A smart, funny passage on the relevance of film criticism from Anthony Lane's collection of essays, Nobody's Perfect:
The primary task of the critic, (and nobody has surpassed the late Ms. Kael in this regard), is the recreation of texture — not telling movie-goers what they should see, which is entirely their prerogative, but filing a sensory report on the kind of experience into which they will be wading, or plunging, should they decide to risk a ticket. You may object to the films of Krzysztof Kieślowski, but, with their heavy filtration and cloud-bursts of sudden music, not to mention the wounded emotions that drift across the faces of their heroines, they could have been made by nobody else.
All of which is a way of saying that movies deserve journalism. This may sound obtuse, not to say indefensible, in the light of those unusual thinkers whose most fervid desire is to have their words reproduced on billboards across the land. Broadcasting from radio stations so local that the presenters might just as well ditch the microphones, stand on the roof, and shout, these superbly untroubled beings scorch the earth with indiscriminate goodwill. However hellish that Adam Sandler fiasco you just saw, don't worry; there'll be somebody in Delaware who is prepared to stand and tell the world, "Hands up for the flat-out funniest comedy since Father of the Bride! Adam Sandler is a laugh riot, hands down!" And there will be people at Universal who will plaster it on a wall; by an appealing coincidence, they will be the same people who flew the guy from Delaware to a junket in Atlantic City and then inquired gently for his assessment of Mr. Sandler as the new Jim Carrey. I once went to a junket and heard the assembled hacks complaining to each other about the water pressure in their hotel jacuzzis. I am as corrupt as the next man, but, I must admit, the notion that you could trim your critical opinions to accord with the fizzy water in which you recently dipped your ass had, until then, never occured to me, and it still strikes me as impractical today.
Nevertheless, I repeat: movies deserve journalism. Both involve a quick turnover, an addiction to the sensational, and a potent, if easily exhausted, form of communal intensity; books written about film are often devout and scholarly, but, unlike journalism, they bear almost no stamp of what it actually feels like to go to the movies. A review should give off the authentic reek of the concession stand; it should become as handy as that finest of nocturnal inventions, the armrest-mounted soda holder. This holds especially true for readers who have every intention of staying in, cooking dinner, and skipping the film altogether. When people tell me, as they frequently do, that they can't be bothered to see a subtitled picture (because it's too much work) or the latest and loudest blockbuster (because they know in their bones that it will be junk), what happens to the role of the movie critic? It should by rights be diminished; in practice, the reading of reviews, like a careful tracking of the weekend's grosses, seems to be growing into a perverse substitute for the act of moviegoing itself. The sheer, overhanging mass of cultural offerings is now so forbidding that the essay — literally, the attempt, like the attempt that a climber makes on the north face of the Eiger — has, if anything, reasserted its claim to be the sanest and most proportionate response. I know that sanity is not the first quality that one associates with film critics — one thinks more readily of of our Styrofoam complexions and, as for our hairstyle, Fie, 'tis an unweeded garden — but the fact remains that a reviewer who does his or her job, and who steers you away from bad art, is sane enough to save you eight bucks.