The words 'Kiss Kiss
Bang Bang', which I saw on an Italian movie poster, are perhaps the briefest
statement imaginable on the basic appeal of movies.
- Pauline Kael
A great movie is a
movie I cannot bear the thought of never seeing again.
- Derek Malcolm
Films, like memories,
seem to re-shoot themselves over the years, reflecting our latest needs
and obsessions. In many cases they can change completely, and reveal unexpected
depths and shallows. Will "Four Weddings and a Funeral" be seen one day
as a vicious social satire? Could "Jaws" become as tearful and sentimental
- JG Ballard, "The Guardian"
Of all the potential
problems facing our planet, a hurtling asteroid is probably the one in
which our store of information is most completely dependent on bad movies.
- New York Times, 13 Mar 98
All students of disaster
movies know that nothing survives these natural onslaughts except cats
and the highest paid film stars.
- Simon Jenkins, "The London Times"
"Democrats do have
an historic race going, Hillary Clinton vs. Barack Obama. Normally, when
you see a black man or a woman president, an asteroid is about to hit the
Statue of Liberty."
- Jon Stewart at the 2008 Oscars
Disaster movies do
us the psychological service of forcing a quick march through "the worst
that could happen." At the end we see that you win a few, you lose a few,
some cars are up in trees, and only the most attractive of the young people
- Frederica Mathewes-Green, "National Review"
"We're all pretty much
aware that 'disaster film' will take on a whole new meaning on Friday."
- A Warner Bros exec on a remake of "The Poseidon Adventure"
I love acting. It is
so much more real than life.
- Oscar Wilde
~ Harry Potter & Lord of the Rings
~ Cosmo Landesman: film critic for The Times (of London)
~ David Edelstein: film critic for New York Magazine
~ Paul Tatara: film critic for CNN
~ James Bowman: film critic for The American Spectator
~ Joe Queenan: commentator with The Guardian
~ Roger Ebert: America's leading film critic
~ Reviews of Teen Films
~ The Movie Business
~ The Art of Criticism
Karate is a form of
martial arts in which people who have had years and years of training can,
using only their hands and feet, make some of the worst movies in the history
of the world.
- Dave Barry
The Road to Wellville...
is basically a Merchant Ivory production of a "Benny Hill" episode.
- Scott Renshaw
A young girl travels
to a psychadelic landscape where she kills the first person she meets,
then teams up with three complete strangers to kill again.
- TV Guide preview "The Wizard of Oz"
Like all the best children’s
stories, this is a crash course in adulthood.
- Edward Porter, reviewing "The Wizard of Oz", "The Times"
"Time Out in New York
made U-Turn the worst movie of last year and Batman & Robin was second
worst. Can you believe it? I was flattered. Even worse than Batman &
Robin? Thats some achievement."
- Oliver Stone
Those who cannot remember
history are doomed to learn it from Oliver Stone movies.
- John Harkness
More people are killed
in this movie than will ever see it.
- Jim Mullen, on "Death Wish V"
"Dumb & Dumber
: Regarded by many as the moment in US cinema when brain cells truly became
- The Late Review, BBC2
The most stirring defense
of traditional values since Edmund Burke's "Reflections on the Revolution"
- Reihan Salam, reviewing Mike Judge's "Idiocracy", "Slate Magazine"
proceeds according to the As Good as It Gets law, which dictates that angry,
paunchy, deeply disturbed old men in the movies need only to dial down
their unpleasantness by 5 percent to win the affection of smart, kind,
beautiful young women.
- Dana Stevens, reviewing "Smart People", "Slate"
About the only redeeming
features of The Sweetest Thing is that for a few minutes of the film, Cameron
Diaz cavorts around in her underwear, and also sings a song about penises.
And even that's not half as good as it sounds on paper.
- Anonymous review of "The Sweetest Thing"
Angelina Jolie has
a fine pair of child-bearing lips.
- Paul Byrne
All we have to look
forward to is when are these two going to discover fornication?
- Pauline Kael, on "The Blue Lagoon"
"The New World" is
rated PG-13 (Parents strongly cautioned). There is some intense, bloodless
violence and the beautiful underage lead actress (15-year-old Q'orianka
Kilcher) may cause cardiac arrest among some viewers.
- Manohla Dargis, "The New York Times"
I just wonder what
has been the effect on the human soul of nearly a century in which we have
regarded sex on screen as generally better than the sex we actually have,
the sex which is, in fact, much better than anything we have seen in the
movies, becuase it's sex, after all, and in the movies, it isn't.
- Declan Lynch, on the furore over "9 Songs", in Ireland's "Sunday Independent"
A movie so Freudian
that you keep expecting it to grow a beard and move to Vienna.
- Mark Lawson, on "The Company of Wolves, "The Guardian"
Given that most movies
are bad, and that there are whole categories and sub-categories of badness
- the sequel, the Madonna Movie, the Friday 13th Series, or "Movies Starring
John Travolta Before Pulp Fiction" — it is almost impossible to choose
a single film for worst movie of all time. But strangely, I do have a nomination
and I believe it is actually the worst movie ever made. It is Boxing Helena.
The director is David Lynch's daughter, and the film comes with the almost
insane-making faults that the family connection might imply.
- Andrew O'Hagan picks the film he hates the most for "The Guardian"
Last December New York
Times film critic A.O. Scott lamented that a homogenized, test-screening
Hollywood no longer produces epic, triumphant failures ("Where Have All
the Howlers Gone?," Dec. 18.). He was, of course, talking about auteurs
overstepping their egos—Heaven’s Gate, Ishtar—but had he waited but a month
he might have had his faith restored in cinema’s continued ability to turn
out uncategorizable crap.
- Bret McCabe, reviewing "Grandma's Boy", "Baltimore City Paper"
Some bad movies are
so bad, they are able to enjoy a radioactive half-life because of their
sheer badness. Critics at the time predicted that Showgirls would go on
to be enjoyed enthusiastically but ironically, as if it had been written,
shot and edited within enormous inverted commas. For generations of students,
twentysomething pseuds and homosexuals, it is now a staple of late-night,
alcohol-fuelled screenings... In the 1950s and 60s we knew bad movies by
their bad plotting, bad dialogue, bad acting and low production values.
Now those same faults are concealed by big budgets, professional production
values, star names and skilful marketing campaigns. Peter Biskind, in his
book "Easy Riders Raging Bulls", cites Jaws as the moment where B-movie
aesthetics went overground on major motion picture budgets.
- Stewart Lee, "The Guardian"
For me, there was a
perverse masochistic pleasure in enduring the damn thing all over again,
just to remind myself how cross it made me the first time round.
- Mark Kermode, reviewing the remade "Funny Games", "The Guardian"
Each man kills the
thing he loves — and the history books will likely show that nobody did
more to kill the cinema than Steven Spielberg. Don't get me wrong, Spielberg
has made some magical movies. For simple excitement, there is little to
compare with Jaws or the Indiana Jones series. But Spielberg's influence
on other filmmakers has been wholly malign. For every Close Encounters
of the Third Kind — a picture that explodes in Kantian awe at the wonders
of existence — there have been a dozen Independence Days — pictures that
explode at anything non-American, and then explode some more.
- Christopher Bray, "The Telegraph"
Nobody really knows
the recipe for a box-office flop, but until seeing "The Story of the Weeping
Camel" I would have thought the words "in Mongolian with subtitles" would
have been high up on the list of vital ingredients. Not any more.
- Padraic MacKiernan, in Ireland's "Sunday Independent"
"To call 'Jackass'
the worst movie of the year is practically a compliment. It is an appalling
illustration of how low corporate America will go to make a buck."
- The New York Post review of 'Jackass : The Movie'
"As awful as you've
heard and as bad as you've imagined."
- The Washington Post review of 'Swept Away'
"Not only could we
see that coming a mile away, we could see it wouldn't be funny from a mile
- Richard Roeper, on a particularly bad joke from "Deck the Halls"
"Admittedly, I’ve seen
worse comedies this year, but in a way I enjoyed them more. Films as bad
as Boat Trip or The Sweetest Thing induce a state of disbelief so giddy
as to be kind of exhilarating. You leave eager to tell your friends about
the unprecedented awfulness you’ve witnessed. Super Troopers is not in
the same league. It’s just a pointless collection of uninspired jokes.
I won’t be a bit surprised if not a single person in the country goes to
- Edward Potter, reviewing "Super Troopers" for the London Times
"As if to drive Star
Wars' simplicity home, the bad guys are ultimately defeated by warrior
- Eric Lipton, "Salon.Com"
Ewan McGregor stars
as Jedi Obi-Wan Kenobi, again doing a fine Alec Guinness impersonation
but otherwise seeming lost and alone in the galaxy as the one actor attempting
to give a real performance in this mess.
- Stephanie Zacharek, reviews "Attack of the Clones" for Salon.Com
is less Anakin, more mannequin. Conversion to the Dark Side registers here
as an epic, deepening sulk, so much so that our man's readiness to embrace
the evil aspects of the Force can be measured at any given moment by the
precise hang of his lower lip.
- Tim Robey, reviewing "Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith", "The Telegraph"
"This is an extraordinary
epic about the American Republic, and it starts with the idea of a civil
war, of course..."
"It has all these stupid furry monsters in it. It's an attempt to sell toys, not a metaphor for the American Civil War."
- Tom Paulin & Mark Lawson dissect "Attack of the Clones" on BBC2's Late Review
"This isn't just a
film 13-year old boys would like, this is a film that a 13-year old boy
would make, if he could make a film."
- Allison Pearson, "Attack of the Clones" again, for BBC2 Late Review
"He is the stupidest
hero in the history of film-making. And I will tell you something else,
if this place was full of some rotten virus, we wouldn't get rescued. We
would get nuked."
- Germaine Greer, unimpressed by "28 Days Later", on BBC2 Late Review
and at times at the beginning of the movie it was like 'Top Gun'. It's
got one of the greatest vomit sequences of all time... if indeed not the
greatest sex scene of all time."
- Paul Morley, admiring the lifelike puppets of "Team America", on BBC2 Late Review
Sunshine takes its
intelligent and honourable place in the history of grownup science fiction
on the screen and on the page: a genre that seeks to break free of parochialism
and think about where and why and what we are without the language of religion...
I loved Sunshine for its radical proposal that humans can and will do something
about a catastrophe, and that our weapons could be used up in the service
- Peter Bradshaw, reviewing "Sunshine", "The Guardian"
In Sunshine, the sun
is the big special effect, and it's a massive, enrapturing, life-giving,
deadly and terrifying thing to behold.
