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Exclusive Interview: Leonard Maltin on the Internet Age, the Upcoming Oscar Season and More

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Who is Leonard Maltin? Most film geeks worth their salt would readily recall his face from Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide, as he's arguably the most recognizable film critic behind Roger Ebert. We had a chance to sit down with the critic, historian, and proprietor of Leonard Maltin's Movie Crazy blog, the discussion touching on such diverse subjects as obtaining a foothold as a critic in the digital age, the pros and cons of connecting with an audience worldwide and the upcoming Oscar race.

"I keep thinking how lucky I was to have come up when I did, because I don’t know how you get established today. I don’t know how you cut through all the clutter and all the voices out there and make yourself heard, make yourself known," Maltin said regarding the challenges of becoming a well-known, trusted persona on the web, adding "the gatekeepers no longer have the keys to the kingdom, anybody can access an audience, theoretically." That happy fact calls for some introspection, Maltin noted, posing several questions "How do you stick with that audience, and how do you convince the audience that you’re worth reading or listening to? When everybody’s a filmmaker, everybody’s a musician, everybody’s an artist, all so proclaim, how do you sort the wheat from the chaff and it’s tough, it’s tough for all of us."

Where to begin with any kind of personal selection process? "It’s a very tricky subject for me to tackle because I don’t want to sound like an old crank who’s shaking his fist at the young whipper-snappers, because obviously there are talented artists and writers and essayists and critics and musicians out there who have gotten a potential to reach a world wide audience thanks to the web. The question is, what are their credentials, what are their, who are they, what’s their history. Part of reading a critic is knowing who the critic is, you have to know who the critic is before you can give them credence. If you have infinite patience, if you’re willing to read people for a while and decide whether or not you like, but that’s a big investment of time and energy, isn’t it?"

As far as writing is concerned, Maltin clearly sees the availability of blogs as "the upside of the internet. If I had unlimited time and energy, I’d be writing full time. Roger [Ebert] is indefatigable and I envy him that. It is an extraordinary new media, the closest equivalent would be having a daily newspaper column in the old days."

Part of the reason people have been reading Leonard Maltin is naturally the Movie Guide, the continued publication of which Maltin refers to as a "a small miracle." "I confess I’m old fashioned enough to still like the concept of a book," he says, adding "I’m on my computer all day long just like everybody else, I just don’t see the need to exclude one in favor of the other. I don’t see why we can’t have both." Luckily, for those who'd prefer not to thumb through a tome, an I-phone app that considerably speeds up the film search process.

Another reason for Maltin's popularity are his TV appearances. A quick look at the critic's Wikipedia page reveals a wealth of cultural references devoted to him, and with a sixth season of Maltin on Movies in play, Maltin can highlight classic favorites, indies and international fare, moving beyond the typical mainstream fare. He puts it across simply, saying "It’s a great privilege to have my own half hour every week where I get to say whatever I want."

Wrapping up our interview, Maltin shared his impression regarding the Oscar race...or lack thereof. "I have no Oscar predictions because I haven’t seen anything Oscar-worthy particularly," he said with a laugh, continuing, "but that seems to be the typical case this time of year. As you well know, it’s Labor Day weekend when the door swing open and we start seeing the good stuff, the prestige pictures, the awards bait. Every year I find myself kinda grousing about the length of the awards season, on the other hand, if we didn’t have that season, we wouldn’t get any intelligent, daring movies that aren’t just looking at box office returns."

He did run down a list of several films, including The Avengers (a favorite), Safety Not Guaranteed, Robot & Frank, and Hit & Run, which Maltin said was a "pleasant surprise." Our conversation was brief and unsurprisingly pleasant and we look forward to speaking with Maltin again - perhaps around the time Oscar season winds down? You never know.

Aug
28
2012
Mark Zhuravsky • Staff Writer

I'm a prolific blogger, writer and editor who loves film.

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