brian 's Reviews > Nobody's Perfect: Writings from The New Yorker

Nobody's Perfect by Anthony Lane
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Mar 22, 08


i HATE anthony lane. hate. hate. hate.

this smarmy jackass writes as if he considers himself a wit equal to that of waugh or wodehouse. piss off you unfunny and insincere bore.

ridiculous that he holds the job that pauline kael once held. she could be majorly infuriating, stubborn, and just plain wrong... but, shit. she loved movies. and laid her ass on the line in defense (or offense) of one. lane, that coward, doesn't put shit out there. fuck him.
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Comments (showing 1-50 of 54) (54 new)


message 1: by Tosh (new)

Tosh I think he wrote a piece on Wodehouse for the New Yorker and it was terrible. At least one page of the article was about him that was so unimportant compared to the subject matter of Wodehouse's work. Does this guy have fans?


message 2: by Mike (new)

Mike                                              Spume. Makes me think of Italian ice cream. Which then makes me feel a little sick to my stomach.

I don't like Lane either, and Denby's worse--smug, and moralizing to boot.

Brian, others: is there anyone writing film criticism you like these days? I'm fond of the two bigshots at the NYTimes, but those reviews are, at best, a few hundred words, so it's not really much to chew on. Anyone you'd recommend?


message 3: by Tosh (new)

Tosh Personally I love the Jonas Mekas film writings he did for the old Village Voice in the 60's. He just covers underground films .. of course. And I think Godard and Truffault did great film criticisms.


message 4: by Scoobs (new)

Scoobs Leonard Maltin 4 Life!!!!


message 5: by Tosh (new)

Tosh No, no Scoobs let's not go overboard. Good god no. Graham Greene wrote good film criticism.


message 6: by David (new)

David Indeed. Graham Greene's review of Shirley Temple in "Wee Willie Winkie" is the greatest piece of film criticism ever written.


message 7: by Dmitry (new)

Dmitry I loved the criticism that appeared in the LA Weekly when I moved to LA in the early 80's. These were reviews written by real writers like Steve Erickson, Michael Ventura and Mike Davis, who happened to love and understand the movies. Since then, my favorite reviewer, and the only one who is never wrong, is Libby Gelman-Waxner. It's just too bad I'll never get to meet her.


message 8: by [deleted user] (last edited Mar 23, 2008 02:23PM) (new)

Amen. I am so happy that other people hate Anthony Lane's smug, snarky, self-aggrandizing reviews. He has to be my least favorite film reviewer in the history of all film reviewing--including Gene Shalit. It's embarrassing that the New Yorker imagines that Lane is a competent or witty reviewer. In fact, he sounds as though he hates films in general most of the time.


message 9: by David (new)

David Wee Willie Winkie
by Graham Greene
The owners of a child star are like leaseholders -
their property diminishes in value every year. Time's chariot is at their back; before them acres of
anonymity. What is Jackie Coogan now but a matrimonial
squabble? Miss Shirley Temple's case, though, has
peculiar interest: infancy is her disguise, her appeal
is more secret and more adult. Already two years ago
she was a fancy little piece (real childhood, I think,
went out after "The Littlest Rebel"). In "Captain
January" she wore trousers with the mature
suggestiveness of a Dietrich: her neat and
well-developed rump twisted in the tap-dance; her eyes
had a sidelong searching coquetry. Now in "Wee Willie
Winkie," wearing short kilts, she is completely totsy.
Watch her swaggering stride across the Indian
barrack-square; hear the gasp of excited expectation
from her antique audience when the sergeant's palm is
raised; watch the way she measures a man with agile
studio eyes, with dimpled depravity. Adult emotions of
love and grief glissade across the mask of childhood,
a childhood skin-deep. It is clever, but it cannot
last. Her admirers - middle-aged men and clergymen -
respond to her dubious coquetry, to the sight of her
well-shaped and desirable little body, packed with
enormous vitality, only because the safety curtain of
story and dialogue drops between their intelligence
and their desire. 'Why are you making Mummy cry?' -
what could be purer than that? And the scene when
dressed in a white nightdress she begs grandpa to take
Mummy to a dance - what could be more virginal? On
those lines her new picture, made by John Ford, who
directed "The Informer," is horrifyingly competent. It
isn't hard to stay to the last prattle and the last
sob. The story - about an Afghan robber converted by
"Wee Willie Winkie" to the British Raj - is a long way
after Kipling. But we needn't be sour about that. Both
stories are awful, but on the whole Hollywood's is the
better.

