The hallmark of the past decade, in terms of cultural criticism, was the shift in presentational format. Traditional homes to commentary on “the arts,” newspapers, have become slow-moving relics that, while providing carefully researched insight and analysis (in the best of cases), often fail to keep up to the allegro clip set on the Internet. With the flight of critics to online mediums came the fracturing of voices. No longer did a few centralized locations showcase the most powerful voices. The framework splintered and the pieces were scattered across the Web, to hundreds of sites, each with a niche audience. It’s increasingly hard to keep up with the vast amount of cultural information being written and shown to us. Choosing a few wise voices to follow seemed like shooting the ducks at a carnival game. Luckily, humanity shows its brighter side on a few occasions. Today is one of those days, when a cadre of brilliant film critics came together to form “The Dissolve.”
I was skeptical at first, considering the involvement with Pitchfork Media, the leader in music news and reviews. By all means, Pitchfork.com is a familiar presence in my browser and I won’t discredit the reviewers that contribute to the side, but it wasn’t for me. For one, it was too big. Dozens upon dozens of reviewers working in a complex web of singles, video releases, back catalogues, new releases, news, gossip, touring schedules, etc. It was a web within the Web. Luckily, the Dissolve opts for a more minimalist style, but without losing any of the star power.
Combining Scott Tobias and Nathan Rabin, both brilliant writers at the A.V. Club for years, with Matt Singer (formerly of Criticwire, my personal favorite) gives the site one of the strongest critical bases, either in print or online. Combining that with Sam Adams (the new editor of Criticwire) as a contributor, and Tasha Robinson, Noel Murray, etc., it’s a damn good set of writers.
Not only is the content looking to be stellar, but the site’s presentation is spot-on. It’s clean, with few colors and simple categories, which as of now stand at “Reviews,” “Features,” “Newsreel,” and “Essentials.” Plenty of information kept clean on a few shelves.
Will I ditch my homepage of Criticwire for the Dissolve? Probably not in the near future. I’ve grown too accustomed to the style and tone of Criticwire to make that kind of drastic shift in my life. Maybe I’ll adopt a Pomeranian instead. Who knows. All I know is that the Dissolve is going into my favorites tab and with any luck will stay there for years to come.