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Pauline Kael

"... if you think it so easy to be a critic, so difficult to be a poet or a painter or film experimenter, may I suggest you try both? You may discover why there are so few critics, so many poets."

Pauline Kael, I Lost It at the Movies (1965)

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"In a foreign country people don't expect you to be just like them, but in Los Angeles, which is infiltrating the world, they don't consider that you might be different because they don't recognize any values except their own. And soon there may not be any others."

Pauline Kael, I Lost It at the Movies (1965)

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"... a mistake in judgment isn't fatal, but too much anxiety about judgment is."

Pauline Kael, I Lost It at the Movies (1965)

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"Sex is the great leveler, taste the great divider."

Pauline Kael, I Lost It at the Movies (1965)

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" There is, in any art, a tendency to turn one's own preferences into a monomaniac theory ... "

Pauline Kael, I Lost It at the Movies (1965)

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"Infallible taste is inconceivable; what could it be measured against?"

Pauline Kael, I Lost It at the Movies (1965)

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"... the first prerogative of an artist in any medium is to make a fool of himself. "

Pauline Kael, I Lost It at the Movies (1965)

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"All our advertising is propaganda, of course, but it has become so much a part of our life, is so pervasive, that we just don't know what it is propaganda for."

Pauline Kael, I Lost It at the Movies (1965)

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"The pimp who peddles good clean stuff is nevertheless engaged in prostitution."

Pauline Kael, I Lost It at the Movies (1965)

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"I believe that we respond most and best to work in any art form (and to other experience as well) if we are pluralistic, flexible, relative in our judgments, if we are electic."

Pauline Kael, I Lost It at the Movies (1965)

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"Reality, like God and History, tends to direct people to wherever they want to go."

Pauline Kael, I Lost It at the Movies (1965)

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" Regrettably, one of the surest signs of the Philistine is his reverence for the superior tastes of those who put him down."

Pauline Kael, I Lost It at the Movies (1965)

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"It is a depressing fact that Americans tend to confuse morality and art (to the detriment of both) and that, among the educated, morality tends to mean social consciousness."

Pauline Kael, I Lost It at the Movies (1965)

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"The words 'Kiss Kiss Bang Bang,' which I saw on an Italian movie poster, are perhaps the briefest statement imaginable of the basic appeal of movies."

Pauline Kael, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (1968)

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"Economy, speed, nervousness, and desperation produce the final wasteful, semi-incoherent movies we see."

Pauline Kael, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (1968)

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"Protagonists are always loners, almost by definition."

Pauline Kael, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (1968)

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"When a picture can't make it on its own, the producers pull in a 'controversial' message -- the way a couple whose marriage is falling apart decide to have a baby."

Pauline Kael, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (1968)

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"... in show business there's not much point in asking yourself if someone really likes you or if he just thinks you can be useful to him, because there's no difference."

Pauline Kael, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (1968)

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"It seems likely that many of the young who don't wait for others to call them artists, but simply announce that they are, don't have the patience to make art."

Pauline Kael, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (1968)

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"He [Bernardo Bertolucci] has the kind of talent that breaks one's heart: where can it go, what will happen to it? In this country we encourage 'creativity' among the mediocre, but real bursting creativity appalls us. We put it down as undisciplined, as somehow 'too much.' Well, Before the Revolution is too much and that is what is great about it. Art doesn't come in measured quantities: it's got to be too much or it's not enough."

Pauline Kael, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (1968)

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"Movies have been doing so much of the same thing — in slightly different ways — for so long that few of the possibilities of this great hybrid art have yet been explored."

Pauline Kael, Going Steady (1970)

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"Irresponsibility is part of the pleasure of all art; it is the part the schools cannot recognize."

Pauline Kael, Going Steady (1970)

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"Movies are our cheap and easy expression, the sullen art of displaced persons."

Pauline Kael, Going Steady (1970)

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"... movies are so rarely great art, that if we cannot appreciate great trash, we have very little reason to be interested in them."

Pauline Kael, Going Steady (1970)

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"... it's an ugly, stupid instant movie [You Are What You Eat] made by people who substitute promotion for talent and technique. It's the aesthetic equivalent of mugging the audience."

Pauline Kael, Going Steady (1970)

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"[On The Subject Was Roses:] ... the director never avails himself of the opportunities that movies provide for conversational intimacy and rapid delivery, and for throwing away lines. They should all have been thrown away."

Pauline Kael, Going Steady (1970)

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"We learn to settle for so little, we moviegoers."

Pauline Kael, Going Steady (1970)

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"When I see those ads with the quote 'You'll have to see this picture twice,' I know it's the kind of picture I don't want to see once."

Pauline Kael, Deeper Into Movies (1973)

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"The movie [Song of Norway] is of an unbelievable badness; it brings back clichés you didn't know you knew -- they're practically from the unconscious of moviegoers. You can't get angry at something this stupefying; it seems to have been made by trolls."

Pauline Kael, Deeper Into Movies (1973)

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"... tasteful and colossal are -- in movies, at least -- basically antipathetic. "

Pauline Kael, Deeper Into Movies (1973)

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"Movies, far more than the traditional arts, are tied to big money. Without a few independent critics, there's nothing between the public and the advertisers."

