On the Web, Is Everyone a Critic? Web sites such as Metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes are creating serious competition for professional critics. The sites distill and aggregate professional reviews and provide a forum for users to submit their own comments and ratings. Guests discuss how online reviews are redefining the role of the critic.
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On the Web, Is Everyone a Critic?

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This is Talk of the Nation. I'm Neal Conan. We're broadcasting today from the Knight Studio at the Newseum...

(Soundbite of applause)

CONAN: A museum devoted to journalism and news just off the National Mall here in Washington, D.C. Over the past three years, nearly 30 film critics lost their jobs. Some were laid off as the newspaper industry contracts. Others have taken buyouts or retired. In their place, papers run more syndicated reviews, while more and more readers visit the high-tech competition.

There's no shortage of opinion on the web. Anyone can blog. Everybody can be a critic. And there are also websites like Metacritic and RottenTomatoes.com that aggregate reviews from newspapers and magazines and distill them into numbers and symbols. So if you know that "Iron Man" got three stars or four rotten tomatoes, well, why read 500 words? There are fewer and fewer paid critics, but more and more reviews.

So tell us your story. Where do you get your criticism? Do you use reviews to pick a movie to watch, or to learn about film and art? Our number is 800-989-8255. Our email address is talk@npr.org. You can also join the conversation on our blog at npr.org/blogofthenation. And of course, we'll take questions from the studio audience here at the Newseum.

Later in the hour, we'll talk with Congresswoman Louise Slaughter. A bill she introduced would make it illegal for insurance companies to penalize healthy Americans whose genes make them more likely to develop certain diseases.

But first, film criticism. And joining us now from the studios of WFDD, our member station in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, is Ken Otterbourg, managing editor of the Winston-Salem Journal. In 2006, his newspaper laid off its film critic, and Ken Otterbourg, nice to have you on Talk of the Nation today.


And we're having a little difficulty connecting with Winston-Salem...?

Mr. KEN OTTERBOURG (Managing Editor, Winston-Salem Journal): Yes. Hello?

CONAN: There he is. Ken, can you hear me?

Ken Otterbourg, can you hear me?

Well, we're clearly having some difficulties with the line. We'll get Ken back in a couple of minutes. If we can - should I make one more effort?

Ken Otterbourg, can you hear me?

All right, never mind. We're going to try to reestablish the connection. We'll talk with Ken Otterbourg in just a minute. With us is A. O. Scott, Tony Scott, film critic for The New York Times. He's been on the program for several times, and it's nice to have you back on Talk of the Nation.

Mr. A. O. SCOTT (Film Critic, New York Times): Nice to be here, Neal.

CONAN: As more and more critics vanish, what's the penalty, if you see an Associated Press review in your newspaper, as opposed to locally-generated review?

Mr. SCOTT: Well, if it - I think it depends, to some degree, on the quality of the review. If you see a good piece of writing that's informative and thoughtful, it doesn't necessarily matter where it comes from.

That goes for the Internet, too. If there's, you know, a blog - a blogger who you think is smart and well-informed, and informative, that's a fine source, too. I think one of the unfortunate things about the shrinking numbers of employed critics at newspapers and magazines is - I think there are two.

One is the loss of diversity of voices, and the silencing of some local voices that can sometimes bring a very interesting and unique perspective to a movie, even if it's the same movie that's opening up everywhere else, and also, what's generally going on in the print media, which is a reduction of the number of the opportunities for people to try to make a living doing the kind of writing that they like and that's meaningful to them.

CONAN: Is film criticism - should film criticism be limited to those who have studied, gone to film school, established some sort of credentials, got hired?

Mr. SCOTT: Well...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SCOTT: I only have the last credential, so I can't really say, you know, in any kind of good faith, yes to the first question. I didn't go to film school. I didn't study film. And I don't think it should be or ever has been limited. I mean, it's not something that you get a license for or have to, you know, take an exam to be able to practice, or have to sit in front of a board to be certified to do.

I think, as with many kinds of journalism, you kind of wander into it through a combination of your own tastes and interests and ambitions, and you know, getting hired is very often, I don't mind telling you, a matter of luck or accident or someone else's questionable judgment.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: So, if anybody could do it, what we've seen, some would say, is a great democratization of this. There are more critics. A lot of them are just unpaid and on the web.

Mr. SCOTT: And I think that's a wonderful thing, actually. And I think what it is, in a way, is a bringing into public something that's always gone on, and always been a part of criticism. I mean, when I was growing up and I would read Pauline Kael and Vincent Canby, you know.

