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Posts Tagged ‘David Denby’

Meet Michael Sragow, the Orange County Register’s New Film Critic

It all started so innocently. Michael Sragow, the newly announced film critic for the Orange County Register, was minding his own Tribune Co. business in Baltimore when he received an email.

“Someone forwarded to me an alt-weekly article that was sort of making fun of the new [Register] ownership for concentrating on the print product,” Sragow tells FishbowlLA via telephone. (Though he could not remember the specifics of the article, it sounded very much to us like the OC Weekly handiwork of Gustavo Arellano.) “I actually thought, ‘That [focus] is a pretty smart idea’”

“I got in touch with the [Register] editors, who directed me to the job posting,” he continues. “Just the way they were talking about the position, and how they wanted someone who could talk about a wide range of movies past and present… It was so unusual in today’s world of cultural journalism that I really jumped at it.”

Sragow, scheduled to officially start in March, is headed our way this weekend to begin the search for a new place to live. He and wife Glenda are also getting ready to sell their home in Baltimore, where he has worked since 2001 for the Sun newspaper.

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David Denby Looks Back at the Future of Movies

At age 69, New Yorker film critic David Denby owns at least two marks of modern media distinction. He is not on Twitter, and he still gets to mete out erudite, long-form print media movie critiques. A collection of his magazine essays spanning 1999 to 2011 make up his latest book Do the Movies Have a Future?, out next week from Simon & Schuster.

At the New Yorker, Denby famously alternates on the cinematic beat with Cambridge, UK based professor Anthony Lane. Part Six of the book is also about “Two Critics” – iconic predecessors James Agee and Pauline Kael. In the piece about Kael (an amalgamation of 2001 and 2003 articles), Denby recalls how she delivered a death blow in the early 1970s via telephone, informing him that he was simply not cut out to be a film critic.

“I was a graduate student in California going nowhere fast,” Denby tells FishbowlLA via telephone. “And if Pauline Kael hadn’t taken an interest in me – and she took an interest in many, many people, particularly young people – I probably would have become a professor of film, which is of course not bad. But this has been a lot more fun.”

“When she said, ‘This is not really for you,’ of course it was a blow and I was very upset,” he continues. “But she wound up hurting my feelings and not my career. In fact, in some ways it was the best thing that ever happened to me. Because if I had stayed within that circle, I don’t think I would have ever grown up. She was so powerful that you wanted her approval. Internally, you conformed to her opinions… It was sort of like, ‘What would Pauline think?’ And I think that’s a bad habit for anyone to get into, particularly a critic. So in a way, by being kicked out, I was forced to be my own man.”

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Kenneth Turan Recalls Judith Crist, the Columbia Journalism Teacher

For decades, the late Judith Crist taught film reviewing at Columbia University in New York. Among her many former students is LA Times critic Kenneth Turan, who in the wake of her death Tuesday pays touching tribute to her gifts as a mentor.

One of Crist’s repeated bits of classroom advice was, “Resist the temptation to sell your grandmother down the river for a good line.” Even though she herself was known for her classic put-downs. In some ways, what Crist engineered on campus stands as a larger legacy than what she accomplished as a writer:

Though she was not the only critic who taught, no one passed on the art and craft of journalistic reviewing with as much passion or longevity as she did. Crist taught that criticism class for more than 50 years, longer than anyone taught any single course in the entire history of the journalism school. She was still teaching it this past February, and her other alumni include film critic David Denby of the New Yorker and New York Times critics Anna Kisselgoff and Margo Jefferson.

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David Fincher Has Scott Rudin’s Embargo Back

Miami Herald film critic Rene Rodriguez was able to track down The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo director David Fincher, to get the filmmaker’s opinion about all this New Yorker-David Denby brouhaha business.

In case you hadn’t yet heard, Denby has been chastised by the film’s producer, Scott Rudin, and many media colleagues for breaking the December 13 Sony embargo on published reviews of the Fincher flick. On the very same Miami newspaper website, in fact, LA Times media critic Patrick Goldstein wonders whether the whole concept of a film review embargo is even still valid.

FishbowlLA applauds Fincher for: a) Putting this matter in the proper perspective (“tempest in a teapot…”); and, b) Saying something that we’ve always firmly believed would be far preferable for just about all concerned:

“Look, if it were up to me, I wouldn’t show movies to anybody before they were released. I wouldn’t give clips to talk shows. I would do one trailer and three television spots and let the chips fall where they may. That’s how far in the other direction I am. If I had my way, the New York Film Critics Circle would not have seen this movie [November 28] and then we would not be in this situation. I would be opening this movie on Wednesday Dec. 21 and I would have three screenings on Tuesday Dec. 20 and that would be it.

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Denby Talks Snark With Charlie Rose

New Yorker film critic David Denby appeared on Charlie Rose last night to discuss his new book Snark. Denby spends a large part of the interview trying to define snark for Rose. After which Rose spends a considerable amount of time defending Maureen Dowd (“a friend”) from…well, herself maybe.