Pauline Kael, Deeper Into Movies (1973)

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"... the vacuity of the Ross Hunter-George Seaton ten-million-dollar Airport has the dull innocence of an accounting error."

Pauline Kael, Deeper Into Movies (1973)

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"... a steady diet of mass culture is a form of deprivation."

Pauline Kael, Deeper Into Movies (1973)

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"McLuhanism and the media have broken the back of the book business; they've freed people from the shame of not reading. They've rationalized becoming stupid and watching television."

Pauline Kael, Deeper Into Movies (1973)

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"Writers who go to Hollywood still follow the classic pattern: either you get disgusted by 'them' and you leave or you want the money and you become them."

Pauline Kael, Deeper Into Movies (1973)

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" Allowing for exceptions, there is still one basic difference between the traditional arts and the mass-media arts: in the traditional arts, the artist grows; in a mass medium, the artist decays profitably."

Pauline Kael, Deeper Into Movies (1973)

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"At the movies, we are gradually being conditioned to accept violence as a sensual pleasure. The directors used to say they were showing us its real face and how ugly it was in order to sensitize us to its horrors. You don't have to be very keen to see that they are now in fact desensitizing us."

Pauline Kael, Deeper Into Movies (1973)

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" There seems to be an assumption that if you're offended by movie brutality, you are somehow playing into the hands of the people who want censorship. But this would deny those of us who don't believe in censorship the use of the only counter-balance: the freedom of the press to say that there's anything conceivably damaging in these films -- the freedom to analyze their implications. ... How can people go on talking about the dazzling brilliance of movies and not notice that the directors are sucking up to the thugs in the audience?"

Pauline Kael, Deeper Into Movies (1973)

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"In the arts, the critic is the only independent source of information. The rest is advertising. "

Pauline Kael, in Newsweek (1973)

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"If there's anything to learn from the history of movies, it's that corruption leads to further corruption, not to innocence."

Pauline Kael, Reeling (1976)

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"To lambaste a Ross Hunter production is like flogging a sponge."

Pauline Kael, Reeling (1976)

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"We will never know the extent of the damage movies are doing to us, but movie art, it appears, thrives on moral chaos. When the country is paralyzed, the popular culture may tell us why. After innocence, winners become losers. Movies are probably inuring us to corruption; the sellout is the hero-survivor for our times."

Pauline Kael, Reeling (1976)

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"The Way We Were is a fluke -- a torpedoed ship full of gaping holes which comes snugly into port."

Pauline Kael, Reeling (1976)

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"There is something spurious about the very term 'a movie made for TV,' because what you make for TV is a TV program."

Pauline Kael, Reeling (1976)

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"Television as we have it isn't an art form -- it's a piece of furniture that is good for a few things."

Pauline Kael, Reeling (1976)

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"For perhaps most Americans, TV is an apppliance, not to be used selectively but to be turned on -- there's always something to watch."

Pauline Kael, Reeling (1976)

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"Television represents what happens to a medium when the artists have no power and the businessmen are in full, unquestioned control. "

Pauline Kael, Reeling (1976)

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"The Night Porter is said to be a runaway hit in Italy and France and to have made a big star of Charlotte Rampling, but surely one twinkle doesn't make a star."

Pauline Kael, Reeling (1976)

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" [Anthony Quinn] needs a personality transplant."

Pauline Kael, in Celebrity Research Group, The Bedside Book of Celebrity Gossip (1984)

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"Movies that are consciously life-affirming are to be consciously avoided ... "

Pauline Kael, Hooked (1989)

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"At the end, Schwarzenegger makes his ritual preparations for the climactic showdown, decking himself out in leather, packing up an arsenal of guns, and, as he leaves his apartment, copping a quick look of satisfaction in the mirror. It's his only love scene."

Pauline Kael, Hooked (1989)

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"An avidity for more is built into the love of movies. Something else is built in: you have to be open to the idea of getting drunk on movies. (Being able to talk about movies with someone -- to share the giddy high excitement you feel -- is enough for a friendship.)"

Pauline Kael, Movie Love (1991)

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"Rain Man is Dustin Hoffman humping one note on a piano for two hours and eleven minutes."

Pauline Kael, Movie Love (1991)

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"For a while in the twenties and thirties, art was talked about as a substitute for religion; now B movies are a substitute for religion."

Pauline Kael, Movie Love (1991)

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"Meryl Streep just about always seems miscast. (She makes a career out of seeming to overcome being miscast.)"

Pauline Kael, Movie Love (1991)

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"If you're afraid of movies that excite your senses, you're afraid of movies. "

Pauline Kael, 1978, in Newsweek (1991)

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"What this generation was bred to at television's knees was not wisdom but cynicism."

Pauline Kael

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"If you use Hollywood as the test tissue for mankind, what could the prognosis be?"

Pauline Kael

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" Good movies make you care, make you believe in possibilities again. "

Pauline Kael

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Pauline Kael, U.S. film critic, writer
(1919 - 2001)