Richard Schickel is a film historian, documentarian, and biographer who has written about many Hollywood giants, including Clint Eastwood, Charlie Chaplin, Martin Scorsese and Walt Disney. He was the film critic for Time and Life magazines. His work has earned him a Guggenheim Fellowship and an honorary doctorate from the American Film Institute.
"Anything — be it a book or a play or a poem or a movie — that encourages us to perceive the world as a complex and difficult to navigate place is bound to be a good thing. But movies aren’t really movies anymore. They came to their power in a sunny and optimistic place — California before the smog and the freeways and its prevailing post-modernist anomie. They offered, at their height, a very attractive vision of an imperfect but perfectible America, full of can-do guys and gals. They do not largely function in that way any more. They are largely a medium of improbable adventures set in worlds that bear no relationship to American reality. They are aimed primarily at adolescents and special effects addicts. Obviously a critic — a very endangered species in a nation that wants indulgence more than a criticism that questions its fatuity — is obliged to seek out and encourage anything that offers nuance. I continue to do that — not knowing any better — but I also know that the movies I generally like best are aimed at niche markets, elite markets. And that the occasional mass entertainment film — it’s often directed by nice Ron Howard — will simply offer vague (and always irony-free) inspiration. Irony is, of course, one of the great enemies of crypto-fascism. I should add, of course, that I still have my favorite movie stars. Or maybe I should say, movie performers: people like, say, Christopher Walken — people who persist in their dark, anti-inspirational ways, people who insist on mixed motives — their own, everyone else’s. I’m not at all certain many of my readers care to follow me in this eccentricity."
– Richard Schickel
Subscribe to our newsletter for a weekly round-up of reviews, essays, & interviews.