- from "The Telegraph"
The gags keep coming
and the pair really do have a great comedy double act: Simon Pegg's face
is intensely, frantically, pre-emptively aware of the embarrassments and
ironies of every situation. Nick Frost is naively placid, genial and open,
prone to self-humiliation every time he opens his mouth. Together, they
snap the cuffs on another success.
- Peter Bradshaw, reviewing "Hot Fuzz" in "The Guardian"
The political and media
classes of Iran are reportedly up in arms about this fantastically silly
retelling of the Battle of Thermopylae in 480BC.. With the kind of tremulous
fervour that only prepubescent boys can work up on the subject of war,
it recounts how the barbarous invading hordes of Persia were heroically
held back by just 300 oiled and muscly Spartan warriors long enough for
the Greek armies to regroup and for Athenian democracy - and by implication,
all our inherited western values - to be saved for ever more. Iranian commentators,
sudden and quick in quarrel, have found the slight intolerable. These people
will presumably now redouble their commitment to historical sensitivity
with another Holocaust Denial Conference. And anyway, please. The Persians
aren't made to look that bad. If they were, they'd be played by Brits.
- Peter Bradshaw, reviewing "300", "The Guardian"
"We're not here to
recreate the real world. This is all about exaggeration - about exaggerated
angles, about exaggerated emotions, exaggerated muscles... Everything is
turned up to 11. I don't think anyone comes out of this movie thinking,
yeah, that's exactly how it happened... These stories are timeless. That's
part of the attraction. They're like Shakespeare, or the Bible, or Homer
— they're not tales just about their time, but they're fables for all time."
- Gerard Butler, King Leonidas in "300"
Before she could reach
these conclusions, however, I was idly looking at the cinema ceiling, to
see if there was a beam I could throw a rope over. When Kate has to tell
the little boy that he should make an effort in basketball because that's
what his dad woulda wanted, I was pondering the rope's strength.
- Peter Bradshow, on the progress of the plot of "Raising Helen", "The Guardian"
Wear not the bad colour
— for it angers them! Do not go into the woods - for that is where they
live! Reveal not the surprise ending — for it is completely rubbish!
- Peter Bradshaw gives his rules for following "The Village", "The Guardian"
It’s not giving away
the surprises that ruins the movie, it’s the surprises that ruin the movie...
This director is a young dog who needs some new tricks.
- Mark Steyn reviews "The Village", "The Spectator"
C’mon, lady, haven’t
you seen a horror movie before? You were in one, for cryin’ out loud.
- Mark Steyn, commenting on Naomi Watts actions in "The Ring 2", "The Spectator"
Not for the first time
the geniuses in the trailer department managed to make a rather unusual
film look and sound just like every other movie.
- Mark Steyn, reviews "Collateral", "The Spectator"
The results are more
akin to a high school production of Pearl Harbor.
- Ed Gonzalez reviews "Four Feathers" for "Slant Magazine"
My biggest complaint
about the movie is the love triangle. This plot device should be banned
immediately. Writers and/or directors who willing use a love triangle should
be locked in a room and forced to watch endless repeats of Pearl Harbor
until they repent.
- John Shea, reviewing "Fantastic Four" for "Tuesday Night Movie Club"
I came away impressed
with the mutant power of director Brett Ratner. We should strategically
deploy him to destroy runaway movie franchises that threaten mankind with
their continued existence.
- Michael Agger, relieved to see the end of "X-Men 3: Last Stand", "Slate Magazine"
"If this film had more
of a sense of humor, it would have been named Bring Me The Head Of Johnny
- Gene Siskel, taking aim at "Johnny Mnemonic"
"I'm afraid I missed
large portions of this movie because my eyes spent so much time rolling."
- Mark Ramsey, reviewing "End of Days"
"Not to be missed —
but to have stones thrown at it from point blank range."
- Hugh Leonard, reviewing "Mrs Henderson Presents", "The Irish Independent"
should be shown only at maximum-security prisons when a prisoner is tossed
in solitary for bad behavior."
- Max Messier, on "FilmCritic.com"
A movie that only an
8-year-old Christian environmentalist could love.
- Dana Stevens, on Evan Almighty, "Slate Magazine"
Hollywood action movies
bend this way and that politically in a bid to please as many viewers as
possible, but they almost always play out exactly the same, as entertaining
violence leads to heroic individualism leads to the restoration of order.
- Manohla Dargis, "The New York Times"
The movie is too busy
being thuggish bilge to note the irony of using every tank and missile
at Ice Cube's disposal to rescue a US president about to downgrade defence
- Tim Robey reviewing "xXx: The Next Level" for "The Telegraph"
These historical epics
can preach a vague anti-war message until they're blue in the face, but
their bellicose showmanship and swooping adoration of combat tell a different
- Tim Robey, reviewing "Kingdom of Heaven", in "The Telegraph"
Most people who’ve
taken an acting class are probably familiar with the term “indicating.”
It’s used to note when an actor is overtly signaling to the audience that
he or she is feeling an emotion rather than simply playing the feeling,
and it’s considered one of the worst sins a performer can commit. Paul
Haggis isn’t an actor, but maybe he could use a course or two, because
in his newest film, In the Valley of Elah, he spends most of the running
time engaged in the directorial equivalent of indicating, and it’s just
as wearisome here as it is in Intro to Theater.
- Peter Suderman, "National Review"
The early Connery Bond
films were fresh, innovative cinema. In the 1960s, they created a new genre
of action movie that was much imitated. In the 1970s, Bond got stuck while
cinema moved on, and by the 1980s, in the wake of Dirty Harry and the rise
of the spectacular, grittily cynical action movie, Bond looked limp. The
Dalton Bond films tried hard to be hard, but did not prove popular. And
even Pierce Brosnan’s valiant revival of the character suffers in comparison
with the stripped-down excitement provided by Jason Bourne. Still, you
have to have a really sour disposition not to find something to enjoy in
a Bond movie.
- David Mills, "The Times"
Somber and melancholy,
Jason Bourne is the anti-James Bond. He may not be able to remember his
own name, but he can't forget Marie — and given that she was played by
Franka Potente, possibly the coolest moll in the history of spy thrillers,
who can blame him?.
- Dana Stevens, on "The Bourne Ultimatum", "Slate Magazine"
The new Bond (Daniel
Craig) has the face of a Bradford binman, but the buff body of someone
who should be appearing regularly on 'Sunset Beach' and answering to the
name of Cody.
- Darragh McManus, on a mismatch between face and body, "The Evening Herald"
The only reason you
could possibly want to sit through this low-rent rip-off is to force your
significant other to terminate the relationship because of your terrible
taste in films.
- Ireland's "Evening Herald" picks "Valentine" as it's "Avoid It!" flick of the day
I have seen all of
Hilary Duff's movies, a fact I keep in reserve when people at parties tell
me they'd love to do my job.
- John Maguire, "The Evening Herald"
If you have a dog,
it will be sniffing and whimpering at the screen in recognition of one
of its one kind... a film whose special badness defies virtually any attempt
- The "Evening Herald", picking "The Adventures of Pluto Nash" as an "Avoid It!" choice
Whichever bright sparks
at RTE and TV3 decided to schedule the two greatest gangster movies of
all in the same timeslot deserves to wake up tomorrow morning with a horse's
- The "Evening Herald", as "Goodfellas" airs opposite "The Godfather" on Irish TV
"Orlando Bloom was
so wooden he could have played the horse."
- Peter Howick, reviewing "Troy" for Ireland's "Evening Herald"
Cast, Crew Of Troy
Begin Disastrous 10-Year Journey Back To Hollywood
- Headline from "The Onion"
"Colin Farrell's manful
battle with the puerile dialogue, dodgy (Irish) accents, wandering plot
and some unreliable supporting performances is greater than anything the
real Alexander would have faced, and is ultimately one he cannot win."
- John Maguire, reviewing "Alexander" for Ireland's "Evening Herald"
"Alexander shows you
nothing of what went on inside the man who came to rule most of the known
world by age 30. But the Showgirls-esque drinking games that somebody conspires
to accompany the DVD are going to be a hoot."
- Bret McCabe, reviewing "Alexander" for "Baltimore City Paper"
There are some films
that arrive here from the international festival circuit almost incandescent
with self-importance. They hover into the cinema in a kind of floating
trance at how challenging and moving they are. They are films with a profound
reluctance to get over themselves. They look up at the sceptical observer
with the saucer-eyed saintliness of a baby seal in culling season, or a
charity mugger smilingly wishing a nice day on the retreating back of a
passer-by. One such is Babel.
- Peter Bradshaw, "The Guardian"
As is often the case
in stories that reduce goodness to saccharine platitudes, the bad character
begins to appear more attractive. In this case, the exterminator, whose
company’s name, Beals-a-Bug, nicely captures his demonic delight in insect
destruction, is by far the most entertaining character in the film.
- Thomas Hibbs, reviewing "Ant Bully", "National Review"
"Hollywood will mock
any category of people without a powerful enough lobby group to protect
- Chris Lowry in Ireland's "Evening Herald" reviewing "Thunderbirds"
"Little children will
leave this movie believing that stammerers and girls with glasses, buck
teeth and amorous intentions are ideal subjects for humorists."
- Philip French, reviewing "Thunderbirds" in "The Observer"
Though I could follow
the outline of the story and found some of the images memorable, the meaning
of it all eluded me. There was a child in the audience, but unfortunately
she left during the final credits, so I was unable to turn to her for elucidation.
- Philip French, baffled by "Tales From Earthsea", "The Observer"
It's The Exorcist meets
The Wicker Man and a bad time is had by all, the audience included.
- Philip French, reviewing "The Reaping", "The Observer"
"The Pink Panther"
wasn't shown to the press for reasons that soon became apparent when I
saw it at a public performance. Two people (20 per cent of the audience)
laughed; one was Chinese, the other, whom I couldn't see, might have been
an escaped hyena. This laughless francophobic comedy stars its co-scriptwriter,
Steve Martin, in what is, by my reckoning, his eighth lousy remake since
- Phillip French, "The Observer"
Neither a washboard-stomached
hunk nor a joshing fat guy, Jason Segel's the first leading man in recent
memory who's actually built like most men I know.
- Dana Stevens, "Forgetting Sarah Marshall", "Slate"
"Keira Knightley is
the sexiest tomboy beanpole on the planet."
- Bruce Handy, commenting on "Bend It Like Beckham" in "Vanity Fair"
The movie is also the
latest example of a subgenre that might be called 'feminexploitation'.
