OUR GUIDE TO THE BEST CRITICS: FILM

BLUNT CANDOUR AND DONNISH INTELLECT | March 10th 2008

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In our second instalment of "Reviewers revered", Julie Kavanagh, Jasper Rees and others name their favourite film critics. Anthony Lane earns the most plaudits, even among those who rarely go to the cinema. (Read our introduction to the series here, and our selection of favourite book critics here) ...

From INTELLIGENT LIFE magazine, Spring 2008

In our list below, the name at the top is the nominee, and the nominator is listed as a sign-off. For more about our contributors, see our introduction.

*****

ANTHONY LANE

(The New Yorker, every other Monday)

Lane, who is English, vaulted to the New Yorker from the Independent on Sunday in 1993: the critic as unimpeachable stylist. His sentences are lovely, delivering their goods with an uncrotchety humour that seems to fall in with the pace of your own best thinking and feeling. He's a very flattering writer. ~ NICK COLEMAN

Before seeing a movie I always check the New Yorker site to find out if Anthony Lane has reviewed it. A young Brit with a donnish intellect, the wit of Clive James and a voice entirely his own, he has a big following in America, but is known only to devotees back home. I often return to his collection "Nobody's Perfect" (Picador, 2002) for a rush of inspiration. ~ JULIE KAVANAGH

He is so entertaining and informed that I read him religiously, even though I hardly go to the cinema. ~ TOM STANDAGE

It used to be Adam Mars-Jones, but today it is Anthony Lane whose film reviews put into words what I wish I'd said myself but never could. He asks the questions the directors should have asked themselves, in a deft, clean process that is both funny and incredibly clever.
~ REBECCA WILLIS

The Rolls-Royce of film critics. Never mind the film, you read Lane for the sheer quality of the prose. ~ MICK BROWN

The least gushing, most incisive and funniest film critic. ~ SIMON GARFIELD

 

DAVID EDELSTEIN

(New York magazine, every Monday)

David Edelstein's reviews have the winning gruffness of someone thinking aloud. He's not trying to persuade you of anything, merely filing a report from the front row, with all the blunt candour of someone riding out his own unruly reactions. He levels with you, he doesn't try to impress, and says more things you want to steal than any other critic. I treasure his observation about how dangerous it is for a character in a biopic to develop a cough. ~ TOM SHONE

David Edelstein's artfully plain-spoken reviews--also found at Slate.com, where he was until 2005--bristle with a love of film and unfold with casual confidence. He will boldly praise goofy blockbusters and convincingly topple false idols (on "Atonement": "It doesn't fuck with your head"). Back when I was an intern, I sent him a piece of fan-mail, sand-bagged with reviews of my own. He responded immediately and reassured me that he, too, began his career spending "48 hours writing a 400-word review". "My advice is simple", he wrote: "Write." ~ EMILY BOBROW

 

PHILIP FRENCH

(The Observer, every Sunday)

Good critics provide an historical context without losing their enthusiasm for innovation. I've always enjoyed Philip French's reviews for that reason: if there's a parallel between the new Tarantino and a little-known Italian thriller of the 1930s, French can be relied on to spot it and to explain what it means. ~ BLAKE MORRISON

 

RYAN GILBEY

(The New Statesman, every Thursday)

For his exact dissections of why a film matters, and his uninsistent familiarity with cinema's backwaters. More than capable of turning an entertaining phrase, but never at the expense of the film, only in its service. Also quite brilliant at reporting without spoiling the ending. ~ ISABEL LLOYD

 

ANTHONY QUINN

(The Independent, every Friday)

The stand-out stylist among Fleet Street film critics, Quinn has an impeccable nose for quality in an art form which, more than any other, requires reviewers to sift through chaff. ok, so he's seldom wild about low-budget British fare, gross-out comedy or punishing releases from Kazakhstan, but you can put your faith in his lapidary judgments on the great American film-makers. ~ JASPER REES