Jack Mathews says farewell

“When I began reviewing and seeing everything, I was warned by a veteran critic that for every movie that would inspire me, nine would drain my soul. I thought, ‘He just doesn’t like movies as much as I do.’
“Some 6,000 screenings later, I’d say he had the ratio about right. But those exceptions — that Pulp Fiction, that Raiders of the Lost Ark, that No Country for Old Men — kept my glass half-full and the passion alive.” — from a farewell piece by N.Y. Daily News critic Jack Mathews, who’s downshifting and off to Oregon.

17 thoughts on “Jack Mathews says farewell

  1. MAGGA on said:

    Raiders alone should sustain a passion for movies

  2. I wrote film reviews for a couple of years and I think the ratio may be even worse than that, depending on what qualifies as being inspired. I count that as a film that stays with you for several days and makes you continue to think about it. I’d say only 1 film really “inspired” me over the past year (There Will Be Blood), although I enjoyed a lot of other films and was quite fond of Michael Clayton.
    The thing that ultimately made me stop reviewing was, too often I found myself thinking about my review in the middle of a movie, and after a few years I became too cynical and couldn’t enjoy movies as much as I did before. It took a good year or two of not writing reviews to get over it, and since then I’ve enjoyed movies a lot more than I did over that period.

  3. I used to write reviews from time to time for a website – it was a free gig, and I’d forward the reviews on to friends. Everyone told me, “You should do this for a living.” I said no way. I found that after a while, each review for some piece of crap could be interchanged with the next piece of crap. I’m pretty sure nobody would notice either if I had done that. Instead, I stopped doing it altogether. Every now and then I may be inspired to tell friends about something and I’ll send that out – but I too enjoy film way more than I did when I was thinking, “What can I say that hasn’t been said yet?”

  4. Years ago, when I was younger and more naive, I interviewed Pauline Kael. She opined that all she had to do was watch the first ten minutes of a movie to tell if it would have any merit whatsoever. At the time, I thought that was harsh and cynical. I now think she was being kind. I would say five minutes, tops.

  5. I’ve programmed for film festivals in the past and, in some cases — when dealing with unsolicited submissions — I’d say you can determine a film’s overall quality based on the font/effects used in the opening credits. This doesn’t really apply to professional films as the credits always look somewhat respectable, but as soon as letters start dropping into the frame using some lame iMovie effect, a movie’s lack of credibility is palpable… and I’ve yet to discover a good movie that stumbles in this way. It’s no accident that legends like Stanley Kubrick and Woody Allen always kept their credits so simple, rarely even using fades from one credit to the next.

  6. Getting back on topic… I read Jack Mathews in the Los Angeles Times when I was in my teens, and it was his Times articles, and eventually book, on Brazil in the 80s that really helped open my eyes to all the little things about Hollywood. When I was living in New York City earlier this decade, I often would see him at press screenings, and I wanted to thank him for being an inspiration every time I saw him, but in person I am often timid, so I never did.
    Jack, if you ever read this… thanks.

  7. They also used them as branding. I’m always surprised at how few major directors maintain a consistent look like that so you get right into Woody Allenness (or 50s Hitchcock) from the start, carrying all kinds of associations from earlier films.
    Worst use of type in a major movie? Raging Bull. That phone booky sans serif, the ugly red type for the title (which also doesn’t even have a space between Raging and Bull). What the hell? Is it deliberately being crude to match the crudeness of the main character? If so, it just looks incompetent.

  8. Mgmax, I don’t find the typeface for the RAGING BULL credits to be quite as crude as you do.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G6vNBbTKZDY
    They look rather simple and unaffected, with a nice contrast in font weight and capitalization style. The lack of space between RAGING and BULL is a bit odd.
    IN THE BEDROOM, a movie I adore, uses a horrible font for its opening credits. I can’t remember the face, but it’s some pedestrian home computer font like Verdana, Chicago, or Courier in a sickly blue color.

  9. I used to write reviews from time to time for a website – it was a free gig, and I’d forward the reviews on to friends. Everyone told me, “You should do this for a living.” I said no way. I found that after a while, each review for some piece of crap could be interchanged with the next piece of crap. I’m pretty sure nobody would notice either if I had done that. Instead, I stopped doing it altogether. Every now and then I may be inspired to tell friends about something and I’ll send that out – but I too enjoy film way more than I did when I was thinking, “What can I say that hasn’t been said yet?”

  10. They also used them as branding. I’m always surprised at how few major directors maintain a consistent look like that so you get right into Woody Allenness (or 50s Hitchcock) from the start, carrying all kinds of associations from earlier films.

    Worst use of type in a major movie? Raging Bull. That phone booky sans serif, the ugly red type for the title (which also doesn’t even have a space between Raging and Bull). What the hell? Is it deliberately being crude to match the crudeness of the main character? If so, it just looks incompetent.

  11. Everyone should just hire David Fincher to direct the opening credits. :P
    Joe, usually within five minutes I can tell whether I’m going to have fun with a film, and then decide whether it was good or bad afterwards. Case in point: Smoking Aces. Totally bad and totally fun.

  12. More belt-tightening and “harass the old pros until they quit” bullshit by the NY Daily News. This I know from an insider. It’s a shame..

  13. Everyone should just hire David Fincher to direct the opening credits. :P

    Joe, usually within five minutes I can tell whether I’m going to have fun with a film, and then decide whether it was good or bad afterwards. Case in point: Smoking Aces. Totally bad and totally fun.

  14. K. Bowen – depends on how old you are. I used to feel that way in my late teens and early 20′s, but after digesting too much mediocrity in theaters, I’m now far more selective about which films I bother to go see (what I rent on Netflix is a different story, of course).

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