(Earlier examples include "Bring It On" and "Charlie's Angels") The idea
is to find heroines who are strong, tough, capable and resilient, but who
also look fabulous in bathing suits and other revealing attire. The audience
appeal is theoretically universal. You can ogle Anne Marie and her friends
or you can aspire to be just like them, or even a little of both.
- A.O. Scott, reviewing "Blue Crush" in "The New York Times"
Realism is as irrelevant
a criterion here as it would be in an Italian opera. The movie is about
color, kineticism and the kind of heavy-breathing, decorous sensuality
that went out of American movies when sexual candor came in. Occasionally,
Ms. Zhang bares one of her lovely shoulders. If she showed any more, the
projector might catch fire.
- A.O. Scott, reviewing "House of Flying Daggers" for "The New York Times"
The director manages
to evade both the stuffy antiquarianism and the pandering anachronism that
subvert so many cinematic attempts at historical inquiry. His characters
are neither costumed moderns, just like us only with better furniture,
nor quaint curiosities whose odd customs we observe with smug condescension.
They seem at once entirely real and utterly of their time. And the time
itself feels not so much reconstructed as witnessed. If cinema had been
around to capture the chaos of France in the 1790's, one imagines the result
would look like something like this.
- AO Scott, reviewing Eric Rohmer's "The Lady and the Duke", "The New York Times"
Keanu Reeves, perhaps
worried that he was showing too much range, has purged himself of all expression
apart from a worried frown and a sorrowful grimace.
- AO Scott, reviewing "The Matrix Revolutions" in "The New York Times"
"War of the Worlds"
is rated PG-13. Much of the earth's population is wiped out, leaving very
little time for sex or bad language.
- AO Scott, assessing "War of the Worlds" in "The New York Times"
"Side note to parents:
Anyone who thinks 'Dude, Where's My Car' is more appropriate for children
than 'American Pie' because it obtained a PG-13 rating needs to stop trusting
- James Berardinelli reviews "Dude, Where's My Car?"
"Black and white and
red all over."
- James Berardinelli, from his review of retro film noir, "Sin City"
"If this doesn't kill
off his sweet, wholesome Dawson's Creek image, nothing will."
- The Sunday Times reviews James Van Der Beek's depraved performance in "Rules of Attraction"
"This is the method
taught in the Elizabeth Hurley school of acting: If you happen to be a
vapid idiot, always play one in the movies and audiences will love you
for your self-mocking sense of fun."
- Andrew O'Hehir , "Salon.Com"
not be allowed to play God. Brian Blessed would be much better in that
- from The Onion's AV Guide
"According to Hollywood
logic, none of the actual Titanic passengers was interesting enough, so
the writer-director had to invent a Romeo and Juliet-style fictional couple
to heat up the catastrophe. This
seems a tiny bit like giving Anne Frank a wacky best friend, to perk up that attic."
- Libby Gelman-Waxner, "Premier" magazine
"No matter how sheltered
and virginal the heroine, at the moment of crisis, it turns out that she
has all along been an expert kick-boxer."
- David Frum comes up with a new movie rule watching "Pirates of the Caribbean" for NRO
There is a perversion,
much practised in Hollywood movies, that might be called sado-paternalism,
whereby a surrogate father treats a gifted but difficult pupil with derision
and constant punishment. The aim is to bring out the best in the victim
and to make him into a he-man or he-woman.
- Philip French, reviewing "The Guardian", "The Observer"
If you plan on seeing
"Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me," bring a book. You won't be able to read
it in the darkened theater, of course, but it should still provide more
entertainment than what's on the screen. Feel the binding. Flip through
the pages. Wear it on your head.
- Film critic John Anderson, New York Newsday
"There can't be many
advantages to dying of a cocaine overdose at the height of your career,
but look at it this way: at least John Belushi didn't have to appear in
Blues Brothers 2000."
- Tom Shone, "The London Times"
"The release of this
movie will provide a sterling opportunity for newcomers to learn the ropes
and ponder all these great imponderables for the first time. Fans of the
series, meanwhile, will relish the rare opportunity it gives them to get
out of the house. On the evidence of all the waxy complexions and raccoon-ringed
eyes I counted at the screening last week, the most terrifying thing about
The X-Files, in fact, are its *fans*. These guys make movie critics look
-Tom Shone,"The London Times"
"I'm not saying HBO
couldn't have made that movie. But 'The Pianist' was a bold and harsh and
fearless encapsulation of time, place, history, people and emotions."
- Tim Goodman, comparing the merits of Film and TV in "The San Francisco Chronicle"
When we think of Hollywood
in the 1940s, we think about "Casablanca" and "The Big Sleep" and Lauren
Bacall saying, "You know how to whistle, don't you? Just pucker up and
blow." We don't think about Ronald Reagan and Shirley Temple (as a couple!)
in "That Hagen Girl" or about "A Guy Named Joe," directed by Victor Fleming,
the slogan for which was "A guy - a gal - a pal - It's swell!" But the
latter kind of movie, as always, outweighed the former by perhaps 10 to
- Andrew O' Hehir, "Salon.Com"
If it took some effort
to see old movies, we might try to find out which were the good ones, and
if people saw only the good ones maybe they would still respect old movies.
As it is, people sit and watch movies that audiences walked out on thirty
- Pauline Kael
Movies are so rarely
great art that if we cannot appreciate great trash we have very little
reason to be interested in them.
- Pauline Kael
Casablanca is back
on the big screen in a new print and looks and sounds better as time goes
by. It is the product of numerous accidents, all of them happy, and I laugh,
cry and have my better instincts appealed to whenever I see it.
- Phillp French, "The Observer"
In the late 1930s,
both the British and American movie industries made a succession of films
celebrating the decency of the British Empire in order to challenge the
threatening tide of Nazism and fascism and also to provide employment for
actors from Los Angeles's British colony. The best two were Hollywood's
"Gunga Din" and Britain's "The Four Feathers".
- Philip French, "The Observer"
I grew up on westerns.
I saw them as the American equivalent of Greek myth and medieval legend,
a consciously created New World mythology, using a brief period of recent
history as the landscape for heroic encounters and epic deeds.
- George Perry, reviewing "Westerns" by Philip French in "The Times"
The American independent
cinema is as formulaic as Hollywood and one genre is what you might call
the 'inaction movie'. The setting is invariably a decaying town in a regional
backwater where a catalytic stranger or returning native meets up with
a group of sad, eccentric outsiders.
- Phillip French, reviewing "The Station Agent" in "The Observer"
The film’s critique
of the American dream is outclassed by your average Bruce Springsteen song.
- Edward Porter, reviewing "The Assassination of Richard Nixon", in "The Times"
The year is 2027, and
shimmery high-tech advertising decorates a washed-out version of the London
we know today... All of that is well staged, but it made me feel I was
stuck on a beaten track when I’d have preferred to roam more widely through
the film’s world.
- Edward Porter, reviewing "Children of Men, "The Times"
How heartening it is
to know that Ken Loach is still out there making committed, polemical cinema,
so long as you don't have to watch it. Never go near a Ken Loach film unless
you're trying to sleep with a socialist. If you are, however, "Land And
Freedom" should do the trick.
- David Bennun. writing in "The Guardian"
The poor black people
in it make the black people in "Gone With the Wind" look like Malcolm X.
- Ben Stein, reviewing "Gods and Generals", "The American Spectator"
The Vietnamese Hoa
were merchants and manufacturers. They were very successful and thus, according
to the logic of Marxism, responsible for society's failures. The Hoa suffered
the same fate as the pizza parlour in Spike Lee's Do The Right Thing except
at the hands of the world's fourth largest army instead of a small, petulant
- PJ O'Rourke, "Give War A Chance"
The decline of narrative
has, of course, gone hand in hand with the rise of consumer test screenings,
the grisly process through which Hollywood execs show a movie to a cross
section of its imagined 'target audience' and then ask them what they would
do to make it better. This is the one area in which audiences do actually
get to 'play' movies like computer games, and the results are always terrible.If
it was left to the viewers, you can rest assured that Humphrey Bogart would
have gotten on the plane with Ingrid Bergman at the end of Casablanca,
or that Ali McGraw would have experienced a miraculous recovery in the
closing moments of Love Story. Audiences cannot make movies — that's why
they are audiences. Sadly, in the current marketplace, it seems that many
film-makers can't make them either.
- Mark Kermode, "The Observer"
A novel can get away
with relying on a lot of exposition and backstory. Michael Crichton books
don't usually kickstart the action until around page 200. Until then, you're
just hearing about the industry or scientific community in which the action
takes place. And Brown's book fills in some of the narrative gaps with
doses of art appreciation and European history... Most of Brown's novel
takes place in the course of one night. The French police summon Langdon
to inspect a dead body, he scans for clues throughout the museum, he escapes
the cops, finds more clues, meets up with the McKellan character, evades
capture again and goes to England, and on and on, all before dawn. The
timing makes no sense and stretches credibility to the extreme. This is
the sort of thing that you can cheat with on the page, but that simply
doesn't work in a movie.
- Crushed by Inertia, on the difficulty of bringing "Da Vinci Code" to screen
The greater the novel,
the more it is apt to embody the special, non-replicable properties of
the written medium.
- Joseph O'Neill, on the difficulties of adapting novels for the screen
In AI, Spielberg is
bleaching the dirt out of the human mind and leaving behind only the vacant
gaze of machine 'love'. Coca Cola ads do much the same thing — and they
don't take two hours.
- Bryan Appleyard, "The London Times"
Steven Spielberg makes
Minority Report *with* the newest digital technology; other directors seem
to be trying to make their movies *from* it.
- Roger Ebert, "Chicago Sun Times"
Good as Minority Report
is, Spielberg is once again unable to resist emptying a barrow-load of
emotional porn into our laps at the very first opportunity.
- Barbara Ellen, "The London Times"
Great wine porn.
- Mike Steinberger, wine critic for MSN Slate commenting on "Sideways"
There are other ways
of scaring yourself, which at best is all this film can offer, like driving
blindfold the wrong way up a motorway. Sitting through '13 Ghosts' is almost
- Evan Fanning, "The Irish Independent"
In those hazy days
following Christmas when it could be Tuesday, it could be Wednesday, you're
not quite sure, one thing you can rely on is that 'Where Eagles Dare' will
somehow find its way onto your TV. Watch Clint Eastwood and a drunk Richard
Burton sort out those rotters the Nazis, who spoke in a curious combination
of fake German, English and American accents. 'Broadsword calling Danny
Boy. Broadsword calling Danny Boy'. He certainly is.