"Wee Willie Winkie" (USA, Twentieth Century Fox, I937)
Dir.: John Ford. Cast: Shirley Temple, Victor
McLaglen, C. Aubrey Smith, June Lang, Michael Whalen,
Cesar Romero, Constance Collier, Gavin Muir. From
Night and Day, 28 October 1937.



message 10: by [deleted user] (new)

This may be my favorite review on all of Goodreads -- not of course because it's especially informative, well-written, or even very entertaining -- but because it lobs a steaming shit projectile at one Mr. Anthony Lane, the smug, self-satisfied auxiliary film reviewer of The New Yorker, who shares pride of place in the depths of film reviewing hell with the likes of Michael Medved and Jeffrey Lyons. Sure, he's more upscale and literate than they are and, one might argue, conspicuously further along on the evolutionary chain than, say, Gene Shalit and his 'Me likum everything. Everything Oscar-worthy. You blurb me, yes?' schtick; but the bottom line is that Lane is a tired-ass, dandified twit who never deigns engage with a film on its own terms, but whose supercilious critical gaze is always crippled by wry askanceness. He's exactly the kind of film reviewer that I imagine English profs at low-prestige, middle-management-producing American colleges love, basking in his elitism and derision like a hog in a sweaty mud pit, as a countermeasure, you understand, to the culture of football games, aesthetic anemia, and mediocre, instrumental academia which entirely dominates most college campuses these days. Yeah, I'm reading a lot into this stuff, but I can practically hear the cluck-cluck of pretentious approbation when these Anglophile pretenders sat down with their Earl Grey to read Lane's scorch-and-burn review of (the admittedly deplorable) Revenge of the Sith. Behold, Anthony Lane -- the reactionary cultural avenger, dropping bon mots about shoddy, dollar-store entertainment like rabbit turds! Yeah, we totally get it! A lot of movies suck. Really, really, really suck. But putting on stretchy rubber gloves and a HAZMAT suit to even approach them does seem a tad... aristocratic. And well... in that context, I say... off with his fuckin' head. Both of 'em.

But let me tell you how I really feel.





message 11: by Bram (last edited Dec 01, 2009 07:05AM) (new)

Bram I've never read an Anthony Lane review (or didn't realize it at the time), but for some sick reason, that comment makes me want to check one/some out.


message 12: by [deleted user] (last edited Dec 01, 2009 09:34AM) (new)

Well, I meant to spark some film reviewer debate, but that comment went over like a turd on a wedding cake.

Oh well. There's just no pleasing these people.


message 13: by Bram (last edited Dec 01, 2009 09:46AM) (new)

Bram If a truly great comment is posted on the internet and no one is there to see it, is it...you know.

Just read the Sith review and your comment is now, if possible, even more appreciated (by me at least).

I can't really engage with you film geniuses, but I like to watch.


message 14: by D. (new)

D. Pow Some good writing here, Happy.

And I loved Gay Dave's posting of the Greene riff on Shirley Temple. He was sued for that and considered a bas and perverted villian but seems obvious now he was correct.


message 15: by Joshua Nomen-Mutatio (last edited Dec 01, 2009 05:06PM) (new)

Joshua Nomen-Mutatio I don't keep up with film critics much these days (and have spent more time in the past with what would be called film theory rather than film reviews) but I've added a few to my "to-read" shelf recently. Wondering if anyone knows anything about this one:

http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/48...

And I just discovered the name Pauline Kael. Apparently she's well known. Is she any good? Anyone?


Joshua Nomen-Mutatio I actually really enjoy the short film reviews in The Onion quite a bit. They are pretty brief though. But well done, in my opinion.


message 17: by Dave (last edited Dec 01, 2009 05:11PM) (new)

Dave Russell I agree with brian's assessment of her:

she could be majorly infuriating, stubborn, and just plain wrong... but, shit. she loved movies.

I'd add the adjectives "prissy." I never enjoyed reading her much.

Also, according to David Denby, she surrounded herself with an Ayn Rand-type cult:

http://www.newyorker.com/archive/2003...


message 18: by Jessica (last edited Dec 01, 2009 05:21PM) (new)

Jessica but but but...what about David Denby?
moralizing, straining-for-wit, knows nothing about film...his reviews are pedestrian and mostly predictable. He escapes your wrath though? Lane is a stylist most of all. A lot on the surface. Oh so charmed by himself. I remember something of this conversation before on gr? But I like the new vigor with which you attack him. well-spoken Happy. you've gotten me geared up to find & read one of his recent reviews...


message 19: by Dave (last edited Dec 01, 2009 05:24PM) (new)

Dave Russell My two favorite film critics are James Agee who wrote for Time and The Nation and Stanley Kaufmann of The New Republic.


message 20: by D. (new)

D. Pow James Agee was just a damn fine writer.

I liked Kael.


message 21: by Joshua Nomen-Mutatio (last edited Dec 01, 2009 05:28PM) (new)

Joshua Nomen-Mutatio I also like Stanley Kaufmann. I've only read maybe half a dozen reviews of his but they were all top notch.

