How about this wild-eyed and enthusiastic photo of pretty much the most intelligent film critic in America? Unfortunately, Jonathan Rosenbaum has served notice that he's leaving his staff position at the Chicago Reader after 20 years, in favor of more occasional appearances in print and on the Internet, and the chance to write about other matters besides movies. It's a good time to retire; cinema, once the bravest of the popular arts, is now too often just a part of the entertainment bandwidth, sampling itself relentlessly, following trends like it used to set them.

The 65-year-old critic has been a long-time champion of foreign film, particularly when they're handled poorly by distributors, shelved or re-cut (as Miramax did so many times during the 1990s). His book Movie Wars is essential reading about how studios lead the critics and mislead the public; as he puts it in his 2007 top ten list, the problem is that "each film is supposed to be important when it comes out and is then forgotten soon afterwards." The books Placing Movies and Movies as Politics are two excellent introductions to Rosenbaum's well-informed polemics.

He is, perhaps, at his best when doing a minority report; his essay on Eyes Wide Shut, reprinted in Philip Lopate's collection American Movie Critics, needs to be read by anyone who feels Kubrick's last film is a neglected masterpiece. Rosenbaum dared to fight a lot of the accepted wisdom of his day, such as the suggestion that Woody Allen was better than Jerry Lewis or that Clint Eastwood's Bird is a masterpiece. An exit interview is visible on YouTube, with Rosenbaum describing his plans for the future, elevating the reputation of Ishtar and cutting There Will Be Blood down to size. It's the critic in me that makes me say that this two-part YouTube video goes on for a couple of minutes too long. ...
categories Cinematical