- Evan Fanning, on Christmas TV schedules, in "The Irish Independent"
I even watched Mulholland
Drive in French... it didn't make much more sense in French, but I have
to say, it didn't make any less sense either.
- Tom Dunne, "The Irish Independent"
A well-to-do middle-aged
doctor discovers that her husband is in the habit of picking up women for
casual flings... and she secretly pays a beautiful prostitute to strike
up a relationship with her husband and report back to her on everything
that happens. An unwillingness to appear too accepting of old generalisations
makes me reluctant to describe "Nathalie" as 'typically French', but let’s
be honest: if you were asked to guess the film’s country of origin solely
from the plot summary above, your first go wouldn’t be Iran.
- Edward Porter, taking in the very-French film "Nathalie", "The Times"
"Nathalie" is crammed
with the kind of characters who could exist only in French cinema.
- Wendy Ide, on a very French kind of infidelity, "The Times"
The film has a long
sequence seen entirely from the point of view of one warrior — a direct
copy of the game’s look. For anyone used to the real thing, this simulation
is surely just the equivalent of watching the game over the shoulder of
someone who refuses to give you a turn.
- Edward Porter, reviewing game-cum-movie "Doom" in "The Times"
How to Lose a Guy in
10 Days: They could just have called it How to Lose an Intelligent Audience
in 10 Seconds.
- Patricia Nicol, "The London Times"
The Wrong Stuff.
- Michael Sauter's review of scifi disaster flick "Armageddon"
The scariest moment
in the movie was when it intimated that there might yet be another episode.
- Yahoo Movie Mom on "The Matrix Revolutions"
"If there is a God,
and with things the way they are in the world, one can't help being a tad
skeptical, he should rain lightning bolts down on the offices of Dark Castle
- Tor Thorsen, reviewing "Ghost Ship" for "Reel.com"
"If I were a cop and
I had seen both 'Scream' and 'I Know What You Did Last Summer', I'd be
at writer Kevin Williamson's house searching it for drugs. If I didn't
find something, I'd plant a kilo of heroin in his ass for writing this
piece of crap."
- Mr. Cranky (of mrcranky.com) reviews "I Know What You Did Last Summer"
"You know, when the
Devil's spawn are susceptible to steak-knife attacks, evil has a problem."
- Mr. Cranky reviews "Bless the Child"
"If somebody could
just find Osama Bin Laden and show him this movie, there would be no more
terrorism because he'd become infused with the Christmas spirit and just
want to hug every American he saw."
- Mr. Cranky reviews "The Santa Clause 2"
"That film sucked so
bad my opinion of it went straight to video."
- Denis Leary, on "Eight Crazy Nights"
"Q: Who is Tom Clancy?"
"A: A computer program that generates books & films scripts based on military hype from a simple formula, then spams publishers with it."
Ioan Gruffudd: Do not
pronounce if not Welsh.
- Eric Metaxas, discussing the Welsh actor
I rented The Cool Surface
last week; words can't describe how awful it is. I'm a big Teri Hatcher
fan, but a rental of The Cool Surface is $2.75 thrown down the drain. Save
your money by reading the attached plot synopsis:
[WARNING: SPOILER FOLLOWS]
Teri Hatcher has breasts. They look OK.
- By The Unknown Reviewer
Hard to tell whether
somebody wanted to make a pretentious allegory and threw in a naked Melanie
Griffith to help market it, or just wanted to market a naked Melanie Griffith
and threw in a pretentious allegory as justification.
- From an online review of "Hagan"
"Debutante balls are
outdated, elitist, and sexist. You said so yourself in your review of Boyz
'N the Hood."
"Yeah, I was really off on a tangent that day."
- Jay Sherman, meeting a fan, "The Critic"
These days, the average
cinema sounds more like a zoo or a disco as stupid ringtones, the mating
call of the 'Chav', proliferate.
- Ian O'Doherty, "The Irish Independent"
# HARRY POTTER & LORD OF THE RINGS
"I was staring at every
11-year-old boy who came along. People started to give me funny looks."
- David Heyman, producer of "Harry Potter" recalling his search for a lead
Like the book, the
film is a mishmash of myths ancient and modern. Harry is the anointed one,
the babe saved from destruction for a high purpose... Harry is the changeling
we all thought we were as children, switched from a wonderfully privileged
world into a dreary, unappreciative one. He's the brave, ill-treated orphan
of Victorian fiction, he's Cinderella, and he's the bespectacled Clark
Kent come from another world with secret powers to be used wisely. Better
for children unacquainted with the Bible, fairy tales and classical mythology
to encounter this lore here than not at all.
- Phillip French, reviewing"Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone", "The Observer"
Nothing could have
more of the makings of an epic series than this. It has legs. It has wings.
It has broomsticks for whizzing about on... Emma Watson is the magnificent
Hermione: imperious, impetuous but heart-breakingly loyal in the tradition
of the subordinate Enid Blyton girl.
- Peter Bradshaw, reviewing "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone", "The Guardian"
While I am usually
in despair when a movie abandons its plot for a third act given over entirely
to action, I have no problem with the way "Harry Potter and the Chamber
of Secrets" ends, because it has been pointing toward this ending, hinting
about it, preparing us for it, all the way through. What a glorious movie.
- Roger Ebert, writing in "The Chicago Sun Times"
Personally, I thought
it was like Tom Brown does the Ring cycle.
- AA Gill, "The London Times", on "Harry Potter"
This film is a lot
of fun, and only adults with their limited attention spans will find it
- Phillip French, reviewing "Chamber of Secrets" in The Observer
Life is too short for
Hollywood's latest habit - making longer and longer movies... Speccy little
git Harry Potter's latest installment, the Prisoner of whatever, will demand
141 of your minutes, not one of which you'll ever get back.
- John Patterson, bemoaning the length of films for "The Guardian"
My fellow critics and
I may occasionally fault a movie for departing, in detail or in spirit,
from its literary source, but the grousing of a few adult pedants is nothing
compared to the wrath of several million bookish 10-year-olds. Their presumed
demands, and the hovering spirit of Harry's creator, J. K. Rowling, inhibit
this movie as it did the first Potter film.
- A.O. Scott, reviewing "Chamber of Secrets" in "The New York Times"
In this adventure Harry
will do battle with giant lizards, face the attack of the Death Eaters,
and in perhaps the most difficult task of all for a 14-year-old, ask a
girl to be his date at the Yule Ball.
- Roger Ebert, reviewing "Goblet of Fire" in "The Chicago Sun Times"
You turn your back
for one moment and suddenly Harry is crushing on exotic-looking Scottish
girls, Ron looks like a member of 'Supergrass' and Hermione is wearing
- Adam Rynne, reviewing "Goblet of Fire" in Ireland's "Evening Herald"
The movie, with narrative
justification and commercial canniness, concludes with a cliffhanger that
aims to have us sitting in the same seats a year hence to see how it all
turns out in the concluding episode, The Return of the King. This is likely
to be happier, more decisive and infinitely more satisfying than anything
that will happen to our world in the next 12 months.
- Phillip French, "The Observer", reviewing "The Two Towers"
The final battle is
kind of magnificent. I found myself thinking of the visionary films of
the silent era, like Lang ("Metropolis") and Murnau ("Faust"), with their
desire to depict fantastic events of unimaginable size and power, and with
their own cheerful reliance on visual trickery. Had they been able to see
this scene, they would have been exhilarated.
- Roger Ebert, "Chicago Sun Times", reviewing "The Return Of The King"
A newly confident breed
of Tolkien bores is on the march. You see, thanks to Hollywood, the square
kids are set to be cool: at long last.
- Rachel Cooke, "The London Times" on the impending release of "Lord of the Rings"
'The Lord of the Rings'
is a big ponderous book. A very useful object for dropping on any winter
rodent which has invaded your space. So if you really want to buy it, you
could bring it along to the cinema. Not of cource to compare the prose
with the images but to put on your seat and thus give you the necessary
elevation to see over the big galoot (or big Gandalf) who forever arrives
late and plonks himself down in front of your seat.
- Declan McCormack, "Bored of the Rings", The Irish Independent.
More quotes about the "Lord of the Rings" films.
# COSMO LANDESMAN
People who go to film
festivals are not normal. They sit for days in dark rooms watching films.
They talk, think, breathe films. Such people are obsessives, nerds who
need help. That’s why you should be wary when Ira Sachs’s Forty Shades
of Blue comes with the imprimatur of being the winner of a 2005 Sundance
Grand Jury Prize. Film-festival winners are rarely films that normal, sane
people want to see. Forty Shades of Blue is not a great film; it’s a series
of great performances.
- reviewing "Forty Shades of Blue", "The London Times"
The raptors have become
so brainy that they can now communicate with each other and lay cunning
traps. Come Jurassic Park IV and the raptors will no doubt be reading the
New York Review of Books and discussing Susan Sontag.
- reviewing "Jurassic Park 3"
Most scary films come
in two distinctive flavours: in haute horror, things go bump in the night;
in hard-core horror, they go splat in your face
- Cosmo Landesman, "The London Times"
It’s like being assaulted
by a gang of singing cherubs wielding sticks of candyfloss.
- Cosmo Landesman is overwhelmed by the sweetness of "Love Actually", "The London Times"
Cold Mountain’s silence
about slavery is like watching an adaptation of Anne Frank’s diary that
doesn’t mention the Nazis.
- reviewing "Cold Mountain"
This is the film in
which Jennifer Connelly finally comes into her own. It’s always great to
watch a movie beauty you’ve drooled over for years prove to the world that
she really can act; one feels less sordid.
- Cosmo Landesman reviews "A Beautiful Mind"
Jennifer Connelly has
the biggest handicap facing an actress in this kind of role: her beauty.
Generally speaking, women with her sort of looks are rarely so isolated
— they have an orderly queue of knights in shining armour wanting to save
them from themselves.
- reviewing "House of Sand and Fog"
Jennifer Garner made
a brief appearance as Elektra in 'Daredevil' (2003), wearing a red leather
number that had men, women and beasts drooling. Now she’s back, in an attempt
to create a new action-heroine franchise... Look, if you’re going to make
a dumb action picture for teenage boys, then for heaven’s sake do it right:
make it fast, make it bloody, give it some oomph and a rocking soundtrack.
Instead, the director, Rob Bowman, has created a turgid tale about Elektra’s
dark side and disturbing past. The film is ponderous: and her new outfit
just isn’t sexy.
