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March 27, 2014


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"And then I said, "Wow, I didn't notice that about The Verdict at all," and then Lumet punched me in the mouth and said "Go! And never darken my towels again!" and then..."

Typical Lumet.

But contra Lumet, hasn't Slate conclusively and empirically proved that film and teevee critics are supposed to exclusively focus on plot summaries?


Also, little known fact: The Charlotte Rampling character in The Verdict is the child of Mitch and Lillian Gorfein. You can tell by the color palette.


I've read both your survey response and Seitz's post and I think I come down the middle on this question. I do have a beef with the writing of critics like Richard Roeper, who seems to be an op-ed writer who got dropped into the film beat, and Stephanie Zacharek, who actively rejects discussion of form as getting in the way with how a movie makes you "feel". But I also wonder if Seitz really thinks a good critic has to discuss "form" in every review. I think there are definitely films and filmmakers who are worth talking about in terms of the specific choices they made in their movies, but do we need to do that with that Zac Efron rom com that came out a couple of months ago? Or Joss Whedon's next movie (I like his movies just fine, but I don't think there are many people out there who'd argue that he's an especially inventive director visually).

There are plenty of critics I like, you included Glenn, who very eloquently discuss filmmaking specifics in their writing, but I also feel like I've read some really great reviews that don't too.


To paraphrase Matt Groening: you're a great critic when you can use "mise-en-scène" in your review and people still read it to the end.


Jose: Surely a discussion of form would include pointing out when a director isn't especially inventive. Such direction may not provide much to chew on, but it shouldn't go unmentioned.

Also, I find that the visual strategies of many comedies are overlooked or underrated simply because they aren't self-consciously "visual." Often comedy direction serves performance, choosing the perfect framing and editing strategy to enhance the comedy without distracting from the dialogue or physical shtick. This can require as much or more discipline and skill as the most gorgeous "magic hour" shot or complex long take with a lot of movement.


"What every film critic must know" -- an article by the infamously miserablist Ronald Bergan (but I try not to hold that against him):



This is fascinating, and helps explain the emotional pull that Prince of the City had when I first watched it--a Dostoevskyean unraveling of one man's guilt. For Lumet, the most efficient director since Ford, it's also a movie that needs to be three hours long. The guilt needs to unravel slowly. In my memory, I imagine the final hour or so as all close-ups of Treat Williams' stricken face.

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