How did you get started as a film critic?

Sent a couple of spec reviews to the nascent Movieline, when it was a giveaway on the streets of L.A. They bit.


What was your first meaningful moviegoing experience?

A new movie theater opened near our Chicago suburb with a COLOR TV in the lobby. It made going to movies with my single mom on weekends much less onerous, because I could watch Cubs games in color while she looked at trashy Liz Taylor dramas. Of course, I'd go into the theater about 10 times each afternoon to bug her for candy money. One time while I was doing this, I looked up at the screen and saw a really frightened guy staring at something crawling up his leg under a bedsheet. A giant tarantula emerged from the covers; I watched until he beat it to a pulp with a shoe, then went back to the Cubs game. Later, while getting more candy money, the hottest woman I'd ever seen emerged from the ocean in a bikini, with a knife. When I came back in a few minutes later, her and spider guy were being chased by a flamethrowing tank with a painted dragon face. From then on, I stayed transfixed until the end of the movie, and saw Dr. No and the next three Connery Bonds about 15 times each.


What was your first published review?

Can't remember. Probably for the best.


What movie would you have liked to review had you been a critic upon its initial release?

Late Spring.


What movie are you embarrassed to admit you love?

Not Dr. No!


Name a film you think everybody should see.

The Exterminating Angel, if only so people will stop asking me to explain the Midnight in Paris Bunuel joke to them.


What’s the most common question you’re asked when someone discovers you’re a film critic?

What happened to you?


What’s the most controversial review you’ve written?

Schindler's List.


Is there a genre or era you have a particular affinity for?

No real genre preference, I just like good cinema however it manifests. And to repeat the critical cliché, all the best movies were released between 1950 and 1975 – except for the good ones that came before and after that.


What is your process in approaching a review?

I honestly don't think I have one. And I think honesty is important; probably the second most important aspect of worthwhile film criticism, behind only never mentioning awards potential.


Do you like to discuss a movie with other critics immediately after a screening or before writing a review?

Depends on which critics are there. Generally, though, no, or at least I've rarely felt the need to seek it out.


What other film critics, past or present, do you admire?

Andrew Sarris, Myron Meisel.


If I weren’t a film critic, I’d be a…

News reporter. Which is actually my job description now.


In the age of digital media and blogging, where is film criticism going and where should it go?

It is going the wrong way, and should hopefully U-turn into something with a little more intellectual rigor and less beside-the-point personal sharing. Oh, and written in proper English would be a nice development.


What advice do you have for aspiring film critics?

Hold out and only do it for money.


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