- Cosmo Landesman's brief review of "Elektra"
The trouble with modern-day
war films is that they’re ideologically cowardly. They don’t want to take
sides or stand up for grand-sounding things like freedom or goodness. This
film ends with the narrator saying: "In the end, they fought not for their
country or flag. They fought for each other." No wonder modern war movies
are so rarely moving. If Shakespeare were writing in Hollywood today, no
doubt Henry V’s Agincourt battle speech would go something like: "No, not
for Harry! Nor England, and never mind St George — actually, it’s the chap
next to you who matters."
- reviewing "Were Were Soldiers"
The acid test is to
ask yourself: if you saw the very same film without there ever having been
a series of Harry Potter books, would you be leaving the cinema in a euphoric
state, raving about how you had seen the future of heroism and it's called
...Columbus does a wonderful job of re-creating London streets paved with secret shops and their ancient staff, and smoky taverns full of kind strangers. This is his homage to a world where the Artful Dodger picks a pocket or two, while Holmes and Watson hurry back through the fog in a hansom cab and Miss Havisham pours tea.
- reviewing "Harry Potter"
What’s so interesting
about both Ring films is that they deliver an old-fashioned message you
rarely hear in popular culture any more: that it is through struggle with
adversity and sacrifice to a greater cause, and not a life of comfort and
consumerism, that we bring out the best in ourselves... but it’s hard to
ignore the similarity between this film’s talk about resisting 'evil' and
the rhetoric of George W Bush.
- reviewing "The Two Towers"
'The Incredibles' is
the story of how the egalitarian drive in modern America killed off the
superhero. It’s a passionate and politically incorrect plea for truth,
justice and the Nietzschean way.
- reviewing "The Incredibles"
'Batman Begins' is
one of those films that acts all liberal, lecturing you about the need
for justice and rejecting the path of revenge, while at the same time offering
you the forbidden pleasure of watching Batman going around beating the
living daylights out of criminals.
- reviewing "Batman Begins"
Cops are corrupt, politicians
are liars, lawyers are scum — at least in films. But teachers on the big
screen remain heroic. From 'Goodbye Mr Chips' to 'Dead Poets Society',
they are portrayed as life-enhancing idealists who liberate the minds of
the young from the tyranny of brute fact and the fist of discipline. Of
course, it’s a total middle-class, liberal fantasy.
- reviewing "The Chorus"
Beatrix is that familiar
figure: the young woman in rebellion against the oppressive restrictions
of Victorian society... This film wants it both ways: to show us a modern
woman who dares to break with convention, but not to give her stance any
consequences. It’s a portrait too cosy to do her justice — or hold our
- reviewing "Miss Potter"
There’s nothing worse
than anti-violence lectures in a film that’s full of violence.
- reviewing "Four Brothers"
It’s the most fantastic
film I never want to see again.
- reviewing "Apocalypto"
There's no moment in 'Revenge of the Sith' where action, characters and music all come together to sweep you up and leave you at the edge of your seat, cheering like a 12-year-old maniac.
Tim Burton’s film isn’t a remake of Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971). It is a remake of just about every film he has already made. It’s one thing to have your own voice, but another to keep singing the same song. It is time Burton changed his tune.
There is a ghost hovering over this big-screen adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. This ghost is a man in white. He is wet. He drips. He smoulders. He oozes. He is, of course, Colin Firth as Mr Darcy, in the 1995 television adaptation directed by Simon Langton. The sight of Firth emerging from a lake was, for many women, the equivalent of the first time male viewers saw Ursula Andress coming out of the sea in Dr No.
The iconic Bond girl
in this film is Bond himself. In a scene that pays homage to Ursula Andress
in Dr No, Craig emerges from the sea in a brief pair of trunks. He reveals
more of his body than any babe...
Despite updating Ian Fleming’s 1953 novel Casino Royale and replacing communist agents with terrorists, the film has no relation to the world we live in. Nor does it offer a fantasy of a glamorous world we
would like to escape to. It’s neither an exciting thriller nor an interesting study in character.
The trouble with the Mission: Impossible franchise, however, is Ethan Hunt. They have given him a private life, but no personality. He is one of that breed of young-ish agents, like Jason Bourne (Matt Damon), who are boring when not diving from tall buildings or blowing up things. The reason James Bond was so great had little to do with the action bits — it was his lifestyle we admired. Ethan has a life, but no style — no cool car, nice suit or conversation worth repeating. You may watch him, but would you want to be him?
I wonder: was the television series of Mission: Impossible really that great, or did we fans just love its theme tune by Lalo Schifrin? On hearing that music as the credits roll, with its exotic mix of bongo drums, eastern-sounding flutes and urgent dun-dun-dun-dun, we become like Pavlov’s dog, salivating with desire for excitement and adventure.
# DAVID EDELSTEIN
Movies can appeal to our best and worst instincts — it’s when they appeal to both at once that they get really interesting.
"King Arthur" is profoundly
stupid and inept.. then there's Clive Owen, rising above it all. Aloof
yet watchful, the actor cultivates an inner stillness that is perfect for
faintly ironic brooders. He neither distances himself from this risible
material nor pulls out the stops and opens himself to ridicule. His King
Arthur tells us little about Arthur, but much about protecting one's flank.
The mark of a box-office king?
- David Edelstein, reviewing "King Arthur" for "MSN Slate"
Richard Curtis, the
writer and director of "Love Actually", is brilliant at many things, but
his genius, I submit, is for thrusting characters into situations in which
they feel driven to humiliate themselves. Which is why we love them, especially
when it's all in the name of love. He is the Bard of Embarrassment.
- David Edelstein, reviewing "Love Actually" for "MSN Slate"
If I had to catalog
all the moronic plot turns in "The Day After Tomorrow", we'd be here until
the next ice age. It's just so very bad. You can have a pretty good time
snickering at it—unless, like me, you think there's something to this global
warming thing, and you shudder at the irony of a movie meant to warn people
about a dangerous environmental trend that completely discredits it. Is
it possible that the film is a plot to make environmental activists look
as wacko as anti-environmentalists always claim they are?
- David Edelstein, reviewing "The Day After Tomorrow" for "MSN Slate"
You can feel righteous
fury in every frame of "The Magdalene Sisters". The movie is both a masterpiece
and a holy hell: Watching it, you feel you're being punished for a crime
you didn't commit. Which puts you, come to think of it, in the same frame
of mind as those poor Magdalene girls.
- David Edelstein, reviewing "The Magdalene Sisters" for "MSN Slate"
The movie is in a different
league from the standard Hollywood comic-book blockbuster. It's never as
simple as good versus evil: The three male titans — X, Magneto, and Stryker
— are each convinced his way is right, and Singer turns the movie into
an epic chess match. Only here the knights shoot lightning bolts, and the
queens raise storms.
- reviewing "X-Men 2" for "MSN Slate"
Keira Knightley has
the face of Winona Ryder on the long, leggy bod of Jennifer Garner: It's
as if she was cloned to be this year's übermodel.
- finding some consolation in "Bend It Like Beckham, "MSN Slate"
A smart, live-wire
actor with maybe five more years until his air of dissipation stops being
so roguishly attractive and he thickens into the next Oliver Reed.
- predicting Colin Farrell's future whilst reviewing "The Recruit"
Colin Farrell had a
stylish bully-boy presence in 'Daredevil' and in a terrific Irish ensemble
movie called 'Intermission'. At his best, he's shrewdly small-scale. You
can imagine him firing up the lads at the pub before he gets too stuporous.
But all the armies of the Western world? He doesn't begin to have the stature
— or the lung power.
- from the review of "Alexander The Great"
Like many of his Irish
brethren, Martin McDonagh can fall down laughing but hit the ground weeping.
- from the NY Metro review of "In Bruges"
Like something you'd
see if the NRA had its own music-video channel.
- David Edelstein reviews "S.W.A.T." for "MSN Slate"
As we Christopher Lee
fans can attest, there's something hugely satisfying about seeing regal
English snobs with perfect enunciation hiss through bared fangs while drooling
blood. It clarifies so much about Great Britain's role in world history.
- from the review of "Underworld"
The most excruciating
two-and-a-half hours I've ever spent in a theater. In my defense, I went
in with an open mind: although it admittedly slammed shut after 15 minutes
(defensively, as if in the presence of a brain liquefying virus).
- from the review of "The Phantom of the Opera"
My reaction to 'Sin
City' is easily stated. I loved it. Or, to put it another way, I loved
it, I loved it, I loved it. I loved every gorgeous sick disgusting ravishing
overbaked blood-spurting artificial frame of it. A tad hypocritical? Yes.
But sometimes you think, "Well, I'll just go to hell."
- from the review of "Sin City"
There will be a competition
among critics for the best Paris Hilton insult. Here's my first: Her attention
span is so short that she can't even maintain her concentration while running
away from a psycho... Maybe the ultimate insult is that she makes her co-star
Elisha Cuthbert seem, by comparison, the sexiest and most interesting actress
in modern cinema.
- from the review of teen horror flick "House of Wax"
Cillian Murphy is the
guy who battled viral zombies in '28 Days Later' and put a gas-spewing
bag over his head in 'Batman Begins'. With his pallor, cut-glass cheekbones
and glazed blue eyes, he's right on the border between dreamboat and spooky
- from the review of Wes Craven's "Red Eye"
You won't be reading
reviews of the dystopian sci-fi flick Aeon Flux in the papers today because
it wasn't screened for the press—and, given that it cost the GDP of a small
country and that Charlize Theron and the director, Karyn Kusama, are critics'
darlings, this could mean but one thing: A stinker. A weapon of mass destruction.
A planet-killer. Folks, I'll never understand studios. Aeon Flux is not
- from the review of "Aeon Flux" for "MSN Slate"
Update: In 2006, David moved to New York Magazine.
Ever since the Tim
Burton Batman of 1989, it has been de rigueur in movies to focus on the
freaky alienation aspect of the superhero’s life: This is how talented
people make movies for 14-year-olds while retaining their self-respect.
- reviewing "Superman Returns", "New York Magazine"
A critic often has
to play the role of coroner, dissecting a work to find out why it died
(or never lived).
- reviewing "The Black Dahlia"
In the early Bond movies,
the violence was both brutal and stylish, with witty curlicues; here, it’s
mostly brutal, but at least the director has a Hong Kong–style awe for
the poetry of human bodies doing things that, evolutionarily speaking,
they haven’t needed to do since the saber-toothed tiger died off.