I really enjoyed this look at Eyes Wide Shut in Film Quarterly when I read it years ago:

http://www.visual-memory.co.uk/amk/do...


message 22: by Joshua Nomen-Mutatio (last edited Dec 01, 2009 05:33PM) (new)

Joshua Nomen-Mutatio Dave wrote: "I agree with brian's assessment of her:

she could be majorly infuriating, stubborn, and just plain wrong... but, shit. she loved movies.

I'd add the adjectives "prissy." I never enjoyed reading ..."


My eyes must've totally skimmed over her name there. Sure makes me look like a jackass in message 15.


message 23: by [deleted user] (last edited Dec 01, 2009 05:47PM) (new)

MFSO, Pauline Kael is one of a handful of legendary film critics. Her opinion was often questionable and irritable, but she was always an entertaining read.

As far as contemporary film critics go, I think Manohla Dargis, currently of the New York Times and formerly of the Los Angeles Times, is among the best. Her colleagues Stephen Holden and A.O. Scott are much less appealing.

I hate those two who do the reviewing for EW... Lisa Schwarzbaum and Owen Glieberman.

David Denby is a dull film critic -- with supect taste -- but he never bothered me all that much. Maybe he fared well in contrast to Anthony Lane.

Rex Reed is one of the most abysmal critics out there. I think he is/was still reviewing for the New York Observer...?


message 24: by Mike (new)

Mike                                              Happy said: "He's exactly the kind of film reviewer that I imagine English profs at low-prestige, middle-management-producing American colleges love, basking in his elitism and derision like a hog in a sweaty mud pit, as a countermeasure, you understand, to the culture of football games, aesthetic anemia, and mediocre, instrumental academia which entirely dominates most college campuses these days."

That's why I likes him!

Actually, no, he's awful. I like the Times folks--Scott and Dargis--but there are few people who write the kind of open-ended film-lovin' riff that Kael and Agee and Kaufmann exemplified. Of course, there's no one like Vern.


message 25: by Moira (new) - added it

Moira Russell MyFleshSingsOut wrote: "And I just discovered the name Pauline Kael. Apparently she's well known. Is she any good? Anyone? "

Kael's writing style is fantastic, but her judgements are so frequently off it's almost comic. If she raved about a film I knew I'd hate it, and vice versa.




message 26: by Moira (new) - added it

Moira Russell Jessica wrote: "but but but...what about David Denby?
moralizing, straining-for-wit, knows nothing about film...his reviews are pedestrian and mostly predictable. He escapes your wrath though?"


Yeah, Denby is TERRIBLE. I have no idea why they keep him on there. His nonfiction books aren't that great, either (I've read two and a half).




message 27: by Jessica (new)

Jessica You'd think the New Yorker could get somebody who knows film and can write. I remember when Terrence Rafferty replaced Pauline Kael...not a replacement at all, very disappointing...yet he must have been better than Denby and Lane?

2 and 1/2 nonfiction books, eh? you really gave him a chance... Don't think I could do 1/2 of one.


message 28: by [deleted user] (new)

The thing is... The New Yorker also has Richard Brody, who wrote the good Godard bio of last year and writes some of the short reviews at the beginning of the magazine. They should dump Lane and give Brody the main job. That is, if he wants it.


message 29: by Mike (new)

Mike                                              Happy wrote: "The thing is... The New Yorker also has Richard Brody, who wrote the good Godard bio of last year and writes some of the short reviews at the beginning of the magazine."


I agree. And, by the by Happy, did you see Brody's recent lovefest for Wes Anderson? I rest happily in our shared Fandersondom.



message 30: by Moira (new) - added it

Moira Russell Jessica wrote: "I remember when Terrence Rafferty replaced Pauline Kael...not a replacement at all, very disappointing...yet he must have been better than Denby and Lane?"

Oh Lord, I remember him too. He was BAD. -- I actually like Lane in the same spirit I did Kael -- useless for actual film crit, but the writing is frequently spirited and funny. But Agee and GG are a lot better at writing about movies as _movies._

"2 and 1/2 nonfiction books, eh? you really gave him a chance... Don't think I could do 1/2 of one."

