Yesterday a Variety story painted another portrait of 20-somethings who don’t want to know from film critics. Except this time it was columnist Anne Thompson, and she was basing her reading on first-hand experience as a part-time USC instructor. She described her film criticism students as “film-obsessed and hardly representative of their non-cinephile peers” but says they “can’t name a working critic other than Roger Ebert, and that’s thanks to his TV fame.

“They scan Rolling Stone or Entertainment Weekly, but they don’t know critics Peter Travers or Owen Gleiberman. They check out film rankings at Rotten Tomatoes or Metacritic and dip into some reviews, but they haven’t found a particular film critic they trust to steer them straight.
“These young film lovers are just as likely to look up old (yes, even b & w) movies for their Netflix queue as new ones. On the Internet, the long tail prevails.” She mentions called Trading Places an “under-appreciated gem”…what? A pretty good studio comedy, okay, but a gem?
“They admire the auteurs Wes Anderson and the Coen brothers, can parse Hitchcock’s Psycho with the best of them, and have studied Francois Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard. But they don’t read newspapers, and never will. Many of them don’t even frequent like-minded blogs that share their cinephilia.”
Really? I’ll be a guest at Charles Fleming‘s USC class on April 7th (along with James Rocchi). Before setting a date Fleming told me I’d “been asked for, by name, by the students.” He was applying the usual flattery, of course, but even if you cut the b.s. down by 50% what he said sounded moderately encouraging: “I ask the students every year, on the first night, where they get their entertainment reporting, and whom they admire,” he wrote. “Your name came up several times. There was delighted surprise when I said that I knew you and that you’d often come down to talk to my students.”
And yet a voice tells me that what Thompson is reporting is closer to the truth. “Students — and today’s youth auds in general — more often get their movie info straight from the studio marketing departments,” she writes. “These kids go to YouTube, Yahoo Movies and Apple to find trailers. As they surf the Web, bits of movie flotsam and visuals planted by the studios on MSN Movies or IGN or JoBlo eventually cross their eyeballs. But they also listen to their friends more than any authority figures, and distrust obvious studio hype.”
20 year-old USC film criticism student hitting on brunette classmate: “So do you like any, like, old black-and-white 1930s or 1940s films? Any comedies or…?”
Brunette: “Oh, totally. Well, you know…some. But it’s like, I mean, like….depending? I mean, I like, of all people, I really like…uhm, Jean Arthur? Because she’s, like, so, I don’t know, her personality is, like…kinda crazy but…you know, spirited? I saw this movie about guys flying airplanes in a jungle somewhere. I think it was, like, somewhere in South America? Venezuela or Columbia and she’s this singer who comes on a boat and meets these guys in a bar who fly the planes? They, like, deliver the mail and they’re, like, hitting on her, and then…wait a minute, what happens? Um, one of the guys gets into a plane and crashes it and Cary Grant — Cary Grant, oh…my….God! And he was, like, I read somewhere, gay? — anyway he gets, like, mad at her because the guy who crashed the plane wanted to get back to the bar so he could buy her another drink..?”
Thompson explains that “these kids’ boomer parents, average age 55 to 65, are the ones who still read movie critics and follow their guidance when there’s something for them to see.”