Bad news for fans of cinema, good writing, and popular culture in general: the Dissolve, Pitchfork Media’s movie site, has gone belly up. “For the past two years—well, two years this Friday—it’s been our pleasure to put up this site, a site founded on and driven by a love for movies, alongside a company with passion and talent for creating thoughtful, important work,” wrote Keith Phipps, the editor-in-chief (and a friend of mine). “Sadly, because of the various challenges inherent in launching a freestanding website in a crowded publishing environment, financial and otherwise, today is the last day we will be doing that.”
As anyone who read the Dissolve knows, it was ambitious, intelligent, and serious-minded, traits sorely lacking in much movie writing these days. The sheer volume of good work it published every week was impressive, ranging from reviews of current blockbusters to excursions into film history (where else could one find a long piece singing the praises of Clyde Bruckman?). When the Dissolvers wrote about summer blockbusters, they were literate and reasonable; when they wrote about art movies, they were plainspoken and unpretentious. They approached every movie, no matter how popular or obscure it might have been, as a singular experience, something that happened to you when the lights went down. As critics, they demonstrated again and again that the prose was more important than the product.
The tributes are rolling in already, from Sam Adams, Matt Zoller Seitz, Alyssa Rosenberg, and a variety of Tweeters. The core contributors—Phipps, Scott Tobias, Tasha Robinson, Genevieve Koski, and Rachel Handler—will no doubt turn up in other publications, just as Nathan Rabin, who departed in April, has. But the sad fact is that a movie critic can be only as good as the publication that gives him or her a platform, so the end of the Dissolve is a blow to them, to me, and to you—even if you never read it.