I would want to get into an argument with them a lot of the time, or just tell them, you know, how interesting what I thought they were writing was, and talk about, maybe, what they had written or what I had seen with other people.

I mean, all criticism really is, is a set of conversations and arguments that people have, you know, at a cafe or bar after the movie, or you know, with their friends, or sort of in their heads with various critics. And now it's happening on the Internet, and I think it is a wonderfully democratizing, if sometimes also unruly situation.

CONAN: I think we can get Ken Otterbourg back. Again, he's the managing editor of the Winston-Salem Journal, with us from WFDD, our member station in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Ken, can you hear me?

Mr. OTTERBOURG: Yes, I can.

CONAN: Ah! Nice to have you on the program today, and we apologize for our technical problems. As we mentioned earlier, I guess it was about 18 months ago, you laid off your film critic. Was it a tough decision?

Mr. OTTERBOURG: Yes, Neal, it was a very difficult decision. You know, people don't become managing editors to lay people off, particularly film critics, but we were faced with a pretty tough budget situation, and when we start going around the room looking at the content we can provide our readers, and the stories we can find. We think about what we can do well and what we can provide that people aren't going to find anywhere else.

And you know, it came down to the movie criticism, and we had a person who did about - maybe 60 percent of their time was on reviewing movies. And you know, we looked about. OK, it was that or something else, and we decided that movies reviews, we could find them from somewhere else.

The whole, a lot of the art-house movies and sort of small independent movies weren't making it to Winston-Salem, and still really aren't making it here. So essentially we were reviewing a lot of blockbusters that quite often, you know, people were getting decisions about somewhere else or getting information about from another source.

And it seemed like something we could replace, and again, you know, all things being equal, I'd rather have a local movie critic. We were probably the smallest newspaper that had, essentially, a dedicated movie critic, and I hated to give it up but it was the best of several bad alternatives.

CONAN: Did people miss him? Did readers miss him?

Mr. OTTERBOURG: Some readers missed him, absolutely. I mean, he did a good job for us, and he was very knowledgeable. And yes, we got complaints, and we still hear about it to this day.

CONAN: And what are you running instead? Syndicated reviews?

Mr. OTTERBOURG: We run a mixture of things. We have some syndicated reviews. We had a film festival here last week. We did a - our staff, our feature staff, reviewed a lot of movies. You know, one of the things is that we have a book review page and we have usually five to six books reviewed every weekend there.

And most of the people do that are freelancers in the community, and they do a pretty good job. And I don't think anybody complains that they're not professional book critics to do that job.

CONAN: Hm. As - basically, in a way, what you're saying is you were - you're faced with a budget crunch. The newspaper is facing a battle - maybe "survival" is extreme at this point, but some people could see that, down the road, you'd rather have reporters than critics.

Mr. OTTERBOURG: Yes. Or - that's not quite accurate. I'd rather have critics on performances and art and restaurants that we can truly make a difference in terms of local coverage.

CONAN: So in terms of theatrical productions, concert productions, that sort of thing, obviously, you can't have that sent in from New York or Chicago or Los Angeles.

Mr. OTTERBOURG: Yeah. Nobody is going to review "West Side Story" done by the North Carolina School of the Arts at the Stevens Center unless we do it.

CONAN: Unless you do it. And that's vital to be done. I wonder, Mark Berger, your former film critic, do you know, has he managed to land a job reviewing movies somewhere else?

Mr. OTTERBOURG: He's reviewing movies, I think, for a weekly newspaper in this market.

CONAN: And as you go ahead, I'm sure you thought, while you were making this decision, about the value not just of that particular critic but the value of criticism in your paper and the value of a local critic.

Mr. OTTERBOURG: Yes, we did. I have a couple of good friends who are movie critics. And I've been excoriated by at least one of them in his blog. And you know, I thought a lot about the value of it. But at some point, you have to give up some things.

And I think a lot of - you know, we are maybe in the first or second wave of newspapers that gave up movie critics. But the world is changing in terms of how - what people want from their newspaper and where they want to get information about how to spend their entertainment dollars.

CONAN: Ken Otterbourg, thanks very much for your time today. I know this wasn't an easy conversation either. We appreciate it.

Mr. OTTERBOURG: You're welcome.

