Pauline Kael - Brutally honest criticism and BALLS!

For the bulk of my writing and rantings, I easily pound away on the keyboard knowing that people are either going to extensively hate or love my piece. It's not something I spend a lot of time worrying over. However, when I have been asked to put together a review or article for more important companies, I get a little nervous. I always worry that they're going to be offended by my work or that it's not going to be good enough for their standards. My writing style has two faces. Here you get brutally honest with nothing but disgust or excitement and elsewhere you get a dishonest forced pile of bore. Wouldn't you agree that there's a loud voice missing for the horror genre? At least, when it comes to journalism. A good friend of mine told me to check out Pauline Kael's reviews for inspiration. How is it that I never came across this woman's work? She has become my new hero. In my opinion, every film website/magazine needs at least one Pauline. This is something you don't see anymore. Can you name one website that has a writer who really stands out with a ferocious personality? All of their work reads the same and it's all complete lies. I don't believe you when you say that Wrong Turn 4 is a magnificent piece of art with qualified actors and good screen writing to boot. You are such a liar! Granted, everyone has their own opinion on what's good and what's not. I don't agree with all of Kael's reviews. I stayed up all night studying her work and what her colleagues had to say about her. Not only did the little woman have a voice, she had balls..... something that's missing from this genre of film critics. It's called confidence, not arrogance. I feel like Kael and I have so much in common after reading about her. George Hill wrote her a letter that read, "Listen you miserable bitch, you've got every right in the world to air your likes and dislikes but you got no goddamn right at all to fake at my expense a phony technical knowledge you simply don't have." Often, individuals called her a bully. I too have been called a miserable bully a few times for my harsh opinions. Kael took pleasure out of reading that letter just like I took pleasure out of a grown man insecure enough to call me miserable because he disagreed with my writing. In case you're reading, I'm fine thanks!

This woman has had such a positive influence on writers all over America. She has been called the Elvis of film critics. Her body of work is so impressive, I must invest in one of the books that compiles a lot of her reviews together. Don't you prefer passionate arguments on film over mediocre conversations about film? She was fired from McCalls for her review on The Sound of Music but according to Stein, the magazine's editor, he fired her months later after she kept dissing every mainstream film. Kael had a disliking to films that were too mainstream. She began writing for The New Republic but they kept altering her work and refused to publish her extremely long review on Bonnie and Clyde. She praised the film whereas a lot of critics seemed to be bewildered by it. William Shawn of The New Yorker wanted to run the piece and he did. This review made her famous. Kael joined their staff and stayed with them for years until 1991. Throughout these years, Shawn and Kael would get into several disagreements but in the end, she always won. After her negative review on Badlands, Shawn said, "I guess you didn't know that Terry is like a son to me." Kael responds with "tough shit." Her review was printed with no changes. The only battle she seemed to lose was the effort to publish a review on the film Deep Throat. In 1968, Time magazine considered her to be one of the country's top movie critics.

Kael often enraged some and was ridiculed by others but there's no denying her talent and wit. Being highly opinionated and honest doesn't mean you're a bad writer. Orson Wells was hurt by her review on Raising Kane and he considered suing her for libel. She has been accused of being a homophobe after her statement about Rich and Famous being "more like a homosexual fantasy." She is also Jewish and claims people viewed Shoah as a film people consider a masterpiece by admiring subject over its film making. Her parents were Jewish immigrates from Poland. It's not that she was downing the subject matter, she was simply critiquing the poor film making. She had a tendency to bash Jewish actors because she felt they were always over doing it. I don't believe it has anything to do with being prejudice. In her review for The Poseiden Adventure, she was a little mean towards Shelly Winters stating that she was “so enormously fat she goes way beyond the intention to create a warm, sympathetic Jewish character. It’s like having a whale tell you you should love her because she’s Jewish.” Even though she could be mean at times, examples of her work are still popular and praised in books and all over the internet.

I guess what I'm trying to say is, can there please be more Pauline Kael's in this industry?


  1. Hey Rebekah, very nice piece on Kael. You might also be interested in the blog entry Roger Ebert wrote about her:



  2. I've read that but thanks! I also love Ebert.


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