Critic Quality Feed

  • Well, hullo!
    Flea market luck brought me this Critic Quality Feed sign decades ago; it’s been on the wall ever since.  This Christmas, Eden and Michael, one-third of my unruly, adventurous brood, made it the logo and title of their inspired present: this blog. Now it’s up to me. Sheila Benson
  • Watching Her Watching Them
    Lord, what a joy it was to watch Meryl Streep at the Kennedy Center Honors.  She’s long since mastered the trick of being heaped with praise; she just comes out and says it’s not really the worst thing that ever happened and even suggests (slyly, smiling) that she may just have done something to deserve … Continue reading
  • The world of Karel Reisz
    I was newly minted as the Los Angeles Times Critic when The French Lieutenant’s Woman opened to great fanfare in the fall of 1981.  I was still wildly conscious that the people who made these films, and knew them from the inside out, were reading what I wrote.  I also cared desperately for the film and … Continue reading
  • A Streep for all seasons, especially this one
    Have not awakened from deep Streep mode over here. Partly because the Weinstein Company has been working her like a dog to see that The Iron Lady gets a decent lift-off. Thus her Kennedy Center Honors now, a Vogue cover, a Newsweek cover, plus an appearance – and an unsurprising win — at the otherwise … Continue reading
  • Notes From the Bottom of Every Office Pool
    Let’s pick through this year’s full-on melodrama at the Academy Award nominations and see what seems to stand out.  Is this deep, inside stuff you can take to the betting window or the office pool?  Good heavens no. I’m habitually awful at that game.  This is a bemused look around by someone a little off … Continue reading
  • Losses and Gains
    Very mixed bag, in and around the Oscars this week.  At Park City, Utah, the Sundancers had the heaviest kind of pall thrown over their festival when one of the pioneer Indie good guys, Bingham Ray, there as always, suffered a stroke and died at a Provo hospice at 57. During its too-short life span, … Continue reading
  • The Wonder That Is Margaret
    Never, ever dismiss a grassroots movement (just ask Elizabeth Warren). Or the indignation of film critics, denied the chance to see what one of their clan has called “One of the year’s, even the decade’s, cinematic wonders.”  The result has been a flurry of petitions, blog-wails and unkind aspersions directed at Fox Seachlight, from here … Continue reading
  • I Owe You This Much
    A few people have asked about the Margaret in Margaret, as well they might.  My apologies!   I think she was ungallantly left behind during a cut-and-paste from another version, although this may also have had something to do with it. In any case, here she is: “Margaret, whom we discover must be called Mar-gar-et to … Continue reading
  • Pina Bausch
    Wim Wenders’ magnificent Pina began as a 3-D collaboration with the German dancer-choreographer and her troupe.  It was completed after Wenders and her dancers, some of whom had been with her for 30 years, came to grips with their shock and grief over her sudden death, 5 days after she learned she was ill. You … Continue reading
  • Nobody Does It Better or Morphine Through A Drip?
    Before we get into BAFTA, here are a pair of presents. Looking up from the work at hand — bringing home as many Oscars as possible — a couple of studios have watched what big money PACs have wrought, and liked what they saw: money = influence. .  No, no, no, this time it’s a … Continue reading
  • In shock over the Academy’s stats? Not so much.
    So, after an 8-month effort of digging, cross-referencing, and prying the news out of agents and publicists that their clients are in the prestigious Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the Los Angeles Times released its bombshell Sunday. Academy members are: 94% white 77% male 54% over 60 years old Board members, reportedly surprised … Continue reading
  • A Night Swung Between Two Oscars
    The secret of having a fine night watching the Academy Awards is having a horse in the race, and I had two: Meryl Streep, whom I couldn’t bear to see lose again, not after that performance, and Undefeated, a documentary longshot about high school football players in North Memphis,Tennessee, that didn’t stand a chance in … Continue reading
  • David Lynch Sure Got My Number
    You may have noticed I’ve been away. (Consider me desolate if this is a complete surprise.) Anyone remember David Lynch’s Angriest Dog in the World, a staple in alternative weeklies between ’83 to’92?  It was an unvarying 4-panel cartoon strip-cum-pressure valve featuring a furious black dog, teeth bared, straining at the chain that holds him … Continue reading
  • Ray Bradbury and the Westwood Bookstore
    Last night, Stephen Colbert’s brilliant bow to Ray Bradbury, a writer he revered, had that click of rightness that annihilates other attempts at tribute. It shot me straight back to my college years of working at the great Westwood Book Store, in UCLA’s nearby Village. It wasn’t the biggest, but it was hands-down the … Continue reading
  • Putty in his hands
    I read WILD recently, reading slowly to make it last. If you know me at all, you know that I’m the least likely reader living for first-person endurance tests.  This one’s a stubborn, wrong-headed solo trek along the treacherous Pacific Crest Trail by a 26-year old who seems not to have had as much as S’mores … Continue reading
  • I’m declaring amnesty!
