Brian Kellow’s new biography, “Pauline Kael, A Life in the Dark,” got me thinking about this preeminent American movie critic.  She’s like patient zero, the first to have the virus from which all subsequent infections can be traced.  Most film critics can be traced back to her.  Quentin Tarantino said that he didn’t go to film school, didn’t have to because he read all of Kael’s reviews.  Such was her enthusiasm, and descriptive power.  She was our jungle guide through the heady 60’s, 70’s, and early 80’s when art house and American studio films reached the nexus of critical and commercial success.  We loved her because she was a straight-shooter and spoke plainly but colorfully at the same time.  No big words, big ideas.  She broke it down for us, told us what was good, and more importantly, WHY.  In the end, she sorta became the snob her younger self might have roasted on a spit, but it doesn’t matter.  Her work speaks for itself.

After reading about her, read her reviews.  If anything, they’ll make you a better writer, and possibly a more enlightened movie goer.

Earlier reviews.

New anthology.