When I have writer’s block, I pose the psychedelic frog on my desk. (The above picture is of him being dramatic.) Then I read Anthony Lane, the critic for The New Yorker. His writing is essential reading for anyone doing criticism.
His advice on writing reviews: “The primary task of the critic…is the recreation of texture – not telling the movie-goers what they should see, which is entirely their prerogative, but filing a sensory report on the kind of experience into which they will be wading, or plunging, should they decide to risk a ticket.”
He doesn’t just say that people “look like cavemen”; he says that they look like “they only just discovered fire last week.” He doesn’t just say that someone has a hulking brow; he says: “I feel confident that you could strap it to the front of a truck and use it to clear snow.”
A few more gems from his collection of reviews, Nobody’s Perfect:
On First Night: I was reminded of Ghost, in which the same director encouraged Patrick Swayze to become a cauldron of grief. True, the result looked like a man teetering for all eternity on the brink of giant sneeze, but Zucker is obviously skilled at luring actors onto unfamiliar ground.
On Showgirls: Here’s the dirty little secret of this movie: it’s good clean fun.
On Indecent Proposal: “It’s just by body,” Diana explains. “It’s not my mind.” I was glad to have that cleared up, though it does raise an interesting question: How much would you pay for an evening with Demi Moore’s mind?
On The Saint: I’ve eaten bowls of spaghetti that were more tightly structured than this picture.
On Godzilla: For the most part, however, the villain has no character whatsoever. All we know for sure is that he suffers from poor table manners, prefers to take the subway, and has to have sex with himself. Basically, half the men in this town could have applied for the role.