A prominent strain of discourse sees digital-age German film criticism in a terminal trajectory of commercialization and dumbing down. This article demonstrates that this rhetoric is not unique: neither to German-speaking countries nor to the digital age. Complaints about slipping benchmarks and declining quality, the fragmentation of the filmgoing public into niche markets, and above all the anxiety about the authority of the critic to definitively speak for and interpret culture to a receptive audience have animated international film criticism since its origins. The article proceeds to examine the supposed new threat to critics: algorithmic recommender systems for video-on-demand platforms such as Netflix. Based on the author’s mixed-method empirical audience study, it concludes that the need and desire for human cultural mediators has not decreased despite the digital-age explosion of content and computational tools.

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