I won't lie to you, there are many nice things about being a film critic: the free advance screenings, the year-end screeners, the trips to festivals, the freedom to spend some mornings drinking tea in your pajamas while you duck out of seeing "New Year's Eve." But along with the money, an overriding sense of usefulness isn't one of them. Some hands heal the sick, some hands build bridges and some hands warn people off spending money on seeing "W.E." They're all services, true, but the world wouldn't exactly spin off its axis if the last group of hands remained idle.
The discussion about what purpose critics serve in an age when social media and the blogosphere increasingly blur the lines of "qualified" opinion -- some of the most engaging film writers I currently read don't practice professionally -- while the notion of films being "critic-proof" dates back much, much further. Even before I became one myself, I found critics less useful for helping me decide what films to see than for feeding my post-viewing thoughts. I'm always delighted when someone tells me one of my reviews encouraged them to see a film, but somewhat surprised as well. There are enough critically adored films that approximately no one goes to see to support the idea that most critics have little audience to speak of.