    You can’t know how happy it has made me to see that stalwarts of the 24-hour news cycle and front runners in the race for an opinion on everything that matters have begun to buckle. Writers deeply practiced in the wonders of technology are suddenly muttering about their desperately paced lives, as they scramble to … Continue reading
  • Oh, for goodness sake!
    Now, do you see what I mean about my uphill slog against technology? No, I did not send out a blog with all the links sideways and cattywampus. When I checked them, every one of the three links in the blog you just got this afternoon worked.  Then, when I went back later, to bask … Continue reading
  • Logos, Lauren, and the GOP
    In keeping with that promise I made to try to keep things current around here, I’m going to let go of a few oddments I’ve been saving or brooding about lately. First, I want to share this logo, sent to me by my favorite graphic designer. When I tried to give him credit, he said, … Continue reading
  • Promises, Promesses: A great film returns
    Here again so soon?  I know, and it may never happen again, but just as I was posting Wednesday’s  CQF, this urgent piece, The Legitimate Children of Rape, turned up on the New Yorker’s website. It’s a devastating, factual corollary to the conjecture and imaginings of that last CQF post, and as such it’s real … Continue reading
  • Argo and me — the back story
    I started to describe why Argo struck me as brilliant and almost unendurable, all at once, but that’s silly. Just drop everything and go.  For such a full-throttle, gripping, movie-goer’s-movie, it has depths that linger — certainly at this house. I haven’t been writing for a while.  Even before the September 11th attacks in Benghazi, … Continue reading
  • From Abraham Lincoln to Eiko Ishioka, wot a year it has been
    Well, here we are again, friends.  The Academy Award nominations are upon us. For voting members it opens the sluice-gates to six weeks of more “friendly” persuasion than the NRA at that Tucson gun buy-back. The rest of us can expect a deluge of guesses and pronouncements from folks not vastly smarter than we are … Continue reading
  • What’s kept Argo’s flame burning brightly
    I have a hunch about what’s helped keep Argo’s awards slowly, stubbornly piling up inside Hollywood: Benghazi and its seemingly interminable fallout. Argo opened one month and a day after that murderous attack. It was a month that reshaped what we knew about the realities of  “diplomacy” when, in the presence of the President and … Continue reading
  • Oscar detritus and a mad Academy Award daydream
    Waded through many double-page newspaper ads lately? Checked any late-night talk shows? With Academy balloting closing today  it’s last ditch stand time for nominees, who’ve suddenly popped up on every flat surface to remind Academy voters of their existence. It’s not just the ballots. . .although it IS, of course. But also, all those end-of-the-year … Continue reading
  • Oscar shows us its boobs: MacFarlane & Co.
    God love Tom Shales and this Tweet last night:  “For the first time ever the Oscar show is worse than the Red Carpet crap that preceded it.” For anyone who does not regularly rejoice in the work of the  former Washington Post TV critic and Pulitzer Prize winner, he blogs here.   For fear of suddenly … Continue reading
  • Oscar p.s.