Heh -- one was about his going through the Great Books program at I think Columbia, and I attended St John's, so I read that. Then I read American Sucker, which was just terrible, and started another, and realized I just can't read anything by him anymore, and quit.


message 31: by Moira (new) - added it

Moira Russell Happy wrote: "The thing is... The New Yorker also has Richard Brody, who wrote the good Godard bio of last year and writes some of the short reviews at the beginning of the magazine"

I could never understand how they alternated, of all people, Kael and Penelope Gilliatt.




message 32: by Dave (last edited Dec 01, 2009 06:13PM) (new)

Dave Russell No way. I attended St. John's in Santa Fe from Jan. to Nov. 1993.


message 33: by Moira (new) - added it

Moira Russell Dave wrote: "No way. I attended St' John's in Santa Fe from Jan. to Nov. 1993."

Ha! I was there from 88-90 and again 96-98.



message 34: by Moira (new) - added it

Moira Russell A.O. Scott, aghghghgh. Slightly better than Janet Maslin, tho.




message 35: by D. (new)

D. Pow Brody can really write.


message 36: by Mike (new)

Mike                                              I like Scott. His unabashed love of the recent Romanian films was really the perfect kind of short newspaper criticism--incisive, enthusiastic, proselytizing about this new passion. Plus he wrote the world's only good review of Tom Green's Freddy Got Fingered.


message 37: by Jessica (new)

Jessica Janet Maslin! Horrible!
Did you see she's been transferred to books?
She's only slightly less offensive in her review of books than she was in film...
completely uninspired. And of course she knows nothing about film.


message 38: by Mykle (new)

Mykle Jessica wrote: "but but but...what about David Denby?
moralizing, straining-for-wit, knows nothing about film...his reviews are pedestrian and mostly predictable. He escapes your wrath though? Lane is a stylist ..."


Anthony Lane is a hack, but he can write. He sees his job as simple entertainment, not the discovery of meaning or the championing of a cause or any of that deep critic stuff.

David Denby tries harder, but just digs himself a deeper hole. His idea of thoroughness is to recite the plot and the ending. His enthusiasm seems more sincere and wide-ranging than Lane's, but his writing is just dull.



message 39: by Krok Zero (new)

Krok Zero Some of the best film critics are on the web these days--Glenn Kenny is the best of the lot, but Jim Emerson and Karina Longworth are great too, to name just a few. My favorite film critic is the technically-retired-but-still-around-sometimes Matt Zoller Seitz, who founded "The House Next Door" and now makes awesome video essays for The L Magazine. Salon's Andrew O'Hehir is one of my favorites. In print, I do like the Dargis/Scott duo a lot, as well as old standby Roger Ebert (his newish blog is really quite something).


message 40: by Moira (new) - added it

Moira Russell Jessica wrote: "Janet Maslin! Horrible!
Did you see she's been transferred to books?
She's only slightly less offensive in her review of books than she was in film...
completely uninspired. And of course she knows..."


YES I DID....she knows a tiny bit more about books than she does film, which really isn't saying much of anything.


Chris Is this a review or just the envious invective of a failed writer?


message 42: by brian (new) - rated it 1 star

brian   waaaaaa! you're onto me!
and it's the 'witty' waughnnabe* prose and aphorisms of anthony lane which really flares up the ol' envy.

and i have a cooler beard than you!
nyah! nyah!


* = 'wannabe' + 'evelyn waugh'
check my neologism, yo.


Joshua Nomen-Mutatio brian wrote: "* = 'wannabe' + 'evelyn waugh'
check my neologism, yo. "


Reason #7,238 Why brian Should Return To Goodreads


message 44: by D. (new)

D. Pow a bearded troll.


message 45: by brian (last edited Jan 24, 2012 09:14AM) (new) - rated it 1 star

brian   love ya too MFSO.
and D, of course.


message 46: by Mike (new)

Mike                                              Nice one, D.!


message 47: by brian (new) - rated it 1 star

brian   i'm glad i was trolled, tho, as it brought me back to this review -- how great to read all those posts from over two years ago! i miss all you crazy goodreaders!


Joshua Nomen-Mutatio I've been on a sentimental journey through some older review threads the last few days. It's interesting and, uh, sentimental. I love seeing all of David's various deleted profiles and pseudonyms. Was reminded of when he was "Happy" in this thread.


Chris thanks for these tips.


message 50: by brian (new) - rated it 1 star

brian   not sure to what 'tips' you refer...
but i can offer some:

it's awfully transparent for a grown man to jump on a stranger's thread with shallow, mean-spirited, personal attacks simply b/c ya disagree with my take on one of your beloveds.

engage me. offer a spirited defense. shit, attack me in an interesting, original manner. but the shit you flung? booooring. and, really, ain't that the worst crime of all?

now, run along, little man.
fling feces elsewhere.


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