CONAN: Ken Otterbourg, managing editor of the Winston-Salem Journal, with us from the studios of our member station there, WFDD, in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Let's see if we can get a caller on the line. This is Matt, Matt with us from Oakland, California.

MATT (Caller): Yes. Hi. Thank you very much for taking my call.

CONAN: Sure.

MATT: I just want to share that I think it would be a disaster to lose the criticism for the major newspapers. I get most of my movie reviews from David Edelstein at New York Magazine. And he also does it on Fresh Air. So much so that my wife gets irritated because I'll check to see what he thought of the film before I'll spend my money to see it.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: So if he didn't like it and she's interested, he wins?

MATT: Yes, actually...

(Soundbite of laughter)

MATT: She can go see it by herself, but I just feel like, for what movies cost, and some of the - for lack of a better word - garbage that Hollywood puts out these days, I definitely want to know whether or not it's something that's worth seeing, not just because Hollywood thinks - or wants me to think it is but to someone who I trust his judgment also believes that it's worth spending, you know, in some cases here in San Francisco, you know, 13 dollars to see a film.

CONAN: Tony Scott, disaster if these critics disappear? Thirteen dollars, that's a disaster.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SCOTT: Well, I have to say, David Edelstein is a dear friend of mine, and actually is also my wife's favorite movie critic.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SCOTT: But I think, you know, the caller gets at something very important, which is that movie critics' relationship to readers, wherever that movie critic is writing for. I mean, you know, this is New York Magazine and a reader in San Francisco.

I don't know if you read it on paper or on the web, but there's a relationship that builds up over time, week in and week out, movie after movie, which is not necessarily of agreement, but of trust, where you read someone and you recognize their voice and their sensibility. And you get what they're saying about movies, and you relate it to your own understanding or experience of them.

CONAN: Thanks very much for the call, Matt, and have a great time at the movies. More when we come back. So stay with us. I'm Neal Conan at the Newseum in Washington, D.C. You're listening to Talk of the Nation from NPR News.

(Soundbite of music)

CONAN: This is Talk of the Nation. I'm Neal Conan, broadcasting live...

(Soundbite of applause)

CONAN: From the Knight Studio inside the Newseum in Washington, D.C. If film and literary critics ever had an ivory tower, well, there's some room up there. Nowadays, everybody's a critic, and a laptop and Starbucks is all you need to broadcast your opinion, as blogs and aggregators begin to crowd out book-review sections and newspaper film criticism.

Our guest is A. O. Scott, New York Times film critic, and we want to hear from you. Where do you get your film criticism? What do you use reviews for, to pick a movie to watch or to learn about movies? Give us a call, 800-9898255. Email us, talk@npr.org. And our email address - that's our email address. Our blog is at npr.org/blogofthenation. And we're taking questions from the audience here at the Newseum. And why don't we begin there?

Ms. DEENA BERGSTROM (Audience Member): Hi. I'm Deena Bergstrom (ph) from Great Falls, Virginia. And I think the critics really help bring people going to the small theaters to see the so-called art films. And so that's what I rely on, and that's the main kind of movie that I see, are the more art-type movies.

CONAN: Tony Scott, everybody's going to know that "Iron Man" opened.

Mr. SCOTT: Right.

CONAN: There's a lot of Czech films we're not going to know so much about.

Mr. SCOTT: Well, yeah. I think that's a very important point. And I think that's one of the real constructive roles that critics can play, is that we see a lot of these movies. We go to film festivals and see them, or if we're in, you know, New York and Los Angeles, we see them when they open there before they come to other places.

And those movies often don't have huge publicity budgets. You're not bombarded with ads on, you know, buses and on TV and on billboards everywhere. And they may take a little bit of interpretation or explaining from a critic, or just the simple fact that they're out there.

That news has to be brought somehow, and I think that critics - the most satisfying part of my job, I have to say, is when I feel like I've helped, in some way, to connect a film that I think is really interesting with an audience that may be curious about it but may not have known about it otherwise.

CONAN: Thanks very much for the question. Let's go now to Eric, and Eric's with us from White City in Oregon.

ERIC (Caller): Hi. Actually, I have a system that I developed that, actually, it works off pretty well for my family and friends. And I hate to generalize, but I think that the majority of so-called "classically-trained" film critics have forgotten how to enjoy a movie.

They spend so much time watching the movie and critiquing the direction and, you know, the lighting and the key grip or whoever it is that they're actually paying attention to in that movie that they don't stop and think, did I enjoy it?

