Those diehard print dudes in the New York Film Critics Circle finally recognize (wow) the Internet — and women!
Extra! Extra! Breaking news: Newspapers' Stalinist rule over all media is kaput!
The triumph of the Internet over competing media is official. Its clout was widely acknowledged for years, sure, but there's been a curious holdout: a bunch of graybeards hiding in the alternate universe of the New York Film Critics Circle who think they still rule the planet along with chaps named Pulitzer and Hearst.
When the New York Film Critics Circle was formed in 1935, it was comprised of "13 metropolitan cinema soothersayers" engaged in "star chamber proceedings," according to the New York Times. Members all belonged to the city's many newspapers, which included the American, Daily News, Herald Tribune, Journal, Mirror, Post, Times, Sun and World-Telegram. No one else was permitted to join — not even widely respected film critics writing for magazines and book publishers.
Magazine writers were so irked about being shut out of NYFCC that, in 1966, they formed a rival critics group also based in Manhattan — the National Society of Film Critics, which permitted newspaper journos to join too. Technically, all critics can join NSFC, but TV riffraff like the late Joel Siegel has always been shut out. (Joel used to complain to me bitterly about it when he was a regular contributor to the old GoldDerby.com.) For the most part, Web writers have been shunned too, but a few have been tolerated. At least they are — theoretically — eligible to submit applications for membership.
Not true at NYFCC, which finally caved in and permitted magazine journos to join a few decades ago, but otherwise it's remained a print-only closed circle.
However, today NYFCC announced that Web writers are finally included as the names of three new members were unveiled: Karen Durbin (Elle Magazine), Dana Stevens (Slate.com) and Stephanie Zacharek (Salon.com). It's startling that all three are women.
Throughout most of its history, NYFCC has been more than 80% male. As of September 2007, for example, only three of the circle's 27 members were women. Then, last October, two new members were added: Melissa Anderson (Time Out New York) and Elizabeth Weitzman (New York Daily News). Now three more! That means that women now comprise almost one-quarter of the membership. Amazing! Hurrah!
NYFCC could sure use more gender balance when deciding award winners. The list of past honorees is drenched in testosterone. Consider these best picture picks: "United 93," "Mulholland Drive," "GoodFellas," "Prizzi's Honor," "Reds," etc. Or consider this. In the years when Oscar voters (more of a dual-gender group) endorsed "The Greatest Show on Earth," "Hamlet," "Gigi," "Out of Africa," "The English Patient," "Titanic" and "Shakespeare in Love" as best picture, the New York Film Critics Circle backed "High Noon," "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre," "The Defiant Ones," "Prizzi’s Honor," "Fargo," "L.A. Confidential" and "Saving Private Ryan."
(An earlier draft of this blog item mistakenly cited "Unforgiven" as a past winner of the NYFCC best-picture award. The correction has been made.)