuse to show even some big-budget films to critics in advance (Hello, GI Joe?). Others make reference to the success of trash like Transformers 2 and Night at the Museum 2, despite deservedly gruesome reviews.

Still others bemoan the lack of commercial success of a particular fave film - usually some obscure arthouse title - as proof that critics no longer have the power to sway audiences. Which ignores the fact that films such as the vastly overrated Goodbye Solo or the vastly underseen The Hurt Locker were never going to be crossover hits. The closest thing to an indie crossover hit this summer is (500) Days of Summer - and it's only taken in $30+ million, barely enough to computer-generate an Autobot or keep Wolverine in adamantium.

All the hand-wringing misses the point. If you're going to focus on the question, "Do critics still matter?", then you have to be prepared for the thunderous "No!" that you'll hear, generally speaking.

But that's the wrong question.

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