So what I do is I'll listen to the opinion of a so-called classically-trained movie critic and I'll reverse their star rating. If they give it a star and a half out of five, I'll go see it because chances are I'm going to enjoy the movie even though they didn't.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: So you had a good time...

Mr. SCOTT: Do you invest in the stock market the same way? I'm just curious.

(Soundbite of laughter)

ERIC: No, no. I actually don't invest in the stock market. I'm rather financially strapped at the moment with new babies at home. But you know, when it comes to, you know, like, say you pick a movie that, you know, got maybe one star...

CONAN: How about "Ishtar"?

Mr. SCOTT: "Ishtar" is a good movie.

CONAN: Underrated movie?

Mr. SCOTT: "Ishtar" is actually a terribly underrated movie. It's directed by the one of the great underrated American filmmakers, Elaine May.

ERIC: I just, I meant the movie critics that make so-called, you know, like national news. But say Gene Siskel gave the movie a star and a half. I would go see that because my sense of humor is so far skewed from his that he didn't enjoy the movie the way I would. Or maybe he spent more time paying attention to what the director was doing or what, you know, what he thinks the director meant by doing a certain thing in the scene.

And he spends so much time analyzing it, he doesn't just sit and enjoy the movie and laugh at the jokes and think, you know, was this a good movie to watch? Was it a good way to spend my time and my, well, in the case of the guy from San Francisco, 13 bucks?

CONAN: Eric, thanks very much for the call. And Tony Scott, I assume you get this kind of "you guys over intellectualize this stuff, it's only a movie."

Mr. SCOTT: Well, I'll only watch it if it has Greek subtitles because I'm classically trained.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SCOTT: But I think, you know, that's an assumption that people have about film critics, that, you know, we go to the movies because we have to, and we never have a good time. In fact, you know, if we didn't have a good time or didn't want to have a good time or weren't capable of enjoying movies, I think it would be the most unbearable job you could imagine. I mean, just think about it, if you didn't like movies and you had to see, you know, 300 a year.

It would be awful. I think - I mean, I can't speak for all critics. I think that a lot of us, though, actually start from our experience of the movie, our enjoyment of it. If it was a comedy, whether we laughter or not, you know, whether we were moved by a drama or not, whether we were excited by an action movie or not, and then kind of start thinking from there.

In a way, what we're analyzing is maybe not so much the movie itself, you know, the work of the director or cinematographer or, as he said, key grip, but how that work all came together to have the impact and the effect that it did on us.

I think, speaking for myself, it's always my own experience that I'm writing about and my own enjoyment or frustration or lack of enjoyment that I'm trying to explain in a way that's just a little bit more than subjective. You know, because I don't think it's very useful for a critic just to say, well, I liked that. I had a good time. That was fun.

CONAN: Hats in the air! Yeah. Loved it.

Mr. SCOTT: Yeah. As my predecessor, Vincent Canby, said, critics never wear hats. And would never throw them in the air.

CONAN: Throw them in the air. No, they don't get paid enough even when they are employed.

Mr. SCOTT: But I think you have to turn that into some kind of argument or some - something that communicated not just how you felt at the movie but what you thought about it, and what, you know, might be interesting for viewers to think about, and what they might encounter if they're there. So if that system works of just inverting the judgments of the critics, then that's fine. And you know, that's a use for critics, in a way.

CONAN: These days, there are thousands of amateur film critics who review movies on their own blogs, Margo Mealey among them. Her online alias is DCMovieGirl. She runs DCGirl@TheMovies. You can find a link to her blog on our website at npr.org. And Margo Mealey is with us here at the Newseum. And it's nice to have you on Talk of the Nation today.

Ms. MARGO MEALEY (Blogger, DCGirl@TheMovies): Hello. Thank you for having me.

CONAN: And how did you decide to become a film critic?

Ms. MEALEY: I don't really consider myself a film critic. I just - I consider my blog an outlet for, you know, getting what I think out there, because I'm sure my friends are just tired of me telling them, you know...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. MEALEY: Talking their heads off about, oh, this movie is terrible. So my blog is just a way to, you know, give them a break.

CONAN: So when did you - do you start writing formal reviews?

Ms. MEALEY: Yes. I do. I don't consider them formal, though. You know, what he, A. O. Scott was saying earlier about how, you know, it's usually you're trying to kind of speak to everyone. For me, it's just for myself. I go and when I review a movie, I just - it's whether or not I like it or not. I don't try to speak for anybody else.

CONAN: And who reads you?