    Oh crumb buns! This should teach me always to crib from my betters. I just did read Tom Shales’ nifty Oscar piece, and realized to my horror that I had left out three of the night’s highlights: Shirley Bassey and her full-throated reprise of Goldfinger; Adele, and what turned out to be her Oscar-winning performance … Continue reading
  • Kite Day
    Because September 22nd was a beautifully windy Sunday, my husband and I, and my dear, visiting brother, Jerry, went to exercise Herman’s big, wonderful rip-stop nylon two-handed kite, sort of a rainbow-colored flying wing, at Gas Works Park. He was doing so nicely with it that he offered me the reins. I took the left … Continue reading
  • The Quilt Room — and beyond
    More than high time for some fresh news, clearly it’s Fall at our house. Made it to the second visit to the Orthopedic Clinic in our own car.  Everyday stuff for you, I know. You weren’t along for our first Yellow Cab wheelchair van experience, where a strong and patient driver helped Herman lock and … Continue reading
  • Errors, omissions and general hilarity: it’s Awards nomination time again
    Appalling to discover what it takes to get me back here, isn’t it?  Nominations morning. Kiss and cry time.  So much real, consequential stuff came down during the last months of 2013, yet, mostly, I hung back from writing.  Omit a few names on the Academy Award ballot and I’m fired up, ready to go. … Continue reading
  • The remarkable Mr. Champlin
    It’s rare that you can say that one person changed the trajectory of your life, and for the better. Charles Champlin, who changed mine in every way, died on Sunday. He was 88, and at the end he had Alzheimer’s but the earlier deviltry was that in 1999, he’d developed age-related macular degeneration that left … Continue reading
  • Wait, wait! First the Golden Globes, THEN the Oscar nominations.
    I know, I know: old and slow. My only possible defense is that we have either been guests or had guests since December 23rd, a sojourn involving passports, dear distant family, dear semi-distant friends and a last emotional good-bye at the airport yesterday. The cats barely know what lap to turn to, while I’m summoning … Continue reading
  • “The Citizen Kane of the digital era. . .”
                    That’s not me talking. That’s what the great editor (great friend) Dov Hoenig said about  Birdman the other day, as his wife Zoe and I were trying to shorten the distance between London and Seattle over the phone. My enthusiasms you can take with a giant grain of salt.  Dov’s you should take very … Continue reading
  • Balanchine, Robbins and the Egg McMuffin
    To watch a dancer pass down the details of a signature role, gesture to gesture, body to body can be like watching the flow of electricity. Or an excessively polite family squabble, “On the diagonal? Really??” It can be generous and at the same time carry the faintest sheen of regret. It is never dull. … Continue reading
  • Remembering Balanchine
    This George Platt Lynes study of George Balanchine with School of American Ballet students was on the cover of the School’s brochure scant years after I entered, and I’ve always loved it. (The boy is 10-year-old Edward Villella.) Only in our dreams would Mr. B. feel the need to work with dancers at our level. … Continue reading
  • Oscar, You’re Breaking My Heart (but you always do)
    I have no proof whatever that when the final ballots were tallied, late at night at the Academy, and the prospect of a second year of the dreaded hashtag #OscarsSoWhite hung over the room, considerable thought was given to The Messenger of this news. Messengers. I do know that it was really nice to see … Continue reading
  • The regular guy, the acquired taste, and where we were on 9/11
    Hullo, my dear doughty friends: I am happier to be doing this again than you can imagine. Time to time, I get tagged with being, shall we say, a mite removed from How The Real World Works. It still amuses my husband to watch me at a soda machine trying to get WATER, which is … Continue reading
  • The View from Here – with Updates and Predictions
    Unless you live in Seattle, where it’s been hard to lift the head off the pillow to stare into one more day of grey dampness, diversion seems to have been afoot in the world. UPDATE: this morning the Seattle Times put a number to my kvetching: this winter’s unrelenting rain has broken a 122-year record … Continue reading
  • Who I’m Reading Now – And Why (Grand Prizewinner: Zzzzzzzz Headline of 2017)
    As holder of the Miss Prothero chair of this scattered family, never content unless she has provided something for someone, anyone, friends, family, firemen, acquaintances, passersby, to read, it’s been a heady month. Over at The New Yorker, its Daily Shouts editors must be panting like greyhounds, tongues lolling, with fresh outrage arriving on the … Continue reading
  • Considering Crystal Pite
    Is Crystal Pite’s Plot Point, one-third of PNB’s enfolding fascination Her Story, as consequential and prophetic as Le Sacre de printemps (The Rite of Spring), a landmark moment of cultural shit-disturbance? To the Parisians of 1913,  Sacre with Igor Stravinsky’s dissonant, “barbaric” score, and Nijinsky’s iconographic “anti-balletic” choreography were an invitation to a riot that May evening in … Continue reading