10 under-the-radar websites every film buff should know about
There was a time when critics and cinephiles alike were locked in a debate over whether the internet would destroy smart, challenging film criticism. Fortunately, those days are over: These days, anyone who follows the industry knows that film-focused blogs routinely produce some of the most insightful and engaging work around.
Unfortunately, actually finding that quality work can be a challenge. Film buffs now navigate a critical landscape packed with enough sites, blogs, journals, magazines, and zines to fill up even the most devoted moviegoer's reading schedule.
To help you overcome this tyranny of choice, here are 10 of the best, lesser-known film-centric publications you should be reading:
Since founders Ed Gonzalez and Sal Cinquemani opened Slant Magazine more than a decade ago, the site has blossomed into one of the most respected film criticism establishments around. With a staff full of gifted, prickly critics, Slant covers seemingly every new release available as if they're The New York Times. Upon reading their reviews — which are generally published earlier than virtually any other outlet on the web — you'll be at once enlightened and infuriated by their thoughts. The site has grabbed attention for disseminating rather incendiary opinions with authority and, yes, a slant.
Must read: "Imagining Sisyphus Happy: A Groundhog Day Retrospective," by Ali Arikan.
There are few film-focused sites that exist on the internet that pay their writers and don't cover movie news (trailers, casting announcements, gossip, etc). For most, it's a necessary evil that inexplicably draws in traffic. Founded by Jordan Raup and Daniel Mecca in 2008, the folks at The Film Stage (while not always first to the story) manage to go beyond simply copy and pasting a press release and clicking publish. They offer enjoyable commentary to spice things up and pull fascinating insights out of even mundane topics. Though not exclusively a news site (they publish reviews/essays/etc), The Film Stage is a healthy alternative to something like Variety or The Hollywood Reporter. (Bonus: they also run an ingenious Twitter account that digs up miscellaneous cinematic artifacts).
Born out of frustration with "the lack of feminist perspectives in film criticism, as well as female bylines in review sections" Cleo is a quarterly film journal dedicated to exploring feminism in cinema. Founded by Toronto critic Kiva Reardon in 2013, the online magazine has garnered considerable success by examining film, old and new, through a feminist lens. Each issue contains anywhere from six to eight well-written essays. The only problem with the publication is that there's not more of it.
Must read: "Don Jon's Meaningless Meanings," by Eleni Deacon
4. Reverse Shot
Founded in January of 2003 as a quarterly film journal, Reverse Shot is a publication replete with talented writers of every variety — emerging critics, established journalists, and esteemed scholars — taking an academic approach to criticism. Every essay is sharply written, thoroughly researched, and carefully curated by notoriously rigorous founders/editors Michael Koresky and Jeff Reichert. Today, Reverse Shot primarily publishes long-form pieces on art-house/indie new releases, along with dispatches from international film festivals including Cannes, Stockholm, and Panama.
Must read: "25th Hour: Face Value," by David Ehrlich
5. "The Hollywood Prospectus" in Grantland
While a majority of Grantland's readership travels to the site for its excellent sports analysis, the ESPN affiliate run by Bill Simmons has a wonderful entertainment branch in "The Hollywood Prospectus." This subsection is occupied by some of the best film writers on the internet, including Mark Harris, Wesley Morris, Karina Longworth, and Matt Patches. Simmons and company give writers space to opine about any topic in great detail, and "The Hollywood Prospectus" is consistently filled with long-form journalism and meticulous reporting, always presenting new ideas, films and ideas to their readers.
Must read: "The Song of Solomon," by Wesley Morris
6. To Be Cont'd
Eclectic as the film community may be, there is no site like To Be Cont'D. Founded by young critics Peter Labuza and Andrew Welch in 2013, this up-and-coming outlet consists of two writers having a month-long conversation on a specific topic. There are no weekly reviews. There are no news reports. To Be Cont'D is not interested in contributing to the daily cycle most film sites operate under; as it says in its mission statement, they're "slowing things down." Labuza and Welch have even managed to gather renowned writers like Glenn Kenny (RogerEbert.com) and Keith Uhlich (Time Out New York) to contribute to their four-week conversations where the authors — in a sort of personal letter format — write to each other about a certain film.
Must read: "Thief," by Nick Usen and Jordan Cronk.
Launched during this year's Sundance film festival, /Bent is the most recent addition to IndieWire's expansive blog network — and the only blog to seriously (and consistently) consider the LGBT community in film. Founded by IndieWire Senior Writer Peter Knegt, the LGBT-themed subsection of the site is designed to irreverently "look at how queer culture is represented on film and in other media." With a diverse staff of gay men and women, the blog has been successful in staying true to their mission statement. Aside from covering news within the LGBT film community, /Bent publishes an assortment of lists, essays, and festival coverage on everything from Outfest to the role of mothers in Xavier Dolan's films.
Must read: "Does 'The Case Against 8' Make A Case For An Inclusive Queer Rights Movement?" by Joe Ehrman-Dupre
8. Hello Cinema
Both the smallest and youngest site included on this list, Hello Cinema is your one-stop shop for all things Iranian cinema. Written, edited, and run by Tina Hassannia and Amir Soltani, the site produces reviews and news, along with a monthly podcast that discusses everything you should know about Iranian cinema. Both authors behind this project are knowledgeable and well versed in this realm of cinema (Hassannia even has a book on the work of Asghar Farhadi, director of A Separation, that will be published in December by The Critical Press). While the outlet is in the nascent stages, its focus is clear and worthy of attention. All it needs now is an audience.
Must read: "Review: Baduk, 1992," by Amir Soltani
Fandor primarily serves as an art-house version of Netflix, offering viewers an opportunity to watch thousands of undiscovered gems from around the world — but they also publish Keyframe, a terrific digital magazine that examines foreign and independent cinema. Filling the margins with erudite critics and educators, the magazine opines on everything from Werner Herzog's inner landscapes to the influence of cartoonist Nina Paley.
Must read: "In Times Like These: 'Lubitsch Can't Wait'" by Michael Pattinson.
10. The Notebook
Like Fandor, MUBI is a streaming service that pushes people to expand their cinematic horizons, offering users an opportunity to watch smaller, obscure films at a monthly rate. MUBI plays host to one of the strongest digital magazines with The Notebook, which focuses on international cinema and film culture. Founded in 2007 by Daniel Kasman, this space is designed to "guide film lovers searching, lost, or adrift in an overwhelming sea of content." Whether it's an audio-viusal essay on the work of Brian De Palma, or festival coverage from Cannes, it's easy to fall down the rabbit hole of engaging criticism.
Must read: "Narcissists and Close-Ups: Alex Ross Perry's Listen Up Philip" by Ignatiy Vishnevetsky