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July 2008, Week 4


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Saul Steier <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Sun, 27 Jul 2008 16:32:30 -0700
text/plain (140 lines)
I'll go out on limb because my choice is crazy and irrational. In 
English my favorites have always been Sarris and Hoberman  . There 
are others who are better thinkers and certainly who are better 
writers but when I read their reviews that's what is communicated to 
me- their theory, their values, their film  and/or industry 
knowledge, their writing skills( which sometimes make me feel truly 
humble),their ideas,their general culture etc.When I read a review by 
Sarris and/or Hoberman(who I  assume ,"osmosed"  during their years 
together at the Voice) I always know what I am going to see on the 
screen when I see the film and, most,though not all of the time, how 
I'm going to feel when I'm watching it. I don't know why. We don't 
always share tastes(I can live without Bela Tarr),we don't share 
values(I'm not slavishly "auteur"). I can't tell from their reviews 
alone if we share politics, ethics or aesthetics, but when I read a 
review by either of them the film they are writing about is 
translated from their discursive framework to my phenomenological one 
and this pleases me enormously  and only in the rarest of cases do 
their reviews- opinionated as they are- ever negatively constrain my
experiential and interpretive freedom to engage the film on my own 
when I do see it. It's totally screwy. I can't explain why this 
happens. If the review ever does intrude  it's in an "oh!  that's 
what he meant" fashion. I look for this quality in every film  critic 
and every review I read. Needless to say I hardly ever find it.So--- 
If I know a film is  or is going to be important to me(if I'm going 
to teach it or if it's the work of someone I care about or a major 
adaptation of or sequel to a work  of significance to me) I don't 
read the reviews until after I've seen it.

As far as who we are and where we come from,. New York working 
class-not a red diaper baby.First in family to graduate from high 
school.- though many since. Laundry workers. I got my first 
opportunity by being best friends with the cultural editor of the 
UCLA Daily Bruin a long time ago. I was a would-be actor with not as 
much talent at the time as I wanted to have and with very strong 
opinions about the presence or absence of that quality in others.-- 
so he put me in charge of Film and Theater with an occasional  rock 
record thrown into the pot. After that it was always a  combination 
of hustle, luck and the good will of others.I used to get $50 per 
review.---when I got paid at all. Once got $3000 for playing poker 
with Bob Crane between three and four AM while I waited for my one 
line scene in  the pilot episode of Hogan's Heroes to be shot at four 
thirty.- but that's another story

Hope this generates some good discussion.

>Interesting question! For what it's worth, I got my first (and critical)
>job as a film critic, at the college paper at the age of 17, because I was
>best friends with the wife of the editor, at a moment when the regular
>film critic didn't show up.
>Some of the film critics I've worked with from major papers got their jobs
>by graduating from doing the TV listings or obits or something else like
>that at the newspapers.
>Some critics I've known have wanted to get into the business, and
>eventually did, often as scriptwriters.
>When I stopped doing regular criticism, after around 20 years of doing it
>for newspapers (Mn Daily, In These Times) and magazines (American Film)
>and for a host of free papers, magazines and journals, I was being paid
>the same or less than I was paid starting out ($25 a review) and there was
>a never ending supply of newbies with as little knowledge of film or film
>history as I had starting out, coming up and eager to write.
>Pat Aufderheide, Professor and Director
>Center for Social Media, School of Communication
>American University
>3201 New Mexico Av. NW, #330
>Washington, DC 20016-8080
>[log in to unmask]
>Lou Thompson <[log in to unmask]>
>Sent by: Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
>07/25/2008 08:24 PM
>Please respond to
>Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
>[log in to unmask]
>[SCREEN-L] film critics
>The announcement today that "Ebert and Roeper" were going off the air came
>at one of those serendipitous times for me, as I've been thinking a lot
>about film critics--who they are, where they come from, how (or if) they
>are trained or schooled.
>I was wondering if those of you on the list would be interested in sharing
>your list of the top film critics/reviewers (not scholars), past and
>Lou Ann Thompson, Ph.D,
>Professor of English
>Texas Woman's University
>"One Law for the Lion and the Ox is Oppression."--William Blake
>"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do
>nothing."--Attributed to
>Edmund Burke
>"It could be worse.  I could be Sting."--Ozzy Osbourne
>Online resources for film/TV studies may be found at ScreenSite
>For past messages, visit the Screen-L Archives:

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