Notes on the decline of film criticism in the form of “it sucks” reviews from Tom Doherty, Brandeis University: the Chronicle. Sense of Cinema and FlowTV edging out Cinema Journal and the Historical Journal of Film, Radio, and Television.

The decline might have something to do with the fact that though the latter two are online, they’re not anywhere nearly as accessible as Sense or FlowTV. Both not only sit behind ominous pay-walls, their respective web-sites do little to help one understand how to buy or otherwise acquire issues and articles. And those that don’t, Sense and FlowTV, actually aren’t “it sucks” review-sites.

The journey to Cinema starts with the website of University of Texas Press. The Journals section holds a profile for Cinema Journal, a list of issues, the recent cover, and a prominent option for subscription and single-issue purchases. Clicking on the Winter 2007 issue link, however, will only yield a bibliographic list of articles and no option to buy or preview the articles or the issue. The shopping cart remains a tangle of inputs at the top of the page. To buy a single issue requires profiling one’s geography and whether one is an individual or an institution. Following that, the shopping cart has a blank box in which to write the issue-number, eg. 48:4 for Summer 2009. If you require a single article, a text link sits below the shopping cart and leads to a description of various limitations and process considerations required for purchase. If you have gotten this far and can remember what you’re looking for, two text links lead to a generic single article order form, where each article can be purchased for $15, plus a $1 ordering fee. And the Historical Journal — it doesn’t even have a shopping cart.

The Cinema and Historical Journal strategy works if you want to hide the facts and ideas of its contributors away from the scrutiny of the world. It’s hard to find. It’s expensive to buy. It’s a risky purchase. Will the experience of reading an article live up to the $15 you paid? But it’s risky for more than just the individual reader. It leaves a vacuum for Sense and FlowTV to occupy, acquire influence, improve their publication, and compete with these storied journals.