Ms. MEALEY: Oh, local D.C. people, my friends, anyone who just happens upon my blog. Sometimes people come in - if they want to know where certain theaters are in the city. Then they come to my blog as well.

CONAN: And one of the things I know you do on your blog is you not only review the movie but the experience of the movie...

Ms. MEALEY: Yes.

CONAN: And sometimes a bad projection or sticky floors can interrupt your pleasure at a film.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. MEALEY: Yes, yes. I do do that. I have done that before.

CONAN: Let's see if we can get another caller on the line. And this is David, David with us from St. Louis in Missouri.

DAVID (Caller): Hello?

CONAN: Yes, you're on the air. Go ahead.

DAVID: Yes. OK. I can barely hear you. Thank you so much for catching my call. I don't know if you can tell, I'm really trying to mask my accent here, but I didn't grow up in America. I grew up in Africa, where I'd only get my critique from the newspapers. And most of it was syndicated. The critics were the ones that I read.

But the progression right now of having a lot of independent and smaller critics all over, mostly in the Internet, is that things have changed, mostly, in my opinion, in two ways. First of all, there's been, like, the dissolution of the club, where now anybody can play the game. You don't really have to have a big contract to, you know, play ball.

Anybody can get in and play the game, which is a double-edged sword, because we get some really bad, you know, people who really think that they can critique. And then we get some really good people who we would not have heard from before. But the other thing, also, is the language of the critiquing.

It's changed, which is, for me, for the better. When I used to read the language of the critics, I wouldn't even understand. I didn't even know what they were talking about. Sometimes I would read an entire review and I would still not know. Are they telling me to go watch this movie or not?

(Soundbite of laughter)

DAVID: You know, what am I supposed to do now? And also that fact that they would nitpick on the technical points of the movie that I would probably not really be interested so much in. Now I grew up with a really strong interest in movies in a country where there are barely any resources for movies.

But everybody else, all they want is to go sit down at a theater and enjoy a movie. If you tell them that I've seen 125, the lighting is off-kilter, you killed the whole experience of the movie for them. All they really wanted to know is - they're going for a laugh. It's a comedy. Are they going to get that laugh? And right now on the Internet, there are so many people who can review the movie on their level. Thank you very much.

CONAN: And thanks very much. Tony Scott?

Mr. SCOTT: I would say that one interesting aspect of the Internet, too, is almost the opposite. That is, people who have a very deep and specialized interest in film, and in the technical aspects of film, can find a forum to discuss it. I mean, I was just on a couple of blogs the other day that are blogs that were started by professional critics, one by Glenn Kenny, the other by Jim Emerson.

Both very good blogs, where there were thousands and thousands of words, and multiple opinions on shot-by-shot analysis of a single scene, you know, maybe a 30-second scene in "No Country for Old Men." And a kind of in-depth discussion with the sort of multimedia aid that the Internet allows. With screen grabs and also with a lot of back-and-forth and debate that I don't think, you know, happens in newspapers and magazines.

It used to happen, maybe, in very specialized, academic film journals. That now is also an open community or a sort-of, you know, an open club on the Internet. So I think that even as film criticism has become more generalized and more welcoming, as the caller suggested, it's also become - there are niches on the Internet that make it possible for more people to participate in much more-specialized and esoteric forms of it.

CONAN: Margo Mealey, you were nodding your head in agreement. Do you read all those blogs and reviews before you write your review?

Ms. MEALEY: I do, but I tend to read blogs that I know of. Like, there is a blog that I know that specialized just in soundtracks called Soundtrack Geek. And all he reviews are just the soundtracks that he hears in different movies.

So, yeah, I do go to different blogs, some other bloggers that are similar to me, like themiddleroad.com and there's Blog Cabins and there's like also an association of like amateur bloggers called LAMB, Large Association of Movie-reviewing Bloggers. So, yeah, I do go to other bloggers, but they tend to be a lot smaller.

CONAN: I have to ask a question, also, as we're losing more professional critics as newspapers downsize, do you get paid for what you do?

Ms. MEALEY: Oh, no. This is just for fun. This is a hobby for me. I enjoy movies, just like anybody else who goes to movies. I enjoy them, and you know, I just put out my opinion, you know, whether or not I like it or dislike it. So...

CONAN: We're talking about film criticism and the loss of jobs in the newspaper business with Tony Scott, the film critic of the New York Times and with DCMovieGirl, Margo Mealey. You're listening to Talk of the Nation from NPR News.

