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Film Studies: Film Critics
A guide with resources pertaining to film studies.
On this page, you will find various film critics and some of their works in the University of Kentucky libraries and elsewhere. All of these critics have been influential in developing film into what it has become today. Many are reviews of films that can be used to dive into what made them successful in pop culture.
Roger Ebert (1942 - 2013) was an American film critic, journalist, screenwriter, and author. Known for shows such as Sneak Previews and At The Movies, he also wrote for The Chicago Sun-Times for almost his entire life. Known as one of the most influential film critics in the world, he popularized the "two thumbs up" saying in terms of film. He generally was kinder than most other film critics, generally rating films higher than others did. His use of dry wit and personal anecdotes in his reviews and writings was also something that popularized him.
Roger Ebert's I Hated Hated Hated This Movie, which gathered some of his most scathing reviews, was a best-seller. This new collection continues the tradition, reviewing not only movies that were at the bottom of the barrel, but also movies that he found underneath the barrel.
Ebert discusses two films in particular, "Citizen Kane" by Orson Welles and "Vertigo" by Alfred Hitchcock and discusses just exactly why they're the best films of all time.
Andrew Sarris (1928 - 2012) was an American film critique and leading proponent of auteur theory, the idea that the filmmaker has a distinct enough style that they are the artist, and their style is extremely recognizable. His critiques were viewed as rather elitist and subjective, and his work with auteur theory was heavily critiqued, however he restlessly backed it up. He wrote for many papers as a film critic, including Film Culture, The Village Voice, and The NY Film Bulletin. He also taught courses in film at Columbia University.
Here is a sweeping--and highly personal--history of American film, from the birth of the talkies (beginning with The Jazz Singer and Al Jolson's memorable line "You ain't heard nothin' yet") to the decline of the studio system. By far the largest section of the book celebrates the work of the great American film directors, with giants such as John Ford, Alfred Hitchcock, Charlie Chaplin, Orson Welles, and Howard Hawks examined film by film.
Sarris discusses the advances of technology in film and the influences that these technological advances have had. He looks at the shapes and sizes of screens and the struggle with television that cinema had in the 1950s.
Jonathan Rosenbaum (1943 - ) is an American film critic. He was the head film critic for the Chicago Reader until his retirement, while also working on some of the most famous film publications in the world, including Cahiers du cinéma and Film Comment. A fierce advocate for looking outside of the United States for influential film, he is a proponent of viewing foreign film and discussing it in the same way that we do American film.
Examines the use of lower budget special effects in Science Fiction and Fantasy films of the modern age, and the depiction of the future as a whole.
Pauline Kael (1919 - 2001) was an American film critic, writing for The New Yorker for many years. Her writing style stressed the aesthetic of writing, dealing with the personal feelings on the film. She takes on an almost autobiographical style in the way she writes, wanting to move away from the commonly academic form of film criticism in prior critics. Her opinions regularly were not the same of her colleagues, and she was not afraid to argue that she was, in fact, the one who was correct. She is renown for reinventing film criticism as we know it.
Kael examines how big budget productions tend to have "thin" plots, while also drawing comparisons between comedy and gag-writing. She also writes critiques for a specific few films, including "The Big Sleep" and "Grand Prix."
Kael discusses young filmmakers in the U.S. and works to explain their film-making style. She asserts that film experimentalists are the ones who are doing the "true art" of cinema.
James Agee (1909 - 1955) was an American film critic, one of the most influential in the world in the 1940s. Writing for Time and The Nation as a film critic, he was also a reviewer of literature and a writer himself. He was a proponent of Chaplin and Olivier when they were not as popular as they are now. His work only became famous post-mortem, but he is now seen as one of the greatest film critics of all time.
Various film reviews done by Agee, compiled together into one book.
Molly Haskell (1939 - ) is an American film critic and renown feminist. Contributing to The Village Voice for a time before moving on to New York magazine and Vogue, she is renown for being an outspoken woman in the field of film criticism, a generally male dominated field. She looks at film both as a critic and as a feminist, working to understand the experiences of women in film and how women are portrayed. Specifically she analyzes the role of gender roles within film.
In Holding My Own in No Man's Land, a series of pieces written in the twenty years since the publication of From Reverence to Rape, Haskell once again explores the relationship between women and men, and between the movies and those who watch them.
The article focuses on the British film industry and features Barbara Stanwyck, who brought an emotional complexity to a series of unforgettable performances in the field. Other information such as Stanwyck's roles as ingenues, felons, gun molls, career women, women of the church in the course of more than 80 films, is presented.
Manohla Dargis (1961 - ) is an American film critic, one of the top film critics at The New York Times. A five time finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Criticism, she has been hailed as one of the greatest film critics of all times. Her work has appeared in multiple books.
Manohla Dargis explores the careers of director Curtis Hanson and writer James Ellroy, based on interviews with both men, to dig deep into the film's obsession with the twinned, equally troubled histories of the Hollywood studio system and the city of Los Angeles.
A critique of the film Long Shot, examining the role of women in the film and in Hollywood, praising it for putting women "on top" and leaving them there.
Emanuel "Manny" Farber (1917 - 2008) was an American film critic and painter. He had a distinctive prose style in his writing and set of theoretical ideas that influenced film makers and critics for generations. Known for coining the term "underground film", he was an early advocate of many young filmmakers that were not yet respected, including Andy Warhol. His painting was influenced by his favorite filmmakers.
A review of the film "Taxi Driver" by Martin Scorsese.
Dai Jinhua (1959 - ) is a Chinese feminist cultural and film critic. Known for teaching comparative literature, Jinhua has done a large amount of work in film studies through a critical feminist and Marxist lens, examining culture, media, and, specifically, film through the ideas of gender and consumerism and capitalism. She specifically studies Chinese filmmakers and the work that they have done, and how many of them have taken on Western ideas of Asian culture.
The article focuses on the Chinese film "City of Life and Death" in a broader context. It mentions that the movie represents the severe tragedy of the 1937 Nanjing Massacre, the mass murder of three hundred thousand Chinese within a matter of six weeks.