- reviewing "Casino Royale"
What can you say about
a man who leaps from a helicopter over Manhattan without a parachute in
the hope that by increasing his heart rate he’ll transform into an iridescent
lime-green behemoth so he can take on an even bigger behemoth? That he
knows he’s living in a computer-generated universe in which gravity is
a feeble suggestion and nothing is remotely at stake, and that when he
hits the ground he’ll be replaced by a special effect. The Incredible Hulk
is weightless—as disposable as an Xbox game.
- reviewing The Incredible Hulk (2008)
The English have a
wellspring of comedy that will never be exhausted: the combination of bestial
urges and excellent manners.
- reviewing "Hot Fuzz"
What makes Fracture
hum is the way Anthony Hopkins bares his teeth, twitches his nostrils,
and trains his shiny pinprick Lecter eyes on his co-star. What can Ryan
Gosling do against this shameless scene-stealer? He can get all Edward
Norton Methody—but we know from Red Dragon that that won’t work. He can
go the other way, chew a little scenery himself, meet ham with ham—but
no one wins an overacting contest against Anthony Hopkins. Ah, but Gosling
is a smart guy, with a marvelous sense of proportion. He knows that Crawford
is supposed to walk all over the arrogant charmer Willy, so he sits back
and lets the scenes be stolen—to the point where we go, “Wake up, you dick!
Go get him!” It helps, of course, that we can’t take our eyes off Gosling
even when he appears to be doing little. I like Hopkins, but I’ve seen
all his tricks. What’s up Gosling’s sleeve?
- reviewing "Fracture"
Let me tell you, if
your marriage is in trouble, skip the therapist and find a psycho. Nothing
brings people together faster.
- reviewing "Vacancy"
Russell Crowe is normally
an actor who disappears so far into his characters you’d swear his DNA
has been altered.
- reviewing "3:10 to Yuma"
Pardon my actor-speak, but Frank Langella has grown into his apparatus. When he was a young leading man, his deep voice could seem too plangent, his movements too deliberate; his gravity could suggest, rightly or wrongly, self-worship. Those things made him an excellent Dracula, however. But in the last decade, as William Paley in Good Night, and Good Luck and Nixon (onstage in Frost/Nixon), he was better than good; he was perfect.
Now films (and TV shows, even comedies) are shot documentary style, with handheld cameras transmitting the operators’ jitters, twitches, and sudden swerves. It’s not just vérité—it’s battlefield vérité; it triggers your fight-or-flight instincts. I know people who came out of The Blair Witch Project thinking they had food poisoning. Others had to move to the last row of seats to make it through the second Bourne picture, The Bourne Supremacy.
# PAUL TATARA
I mean it. I’m on my
knees, begging you - don’t encourage these guys. I feel like Eisenhower
warning everyone about the military/industrial complex. Hollywood is definitely
keeping an eye on this one, and if it winds up making a pile of money,
game over. Done. We’ll be getting reheated silliness like this for the
rest of our lives.
- Paul really doesn't want you spending money on remake of "Psycho"
"Ever After" contains
one moment of profanity, a decent sword fight, and nice clothes, although
the latter can also be found in many of our better closets. This is supposed
to be set in France, by the way, but you wouldn't know it from Barrymore's
truly unfortunate attempt at a British accent. Don't ask me.
- Paul Tatara, reviewing "Ever After" for "CNN"
As the movie opens,
Schaech is a scam artist who's secured a truckload of illegally imported
Australian cockatoos. We see him in a Manhattan alleyway, trying to sell
one of the birds to Tina Louise. (Go ahead and read those two sentences
again, if you like. Let me stress that I was completely sober while I watched
- Paul Tatara, reviewing, "Welcome To Woop Woop" for "CNN"
>> The "Muted Horn" hosts more scathing quotes from Paul's reviews.
# JAMES BOWMAN
Sir Ridley Scott’s
Crusades movie, "Kingdom of Heaven", though visually impressive as we might
expect, is shockingly unhistorical. I know that this is not supposed to
matter and probably will not to the historically illiterate 13-year-olds
who will make up its main audience, but the rest of us might at least want
to be aware of the crudeness of the historical mise-en-scène, which
could scarcely be greater if Sir Ridley and his screenwriter, William Monahan,
had had their 12th century knights riding into battle in Humvees. But because
most of the anachronisms he deals in are moral rather than material they
will probably pass unnoticed... Balian, the overnight knight, tells Saladain
that he will give the order for all the religious sites in the city to
be destroyed: "Your holy places, ours — everything that drives men mad."
It’s hard to imagine a more perfect example of Hollywood’s view of religion
— or of a thought that would have been more unthinkable to the person supposedly
uttering it. Whatever the truth about the Crusades, this cannot be it.
Or even close to it.
- James Bowman
Galaxy Quest was about
heroism and pretense — and how the pretense of heroism can lead to the
real thing. The film's lightness of touch was its saving grace and was
entirely owing to this anchor in the real world. There, a race of aliens
at war with an evil, inter-galactic warlord come to earth to ask for help
from the cast of a Star Trek-like TV show that they think is real. In other
words, it didn't matter if the aliens were aliens or just any foreigners
who didn't understand what American TV culture was about. The point was
that, out of their naivete, they took something seriously that the TV show
didn't — and so made it serious again.
- James Bowman
One wants to be as
generous as possible to this film because in some ways it is very daring.
For one thing, it has the boldness to represent Confederate soldiers as
human and sympathetic; for another it offers a welcome contrast to the
war movies of the past two or three decades, which generally start from
the premise that all the shooting makes no sense at all and is undertaken
either by drug-crazed psychopaths (most Vietnam movies) or by decent men
with obscure private motivations (The Patriot, Saving Private Ryan). But
here we go to the opposite extreme, where all the characters speak and
act like monumental statuary. Clearly some kind of balance ought to be
- reviewing "Gods and Generals", "The American Spectator"
The first time Isolde's
father tries to arrange a marriage for her, she stamps her little foot
and cries: "Am I just a chattel to be traded?" Well yes, dear, you are,
actually. You're living in the Dark Ages, remember? It's unpleasant, I
know, but there it is.
- James Bowman, reviewing "Tristan & Isolde", for "The American Spectator"
In Hollywood it's always
- James Bowman, reviewing "Why We Fight", for "The American Spectator"
Like so much else,
the servant who is wiser than his master goes back to Cervantes. Sancho
Panza is to Don Quixote as Figaro is to Count Almaviva as Jeeves is to
Wooster. It was all very amusing up until half a century or so ago, but
nowadays it would be almost impossible for a fictional servant not to be
wiser than his master. But Nick Park has given it a new lease of life by
breaking through the species barrier.
- James Bowman, reviewing "Wallace and Gromit: Curse of the Were Rabbit"
# JOE QUEENAN
"It was once argued
that 'Starring Sylvester Stallone' were the three scariest words in the
language but until I saw Adam Sandler I'd always thought the three scariest words in the English
language were 'starring Dan Aykroyd.'"
- Joe Queenan (paraphased)
The Dukes of Hazzard
deviates from the standard trans-media repackaging mechanism, because it
halfway-decent film based on an idiotic TV show, as opposed to an idiotic film (Bewitched, Charlie's
Angels II) based on a halfway-decent TV show. Because the bar has been set so very, very low (The
Dukes Of Hazzard TV show explicitly targeted morons, rednecks and shut-ins), the big-screen Dukes Of Hazzard started out with very little chance of failing to improve on the programme that inspired it. It's like when ancient Europeans came up with the idea for Bulgaria; no matter how badly things turned out,
the end result would still be more fun than Albania.
- Joe Queenan, "The Guardian"
Incapable of conjuring
up any facial expression that she did not learn from watching television,
Alba plays a brilliant scientist who inadvertently acquires the ability to make herself invisible. This is
not a gift Alba seems particularly comfortable with, as the last thing she needs is to be heard but not
- Joe Queenan, on "Fantastic Four" in "The Guardian"
On this side of the
Atlantic, the arrival of a new Woody Allen movie is always greeted with
bliss by filmgoers past the age of 60, with mild curiosity by those in their 50s, with trepidation by
those in their 40s, with fear and loathing by those in their 30s, and with complete indifference by
anyone younger. An icon to baby boomers, who will never concede that when something is over, it is
really over (Clapton, McCartney, Santana, the 1960s), Allen has not made a truly memorable film since
Bullets On Broadway back in 1994
- Joe Queenan, "The Guardian"
Martin Scorcese is
probably America's greatest living director, and while he is not a titan
Ford or Alfred Hitchcock or Federico Fellini, he is certainly consistently more interesting than Steven
Spielberg, Brian de Palma, Francis Ford Coppola or Woody Allen. Even a failure like Gangs of New York or a curiosity like The Aviator is more interesting and ambitious than Munich, The Black Dahlia or
- Joe Queenan, "The Guardian"
I am concerned that
Hollywood may be overdoing the underdog gambit lately... The very worst
underdog overkill is the unceasing release of films about the very same underdog. Having sat through
roughly nine hours of Middle Earth underdoggerel in The Lord Of The Rings trilogy, is it really
necessary to see The Hobbit? And given that Harry Potter now looks around 30, is no longer cute,
possesses vast necromantic powers and is the veteran of a fistful of films in which he has completely
humiliated his adversaries — isn't it about time the boy stopped pretending to be an underdog? A basic
rule of thumb decrees that the underdog immediately loses credibility as a victim after the first film in
the series has been released, because once he has triumphed over his feckless adversaries, he is, by
definition, no longer an underdog.
- Joe Queenan, "Going to the Underdogs", "The Guardian"
While there are notable
exceptions - the uplifting Chariots of Fire, the heartwarming Field of
Dreams, the wry Tin Cup - sports films are generally atrocious. These movies
possess but one virtue: they provide a social safety valve, in that they
almost always end up with the underdog winning - The Mighty Ducks, Cinderella
Man - whereas in real life the winners are invariably the New York Yankees
or Manchester United. Sports films thus serve the highly useful social
function of allowing fans everywhere to experience the vicarious thrill
of victory by watching the feisty but outgunned David topple the wicked
Goliath. Unfortunately, in real life Goliath always wins because he has
- Joe Queenan, "The Guardian"
As was the case in
Requiem for a Dream, Pollock, A Beautiful Mind, House of Sand and Fog,
and Dark Water, Jennifer Connelly's mere presence in a film guarantees that things will turn out badly
for the male lead, as Connelly is always cast as the Angel of Death. Fun to hang out with, great eyes,
amazing eyebrows, but the Angel of Death.
