Economics, social habits and the transformative, even lightning way that information flows has greatly deepened the intensely and insurgent entrepreneurial bent of movie culture. Now the identities, corporate connections and business hosts of the writers, creators and interpreters of the scene fluctuate madly.
I love the command and ease at which so much is now instantly available, but Thompson's move brings to mind something essential lost in the digital revolution. Some twenty-five years ago, when I was in college in Chicago, my favorite end of the week ritual was haunting the alternative and college bookstores to find a copy of the Village Voice. That was the weekly's golden age of film writing, where you could read Sarris, Hoberman, Edelstein, Amy Taubin, Georgia Brown, Manohla Dargis and Tom Allen.
Part of the exhilaration was the adventure of finding physical copies (a particular difficulty when I was home for the holidays or over the summer, where the only local place that infrequently carried the Voice was the city's notorious head shop). By contrast, finding what Canby or Kael had to say was easy, and getting the New York Times or New Yorker possessed little if any of the exotic pilgrimage. As a result, despite the pop and verve of their prose, Canby and Kael always seemed to me a little "official," embalmed even.
By the same token, my first sustained interaction with Thompson's work was one of the earliest iterations of her Risky Business column, published in the LA Weekly. One of the best reasons for spending a lot of time, as I did, at the Chicago offices of In These Times was to have access to their legendary list of alternative weeklies. Of course, the consolation is that where I used to have to wait until a Friday or Saturday to track down the Voice, now the pieces are typically available three or four days earlier on line.
When I was younger, I took a great thrill in having physical evidence of my work. That has diminished in time. Now, I've become a great advocate of having my own work instantly available on line (especially my festival writing or my sportswriting, where speed is essential). But that solitary, emphatic sense of discovery that drove so many of earliest inspirations is now part of a vanishing time and place.