À mon chevet is a series of posts featuring a quote from whatever book is on my nightstand at the moment.
This recent biography of Pauline Kael, the former film critic for The New Yorker, has been a good read, giving me a chance to see where and how that intriguing critical voice came to be.
Those who didn't like Pauline's work objected to her caustic tone and what they perceived as her superior, even slightly condescending, attitude, and they often used her bashing of fellow critics as evidence against her, claiming that her lack of collegiality bordered on the unprofessional. But to Pauline, it was essential to draw attention to the ways in which she felt critics had strayed from the path. She believed that they wielded enormous power with the public, and it pained her to see them guiding their readers to what she considered the wrong kind of movies and not giving a fair shake to the ones she felt deserved to be widely seen. Even though she was unpaid, she increasingly approached her reviewing job with a missionary zeal.
Film, like jazz and popular music, had an advantage over other traditional art forms because it had not received a cultural stamp of approval in advance; it was "something we wanted, not something fed to us." She went on: "Surely only social deviates would say to a child, 'What's the matter with you, why don't you want to go to the movies?' Kids don't have to get all dressed up or go with an adult the way they do to a Leonard Bernstein concert, shiny and flushed with the privilege of being there. No cultural glow suffuses the Saturday afternoon movie audience; they are still free to react as they feel like reacting, with derision or excitement or disappointment or whatever. . . . Going to a movie doesn't wind up with the horrors of reprimands for your restlessness, with nervous reactions, tears, and family disappointments that you weren't up to it. It's only a movie. What beautiful words. At the movies, you're left gloriously alone. You can say it stinks and nobody's shocked."
-- Brian Kellow, Pauline Kael: A Life in the Dark, pp. 66-67, 89