- Joe Queenan, "The Guardian"
If there is anything
black people the world over have learned from Hollywood - and there isn't
lot — it's that no matter how bleak the situation seems, they can always rely on some resourceful,
charismatic and, in some instances, shapely white person to bail them out... Blood Diamond joins a growing body of films set in Africa in which good vanquishes evil because morally upstanding white folks ultimately triumph over truly satanic white folks. Meanwhile, the entire black African population kind of takes a back seat and watches the honkies duke it out... Hmmm, say I to Director Edward Zwick. Hmmm! Yes, some white people are bad. Oh, so very, very bad! But when white people are good, well, nobody does it better. That's just the way white people are.
- Joe Queenan, commenting on a common theme in "Glory" and "Blood Diamond", "The Guardian"
Many people on this
side of the Atlantic have suggested that "War Of The Worlds" is Spielberg's
belated response to 9/11, because the monsters that attack humanity have been waiting in sleeper cells
for aeons to launch their merciless attack, and an awful lot of buildings get blown up. But this analogy is
flawed at best: Spielberg's monsters are leviathans that at least have the guts to come out to fight.
Terrorists never do anything as noble and courageous. They're much more comfortable hijacking
commuter aeroplanes and planting bombs on subways. The monsters in War Of The Worlds are heartless, sadistic, barbaric. But at least they're not yellow.
- Joe Queenan, "The Guardian"
Collateral damage is
the largely overlooked theme of the entire Die Hard series - the recognition
that even though John McClane always gets his man, usually in some spectacularly
macabre fashion, he never gets his man until dozens of innocent people
have died, until an enormous number of trains, planes, trucks, ships and
automobiles have been destroyed, and until he has laid waste to the infrastructure
of whatever hapless metropolis in which he is currently operating. McClane's
triumphs call to mind the famous words of antiquity's king Pyrrhus, who
once quipped, in not so many words, "If victories are going to be this
expensive, maybe we should try defeats for a change." Collateral damage
on the scale of Gütterdämmerung is not limited to the Die Hard
series: Armageddon at the municipal level is an integral feature of the
Spider-Man, Fantastic Four, X-Men, Terminator, Batman and Superman series
as well. In all of these films, things get blown up, people get killed,
lives get ruined, and society is left to do the clean-up after the heroes
have cantered off into the sunset. What sets the Die Hard films apart from
other entries in the Urban Mayhem genre is that John McClane is not a superhero
battling villains armed with extraordinary powers, but an ordinary man
battling the arrayed forces of terrestrial evil. In this sense, he is closer
to Rambo or the assorted knock-kneed heroes in Steven Seagal's numbskull
classics. Given the fact that none of these men possess supernatural powers,
the scale of destruction they routinely, almost effortlessly, achieve is
jawdropping. In drawing attention to the senseless bloodshed and gratuitous
devastation that typify the Die Hard films, I do not mean to be unduly
critical of McClane or his tactics. Armed with 20-20 vision, it is always
possible for Monday morning quarterbacks to question this resourceful flatfoot's
tactics, to wonder if wisdom might not have been the better part of valour
in certain situations... Because aeroplane crashes and aqueduct floodings
and subway explosions and skyscraper implosions caused by freelancing coppers
are so rare, none of the devastation in the Die Hard movies really adds
up to much. If there were a dozen John McClanes acting with this kind of
impunity, society would be in big trouble
- Joe Queenan, on the downside of Die Hard, "The Guardian"
Unlike Harrison Ford,
who has never died on screen, unlike icons such as Cary Grant and Gregory
Peck and Henry Fonda and John Wayne, who tried to keep the mortality down
to a bare minimum, Marlon Brando died early and often on camera. Tom Cruise,
the only combatant to survive The Last Samurai, has died only once in his
three dozen films. By contrast, during the 1970s, Brando died in every
single film he appeared in, starting with The Nightcomers and ending with
Apocalypse Now... If motion pictures in any way express the subconscious
desires of the people who act in them - Sylvester Stallone wishes he was
tall, Barbra Streisand wishes she was beautiful, Woody Allen wishes he
was debonair, Leonardo DiCaprio wishes he could do an Irish accent - it
is probably safe to say that Brando was animated by a death wish that dwarfed
that of any other leading man. He seems to have honestly enjoyed letting
the public watch him come to a sad end on the big screen, perhaps because
a celluloid demise provided the kind of closure he could never find in
- Joe Queenan, "The Guardian"
Emmerich has committed
the classic mistake of imposing 21st-century values on people who had the
misfortune to live thousands of years before Al Gore or Bono. Today, even
the grubbiest men treat women with limitless respect and never fantasise
about seeing them frolicking in tiger-skin loincloths or castoffs from
Salome's lingerie drawer. But this was not always the case. Believe it
or not, men used to be pigs, and by deliberately distorting the prehistorical
record, by portraying a chivalry and classiness and some pretty admirable
personal grooming habits that have no basis in fact, Emmerich does a disservice
not only to modern women, but to every woman who ever had to fight off
advances from a cretin with the charm of a stegosaurus and worse halitosis
than a suppurating anaconda.
- Joe Queenan, reviewing "10,000 BC"
A critic I usually
admire completely missed the boat recently when he said he could think
of no reason why the Coen brothers' latest film No Country for Old Men
was set in the late 1970s. Well, I could. As soon as I started watching
the Coen brothers' dark shoot-'em-up about a philosophical psychopath on
the loose in rural Texas, I realised why the movie was set a full quarter-century
in the past. No mobile phones. No internet. No Google. No easy access to
phone records, maps, personal histories, criminal records. No way to track
the killer merely by pinpointing the last phone tower that handled his
call. No easy way in; no easy way out... Whatever the original appeal of
films where computer hackers assume the role once occupied by gunslingers
and hit men, the hi-tech dog will no longer hunt. The public doesn't want
to see bad guys get hacked. They want to see bad guys get whacked...
Many 19th-century readers loathed the modern age, and fell in love with
thrilling novels set in a pre-industrial world where technology did not
decide every dispute. They wanted to read books about a world dominated
by men, not machines. Something similar seems to be happening now.
- Joe Queenan on the menace of gadgets, "The Guardian"
Lars is played by Ryan
Gosling, the Prince of Tics, whose idea of acting is to wait a few beats
before reacting to other people's remarks, as if acting were merely a matter
of adhering to the seven-second delay rule. Jack Nicholson has made a career
out of doing this sort of thing, as did Paul Newman, as did Marlon Brando
(who the other two learned it from), but they didn't do it all the time
and they were more fun to look at... Lars And The Real Girl joins a number
of other recent films in the category of motion pictures where the director
doesn't know that his protagonist is unsympathetic.
- Joe Queenan, "The Guardian"
A long, long time ago,
those of us who love Keanu Reeves decided that no matter how many dismal
movies like Johnny Mnemonic he made, and no matter how inept his acting
in A Walk In The Clouds, and no matter how inappropriate his casting in
Much Ado About Nothing and Bram Stoker's Dracula, we would never stop being
thrilled when news of an exciting new Keanu project was announced. There
was something about Keanu Reeves that we liked, and nothing could ever
change that. It probably helped that he was great looking. I mean: great
There have always been actors that the public love so much that they will forgive any faux pas... Sean Connery has repeatedly been absolved of all his sins throughout his long career... mostly because there was something about Sean Connery that no other actor of his generation possessed. He not only was the first actor to play James Bond; he was James Bond... Personally speaking, when I go to see a Keanu Reeves movie, I feel fiercely protective of the actor, wishing to see him shielded from the forces of darkness and the draconian rigors of the English language. When we go to see his movies, we are not rooting for him to prevail. We are rooting for him to survive. Keanu Reeves belongs to that rarefied category of actors whose lapses in judgment, sub-par performances and box-office reverses are never held against them. This is a group whose reigning czar is Christopher Walken.
- Joe Queenan, "The Guardian"
Anyone can make a bad
movie; Kate Hudson and Adam Sandler make them by the fistful. Anyone can
make a sickening movie; we are already up to Saw IV. Anyone can make an
unwatchable movie; Jack Black and Martin Lawrence do it every week. And
anyone can make a comedy that is not funny; Jack Black and Martin Lawrence
do it every week. But to make a movie that destroys a studio, wrecks careers,
bankrupts investors, and turns everyone connected with it into a laughing
stock requires a level of moxie, self-involvement, lack of taste, obliviousness
to reality and general contempt for mankind that the average director,
producer and movie star can only dream of attaining. A generically appalling
film like The Hottie and the Nottie is a scab that looks revolting while
it is freshly coagulated; but once it festers, hardens and falls off the
skin, it leaves no scar. By contrast, a truly bad movie, a bad movie for
the ages, a bad movie made on an epic, lavish scale, is the cultural equivalent
of leprosy: you can't stand looking at it, but at the same time you can't
take your eyes off it. You are horrified by it, repelled by it, yet you
are simultaneously mesmerised by its enticing hideousness... I am firmly
in the camp that believes that Heaven's Gate is the worst movie ever made.
For my money, none of these other films can hold a candle to Michael Cimino's
1980 apocalyptic disaster. This is a movie that destroyed the director's
career. This is a movie that lost so much money it literally drove a major
American studio out of business. This is a movie about Harvard-educated
gunslingers who face off against eastern European sodbusters in an epic
struggle for the soul of America.
- Joe Queenan, "The Guardian"
By harnessing Cormac
McCarthy's morose vision of modern America with their own peerless ability
to make films about swindles gone south, the Coens delivered what many
believe to be the finest work of their career. One element that made the
film so successful was that the wisecracking and irony and twists and turns
were subordinated to a larger vision of the world. For once, evildoers
were not viewed as cool or stylish like Gabriel Byrne in Miller's Crossing,
or as impish and maladroit, like Steve Buscemi in Fargo. With his absurd
fifth Beatle haircut and his limp and his bizarre choice of weaponry, Javier
Bardem was anything but suave or engaging or impish. He was evil incarnate,
and there was nothing engaging about him. Having Tommy Lee Jones, playing
a beleaguered Texas sheriff, face off against Bardem marked a break with
the Coens' earlier films. Here at last was a classic confrontation between
good and evil. Good was not going to win, but at least it would get a look
in. By contrast, good versus evil never came into play in Miller's Crossing
because everyone in the film was a gangster, a con artist or a floozy,
and because Gabriel Byrne, playing a Celtic consigliere, was such a magnetic
presence. That was also generally true of Fargo, which was mostly
a collision of inept con artists, beleaguered scamsters and outclassed
schnooks... Throughout their careers, the Coen brothers have shown that
they hold convention in contempt. The rules of narrative do not apply to
them: they kill off characters the audience would rather not see killed
off, or suddenly introduce a level of violence the audience had not been
expecting, or inexplicably dispose of a major character off-camera, the
way they did in No Country for Old Men. But at a certain point, this determination
to avoid the predictable becomes predictable itself. The sudden eruption
of violence in a film that had previously seemed like a lighthearted comedy
has now become one of their standard ploys.
