The death of inspiration

End of an era: A couple of days ago, I went rummaging through my parent’s basement and found the decrepit, dusty PC that I wrote with when I used to be a hackneyed, talentless movie critic. Amazingly, the hard drive still worked, and I managed to pull nearly two years of movie reviews that I wrote dating from 1996-1997.

At the time, I had absolutely zero writing experience. Looking back on the whole debacle, I’m astounded that I got the opportunity I did to learn some things about writing in such a public way. I made a lot of mistakes and said a bunch of idiotic things… but slowly, my writing improved.

It’s funny, but I’ve been thinking about that whole period a lot, as I’m in the midst of prepping a bunch of the reviews I actually feel pretty good about for this site. So, it was with more than a little shock and sadness that I found out that Pauline Kael passed away yesterday.

What can be said about Pauline Kael that hasn’t already been said? She was, for all intensive purposes, the most interesting and compelling film writer ever. Even when you disagreed with her (and that happened more often than you would expect), you still couldn’t help but shake your head at the staggering intelligence behind her firey writing. Whether she was questioning the amount of actual work Orson Welles contributed to Citizen Kane, thumbing her nose at the whole auteur theory of directorial ownership, or trumpeting the merits of films that others dismissed (such as Bonnie & Clyde, and many of Brian De Palma’s earlier works), she was never, never boring, and always jazzily eloquent.

I owe a huge debt to Pauline Kael for inspiring me, astounding me, and keeping me interested and excited about writing for film… and writing in general. If you’ve never read any of her many movie review collections, I highly recommend For Keeps: 30 Years at the Movies, which is an excellent complilation of her best reviews.

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