Schickel on 'the insufferable optimism of America'

richard-schickel-ifc.jpgAs an emailer points out, it seems to be film critic day around here. So now there's this: curmudgeonly Time critic Richard Schickel stole the show at a weekend panel to discuss the state of the criticism game, pegged to the screening of the documentary "For the Love of Movies," by Boston Phoenix critic and filmmaker Gerald Peary. In Stephen Saito's account at, Schickel said he never loved movies and might have been happier doing something else with his career.

"Watching all these kind of earnest people discussing the art or whatever the hell it is of criticism, all that, it just made me so sad. You mean they have nothing else to do?" asked Schickel before adding, "I don't know honestly the function of reviewing anything."


On why editors at major publications -- i.e. "former beat reporters and city desk guys and rewrite men that managed to stay upright in their chairs before they were finally felled by drink" -- are no longer interested in serious film criticism, Schickel remarked, "They're going to spike your review because it's insufficiently enthusiastic... It's like the insufferable optimism of America."

When asked by Thompson if he ever read criticism online, Schickel gave a forceful "no," before explaining "Why would you do that? I don't actually read many reviews. I never did. But I'm not going to go around looking for Harry Knowles [the portly Ain't It Cool News founder who is featured in the documentary]. I mean look at that person! Why would anybody just looking at him pay the slightest attention to anything he said?!? He's a gross human being."

Anne Thompson, the IndieWire blogger, moderated the panel. Others on the panel included John Powers, Ella Taylor, David Sterritt and Peter Rainer.

Photo: Schickel in "You Must Remember This: The Warner Bros. Story"

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