- Assessing the Coen Brothers in "The Guardian"
# THE ART OF CRITICISM: FILM, THEATRE & LITERATURE
"What we ask of is
that he should find out for us more than we can find out for ourselves."
- Arthur Symons, on the role of the critic
The role of the critic
is to help people see what is in the work, what is in it that shouldn't
be, what is not in it that could be. He is a good critic if he helps people
understand more about the work than they could see for themselves; he is
a great critic, if by his understanding and feeling for the work, by his
passion, he can excite people so that they want to experience more of the
art that is there, waiting to be siezed. He is not necessarily a bad critic
if he makes errors in judgment. He is a bad critic if he does not awaken
the curiosity, enlarge the interests and understanding of his audience.
The art of the critic is to transmit his knowledge of and enthusiasm for
art to others... we read critics for the perceptions, for what they tell
us that we didn't fully grasp when we saw the work. The judgements we can
usually make for ourselves.
- Pauline Kael, "Circles and Squares"
In the movies first
impressions are everything. Or, to put it less drastically, in the movies
there are no later impressions without a first impression, because you
will have stopped watching. Sometimes a critic persuades you to give an
unpromising-looking movie a chance, but the movie had better convey the
impression pretty quickly that the critic might be right.
- Clive James, "The New York Times"
Critics are giving
marks for originality, acting, photography and scripting, while mass audiences
are more drawn to familiarity of genre, stars they would like to have sex
with or plots that are more likely to make their dates have sex with them.
Reviewers are doing their day's work, cinema-goers are escaping from theirs:
this leads to an inevitable difference of response. It is, though, wrong
to conclude that reviewers are completely useless. Books, movies and shows
may be critic-proof, but the egos and psyches of the people who make them
very rarely are.
- Mark Lawson, "The Guardian"
Those of us who live
in the 'real' world and who have long ago given up on the arts as being
of no use whatsoever, still occasionally read reviews of shows and performances
we have not seen, in order to confirm that we are (indeed) missing nothing.
- Brendan Glacken, "The Irish Times"
A good drama critic
is one who perceives what is happening in the theatre of his time. A great
drama critic also perceives what is not happening.
- Kenneth Tynan, legendary drama critic
The greatest films
are those which show how society shapes man. The greatest plays are those
which show how man shapes society.
- Kenneth Tynan
A critic is a man who
knows the way but can't drive the car.
- Kenneth Tynan
When the author has
no idea of what to reply to a critic, he then likes to say: you could not
do it better anyway. This is the same as if a dogmatic philosopher reproached
a skeptic for not being able to devise a system.
- Friedrich Von Schlegel, German philosopher.
Actors yearn for the
perfect director, athletes for the perfect coach, priests for the perfect
pope, presidents for the perfect historian. Writers hunger for the perfect
- Thomas Fleming, "The War between Writers and Reviewers", "New York Times"
Let us consider the
critic, therefore, as a discoverer of discoveries.
- Milan Kundera, "On Criticism, Aesthetics, and Europe," Review of Contemporary Fiction
"Is your work fashionable?"
"It seems fashionable to either like it or loathe it."
- Neil LaBute, interviewed in "The Guardian"
Critics search for
ages for the wrong word, which, to give them credit, they eventually find.
- Peter Ustinov
Critics are like eunuchs
in a harem; they know how it's done; they've seen it done every day; but
they're unable to do it themselves.
- Brendan Behan
A theatre critic is
a person who leaves no turn unstoned.
- George Bernard Shaw
On an occasion of this
kind it becomes more than a moral duty to speak one's mind. It becomes
- Oscar Wilde, on being a critic
Jerry Hall was a wooden
as a toothpick.
He played the king
as if afraid someone else would play the ace.
- John Mason Brown, drama critic
No opera plot can be
sensible, for in sensible situations people do not sing.
- W H Auden
"There was the unique
physical presence at once rakish and stately, as of a pirate turned prelate."
- Kenneth Tynan, describing Ralph Richardson
"Most actors invite
the spectator to pass either a moral judgment on the characters they are
representing or to pass a physical judgment on their own appearance ...
Olivier makes no such attempt to insist, and invites no moral response,
simply the thing he is shall make him live. It is a rare discretion."
- Kenneth Tynan, describing Laurence Olivier
In 'The Lake' Katherine
Hepburn ran the gamut of emotions: from A to B.
- Dorothy Parker
It isn't what you might
call sunny. I went into Plymouth Theatre a comparitively young woman, and
I staggered out of it three hours later, 20 years older, haggard and broken
- Dorothy Parker reviewing a Tolstoy play
Sarah Brightman couldn't
act scared on the New York subway at four o'clock in the morning.
- Joel Segal
She was good at playing
abstract confusion in the same way that a midget is good at being short.
- Clive James, describing Marilyn Monroe
Among artists without
talent Marxism will always be popular, since it enables them to blame society
for the fact that nobody wants to hear what they have to say.
- Clive James, from "Wuthering Depths" in "The Crystal Bucket"
What is Camille Paglia
doing, writing that an actress as gifted as Anne Heche has "the mental
depth of a pancake"? How many pancake brains could do what Heche did with
David Mamet's dialogue in "Wag the Dog"? No doubt Heche has been stuck
with a few bad gigs, but Paglia, of all people, must be well aware that
being an actress is not the same safe ride as being the tenured university
professor of humanities and media studies at the University of the Arts
- Clive James, reviewing Camille Paglia's reviews, "New York Times"
When you meet anybody
in the flesh you realise immediately that he is a human being and not a
sort of cariacature embodying abstract ideas. It is partly for this reason
that I don't mix much in literary circles because I know that once I have
met and spoken to anyone I shall never again be able to show any intellectual
brutality towards him.
- George Orwell
The first thing that
happens when we enter a theatre is that we are confronted by other human
beings — the audience. Just as we can enjoy a solitary cup of coffee in
a shopping centre and watch the world go by, or sit in a hotel lobby and
partake of some people-watching, so we get pleasure looking at trhe faces
of strangers as they arrive at the theatre. Whether we ackonowledge it
or not, we appreciate that these are our fellow travellers for the evening.
This is our group. We belong to this audience. We feel it. It's public,
but we are about to share something intensely personal. This is stimulating
in itself. Then there is that delicious moment when the lights go down.
(Perhaps this moment is at its most enjoyable at a rock concert when the
crowd go beserk before the band start playing.) In the theatre we know
that what is about to unfold is a live ritual. We should never underestimate
how available we are at that moment. We are willing to go to another world....
In the ritual of the Christian Mass the story is this: God loved humans
so much that He became mortal to share their fear and pain. He suffered
terribly and died on the cross. God died! Whether one believes it or not,
it works because it's a powerful story and a very theatrical one. Theatre
can still raise the hairs on our heads because it taps into the communal
religious experience of gathering together to witness a story. The audience
are taken inside themselves whule being part of the social group.
- Conor McPherson, playwright of "The Seafarer"
Recently, I took my
son to see "The Haunted Mansion," which was one of the worst things (I
hesitate even to call it a movie) that I have ever seen. He thought it
was better than "Finding Nemo" and we had a fruitless argument which I'm
sure made him acutely aware of the disadvantages of having a film critic
for a dad.
- A.O. Scott, father and film critic for "The New York Times"
One of the questions
film critics get asked the most is, "Is there anything I can take the children
to see?" These days, the response is bleak. There are so few films you
can recommend to adults, let alone children... So many alleged kids' films
are actually loaded with jokes or knowing references for the adults supposed
to be taking them. Great stories have to work on everyone at the same time
- that's how The Lord of the Rings movies kept grandparents and grandchildren
engaged. There was a time in the film business when film-makers tried to
reach and please everyone. The plots were tricky sometimes, but they could
be followed. The language was decent - and personally, I think the degradation
of language in most of our films today is a dreadful use of 'adulthood'
to mask the fact that few people can now write good dialogue. So go back
to that period and you will find that the language, the violence, the social
attitudes, and so on, are such as a child can now handle. In addition,
many of these films are very good, and a lot better than pictures being
made today. You see, I am talking about pictures made for adults in, say,
the 40s and 50s.
- David Thomson, "The Guardian"
There are those who
think that Zeffirelli's Hamlet is the way to treat Shakespeare. I think
that cinema can handle much more. We somehow expect cinema to provide us
with meaning, to console us. But that's not the purpose of art.
- Peter Greenaway
I have come to the
conclusion that curiously I don't think film is a very good narrative medium.
If I was to ask you to tell me the full story of "Casablanca", or "La Dolce
Vita", I bet you couldn't do it. Because I don't think people do remember
close narrative or close story-telling in the cinema. They remember ambience,
they remember event, they remember incidents, performance, atmosphere,
a line of dialogue, a sense of "genius loci", but I really doubt whether
they truly remember narrative. I would argue that if you want to write
narratives, be an author, be a novelist, don't be a film maker. Because
I believe film making is so much more exciting in areas which aren't primarily
to do with narrative.
- Peter Greenaway
The start of a film
is like a gateway, a formal entrance-point. The first three minutes of
a film make great demands on an audience's patience and credulity. A great
deal has to be learnt very rapidly about place and attitude, character
and intent and ambition.
- Peter Greenaway
I certainly don't believe
you documentary filmmakers. Like me, you are involved in making fiction,
and your fiction is just as well organized and just as well predicated,
but the big difference between me and you is that I'm honest and you're
dishonest. I know I'm telling you lies.
- Peter Greenaway
There is no obligation
for the author of a film to believe in, or to sympathise with, the moral
behaviour of his characters. Nor is he necessarily to be accredited with
the same opinions as his characters. Nor is it necessary or obligatory
for him to believe in the tenet of his construction — all of which is a
disclaimer to the notion that the author of "Drowning by Numbers" believes
that all men are weak, enfeebled, loutish, boorish and generally inadequate
and incompetent as partners for women. But it's a thought.
- Peter Greenaway, "Fear of Drowning By Numbers"
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