And let's get another caller on the line. This is Renee. Renee with us from Wichita, Kansas.

RENEE (Caller): Hi.

CONAN: Go ahead, please.

RENEE: Can you hear me? I can't hear you guys.

CONAN: Yeah, go ahead, please.

RENEE: Hi, I was just saying earlier to the lady I was talking to that I get a lot of my movie reviews like from Yahoo!. And what I can do there is I can see what the professional critics have thought, but also what just the general public has thought. And I trust that a lot more. My husband is a sound technician and has done sound for many years.

And he can't go enjoy a concert anymore because he's always thinking, even when he tries not to, he's thinking - here's too much bass, or the vocals are not loud enough. And he picks it apart. And I think that critics tend to do the same thing. A movie like "Knocked Up," which I absolutely loved, I doubt there were very many critics who had a lot of wonderful things to say about that...

Mr. SCOTT: That's actually not true.

RENEE: And sometimes we just want to go see...

CONAN: Tony liked it!

RENEE: Some fluffy, fun movie.

Mr. SCOTT: It was on my top-ten list.

RENEE: Yeah!

Mr. SCOTT: And actually it got very positive reviews from...

RENEE: Right, but sometimes, I think that they're looking for the serious messages. Whereas I think, in America, we've got enough - we've got a lot of serious things going on in our own lives and in our own country, and sometimes we want to just get away from reality and enjoy ourselves.

CONAN: Thanks very much for the call. It's interesting, Tony Scott. It sounds like you've almost got a marketing problem.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: If people would read your review, they might find that you did like "Knocked Up." But otherwise "they" take things too seriously.

Mr. SCOTT: Well, but - I also would quarrel a little bit with the idea that "Knocked Up" represents a complete flight from American reality. I mean, one of the things that I find interesting about that movie is precisely the way that it engages various problems having to do with, you know, sexuality and the relationships between men and women, and - in a very, you know, funny and trenchant and clever way.

One thing that, sometimes, I have to say, confuses me is this idea that, you know, thinking about a film, or about any kind of entertainment or art, is somehow antithetical to the enjoyment of it, or you know, gets in the way of having a good time. You just go, and you have a good time, and anyone who wants to say anything more or do any kind of analysis or take it at all seriously is either going to prevent you from having a good time or not themselves having a good time.

For me, for as long as I can remember, from long before I ever, you know, knew that it was possible to be a professional critic, part of the pleasure of reading a book or listening to a piece of music or going to a movie is thinking about it, is talking about it, is arguing about it, is saying, well, what, you know, what would I do in that character's situation?

Why did I like that? What was beautiful about that? What wasn't funny about that? What was funny about that? And all that criticism, I think, really is, at bottom, is the expression of that very basic impulse that's part of our experience of the arts and culture in all of their forms. That, you know, gee, that was really interesting!

CONAN: Here's an email we have from Mark in Richmond. "This isn't a question about the state of criticism. It's about what we pay people to do. With all the college programs and film criticism nationally, you can throw a rock in the air which will fall on someone plenty capable of reviewing films.

"The case of Ebert is one of celebrity. The new role of the critic should be that of an editor paid to sift through the thousands of reactions and share with their public the most acute judgments." And I wonder, Margo, well, first of all, did you like "Knocked Up"?

Ms. MEALEY: I enjoyed it, I loved "Knocked Up."

CONAN: I just wonder, are you - do you think your job is to sift through all of these things and just find what appeals to people?

Ms. MEALEY: Um, no. I just - like I said, I give my opinion, my own personal opinion, of what I think on a movie. And honestly, I think that we're very similar. I think when it comes to reviewing - well, having a critical thought about anything that you really love, like a mom is a geek for their baby.

We are geeks for movies, you know? I don't understand why it is that when you like at movie reviewers, or movie critics, there is a sort of thing where we're thought of as elitists, when in actuality, maybe not me...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. MEALEY: But you know, when in actuality, we're just fans of whatever it is that we love. You know, that can be for a person who loves their child, or who loves fitness, or whatever it is.

CONAN: Thanks very much, and good luck with DCGirl@TheMovies. And Tony Scott, A. O. Scott of the New York Times, thanks for your time today, too.

Mr. SCOTT: Thank you.

Ms. MEALEY: Thank you.

CONAN: Coming up, it's illegal to discriminate based on race or gender. Will genetics be next? Stay with us. Talk of the Nation, NPR News.

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