IT’S A CHANGING WORLD, and nothing points up that fact better than the Gary Awards — the semi-annual prizes that Reel Life hands out to the hard-working critics whose enthusiastic blurbs are lovingly quoted in newspaper and TV ads.

But it’s a new era. Local critic Gary Franklin, who inspired the awards, has since stepped away from the critics game. And as you readers scan the latest list of winners, you will notice that the next generation of blurbmeisters have taken over: New names that you’ve never heard of have replaced the old names that you’d never heard of.

Several of these newcomers seem to have mysteriously switched organizations once or twice within the past six months — is this the perils of freelancing, studio publicists’ choices, or another sign of the changing times?

Whatever. You fervent critics, both novices and veterans, are part of a long and proud tradition, and we at Reel Life are happy to salute you.

NEWCOMER OF THE DECADE

Maria Salas, CBS-TV, “Paradise Road” — “One of the best films of the decade.”

Maria Salas, CBS Telenoticias, “187″ — “The most powerful movie of the decade.”

Maria Salas, CBS Telenoticias, “Metro” — “The roller-coaster ride of your life!”

Maria Salas, CBS Telenoticias, “Con Air” — “The roller-coaster ride of your life!”

WOW, WOW, WOW!

Jeanne Wolf, “Jeanne Wolf’s Hollywood,” “Fathers’ Day” — “Funny, funny, funny!”

Bo Griffin, NBC-Miami, “Sprung” — “Funny, funny, funny!!!”

Maria Salas, CBS Telenoticias, “Sprung” — “Hot! Hot! Hot!”

PREMATURE EXCLAMATIONS, PART 1

Don Stotter, Entertainment Time-Out, “Turbulence” — “Buckle up for the thrill ride of the year!” (Jan. 17)

Don Stotter, Entertainment Time-Out, “Private Parts” — “The surprise comedy hit of ’97.” (March 2)

DEFENDERS OF THE DOWNTRODDEN

Don Stotter, Entertainment Time-Out, “Vegas Vacation” — “The best ‘Vacation’ of them all!”

Bill Klein, NBC-TV, “Batman & Robin” — “The best ‘Batman’ ever!”

WHITE KNUCKLE SANDWICH

Bonnie Churchill, National News Syndicate, “Breakdown” — “Kurt Russell takes you on the white knuckle ride of your life.”

Bonnie Churchill, National News Syndicate, “Air Force One” — “The best full-throttle, white-knuckle suspense thriller!”

YOU MEAN EVER?

Bonnie Churchill, National News Syndicate, “Liar Liar” — “The best!”

Thelma Adams, New York Post, “Love! Valour! Compassion!” — “The wittiest, wisest comedy to hit the screen.”

CRIX IN TOP FORM

Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune, “Blood & Wine” — “Jack Nicholson is in top form!”

Gene Siskel, Siskel & Ebert, “The Devil’s Own” — “Ford and Pitt are in top form!”

Mike Cidoni, ABC-TV, “Night Falls on Manhattan” — “Legendary director Sidney Lumet is in top form.”

PREMATURE EXCLAMATIONS, PART 2

Taylor Baldwin, KFMB, “Liar Liar” — “The best comedy of the year!” (April 4)

Taylor Baldwin, CBS, “Breakdown” — “The best movie I’ve seen all year!” (April 25)

Taylor Baldwin, KFMB-TV, San Diego, “Fools Rush In” — “The best romantic comedy of the ’90s.”

Taylor Baldwin, KFMB-TV, San Diego, “Dante’s Peak” — “The most explosive film of the decade.”

Taylor Baldwin, CBS, “The Fifth Element” —”The sci-fi thrill ride of the decade!”

IT DOESN’T STAND FOR ‘ELEMENT’?

Larry Ratliff, Fox-TV — “The ‘E’ in “The Fifth Element’ stands for ‘extraordinary.’ “

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