With last week’s untimely passing of the great film critic Roger Ebert, the world must now turn to another writer who exhibits not only the same candor and elegance as Ebert, but more importantly, one who shares his ferocious love of movies. Here are six critics who have what it takes:
Last year, while we were all flip-flopping back and forth between Jessica Chastain and Jennifer Lawrence, David Edelstein was writing at least two -- and if he had his way, I’m sure more -- pleas for Rachel Weiss, calling her acting in The Deep Blue Sea, the “film performance of the year.” I dig this conviction. He stated his opinion and then stated it again. Edelstein is a passionate and often quite humorous writer who gives us what he’s got and is never pompous. He is the chief film critic for New York magazine.
Bright: on I Wish, “Calling I Wish a paean to the imaginative resources of children makes the movie sound more mawkish than it is. Koreeda’s compositions have a sympathetic detachment that Americans rarely value but is, for many Japanese, the whole point of art. That means you can contemplate the wonder in these glowing young faces without feeling as if you’re on an intravenous drip of corn syrup. The message is un-American, too -- that it’s wiser to make peace with the world into which you’ve been thrust than spend your time wishing for a better one.”
Scathing: on The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence), “The movie is a reductio ad absurdum, a sick joke taken to extremes, beginning with a goof on the notion that horror movies inspire copycats and ending with a test to determine whether some people will watch anything. I didn’t watch most of the last half-hour, preferring to let my eyes rest on the cringing faces of others in the room -- although that is a voyeuristic act, too, and possibly more perverse than looking at the carnage onscreen.”
Although she is chief film critic for the New York Times alongside A.O.Scott, Manohla Dargis has managed to keep an intensely low public profile -- this photo is the only one I could find on the entire World Wide Web! She is perhaps one of the most graceful film critics we have today, her reviews melodic and earnest. I only wish she was a little more Ebert-everywhere than Salinger-stay-at-home.
Bright: on Amour, “This is a film that will make you weep not only because life ends but also because it blooms.”
Scathing: on Les Miserables, “By the grand finale, when tout le monde is waving the French tricolor in victory, you may instead be raising the white flag in exhausted defeat.”
Winner of the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Criticism, Wesley Morris recently transitioned from film critic at the Boston Globe to full-time writer for the sports and pop culture website Grantland. From this adorable clip, you see his editor Martin Baron praise his writing as both “playful” and “explosive,” as Morris looks on, humbled and affected. Such a young, talented dude with such a shining road ahead of him.
Bright: on The Master, “It weighs more than any American film from this or last year. It’s the sort of movie that young men aspiring to write the Great American Novel never actually write.”
Scathing: on Skyfall, “The franchise isn’t worried about world safety. It’s fretting over whether to start wearing Depends.”
From his reviews, it is evident Andrew O’Hehir is a creative writer. I am happily surprised at his consistent left turns of language and esoteric comparisons. While not always obviously stated, you get a sense O’Hehir enjoys evoking his own life experiences, which is totally charming. If he ever publishes a book of short stories, I’m there for sure. He is the film critic for Salon.
Bright: on The Perks of Being A Wallflower, “Fact is, much as you and I might want to protest that we were cooler than these kids, wherever and whenever we did our growing up, we probably weren’t. Partly I mean that the question of when you first heard a Velvet Underground record (insert your own limbo bar of coolness here) isn’t really important, and partly I mean that we too were fumbling around in the dark, trying things out, kissing the wrong people, standing up in the bed of that pickup truck and trying, for a second, to touch the infinite.”
Scathing: on W.E., “You can’t call W.E. a total disaster; it’s too pretty, too nonsensical and finally too insignificant for that.”
“It means to look for anything that has life in it, anywhere,” David Denby replies when asked in an NPR interview what it means to be a film critic today. Denby, film critic for TheNew Yorker magazine, is a humanistic writer, one who realizes when a movie is superbly reflecting life and one who celebrates it through his words. He is aware of the status quo and does not sugar coat but instead, provides readers with a true glimpse of where we are as a society and where we are headed.
Bright: on The Hurt Locker, “The Hurt Locker is a small classic of tension, bravery, and fear, which will be studied twenty years from now when people want to understand something of what happened to American soldiers in Iraq.”
Scathing: on Hall Pass, “Another chapter in the endless saga of American male infantilism.”
Not enough people read Slate, or at least, I don’t ever hear my peers talking about something I read on Slate. And it’s a shame because it truly is quite a great publication and Dana Stevens is at the center of its film criticism. Stevens recently published an obituary to Roger Ebert and when looking back, found a letter Roger Ebert wrote to her a long time ago. This alone is significant. Stevens wrote to Ebert for advice on how to be just like him when she was a young girl. Now, as a mature adult, she is well on her way.
Bright: on Holy Motors, “If nothing else, you’ll come out of it feeling perceptually refreshed, as if you’d just had a ride on an aesthetic and philosophical log flume.”
Scathing: on The Words, “It would have been more fun if I had brought something to throw at the screen.”
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