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5001 Nights at the Movies (Holt Paperback) Paperback – May 15, 1991

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Editorial Reviews Review

This series of capsule movie reviews by the great Pauline Kael is actually an anthology of her writings for the "Goings on About Town" section of the New Yorker magazine. In 5001 Nights, Kael digs into the heart of each movie she considers with extraordinary penetration and exuberance. And while every movie you know may not appear here, each of Kael's reviews is detailed enough to provide tremendous insight into the movies that are covered. This book is as much fun to browse as it is to read through. Whether you've run the rounds at your local video store, Kael will lead you to treasures you may not know are out there.


“She is, indeed, the Edmund Wilson of film reviewers.” ―Larry McMurtry

“She's the best film critic we've got.” ―Details

“A great critic…with a body of criticism that can be compared with Shaw's criticism of music and the theatre.” ―The Times Literary Supplement (London)

“Kael changed the way we see. Poets aren't the only unacknowledged legislators of the world; great critics write the text as well.” ―San Francisco Examiner


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Product Details

  • Series: Holt Paperback
  • Paperback: 960 pages
  • Publisher: Henry Holt and Company (May 15, 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805013679
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805013672
  • Product Dimensions: 7.5 x 1.9 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #508,523 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 24, 2000
Format: Paperback
Gosh... Movie reviewers can certainly offend easily. I agree with Pauline Kael's assessments roughly 50% of the time, but I still love reading her. She is always intelligent (even when she is wrong wrong wrong) --- and what a great writer! She manages to be "mean" over and over again without exactly being mean-spirited. And why on earth is a movie reviewer not supposed to have political opinions? I never understand this peculiarly American criticism. Can you review "Triumph of the Will" or "Rambo" or "La Chinoise" without venturing into the realm of politics? Probably, but why would you want to? I don't think the type of person who makes this criticism is really looking for a dry, studied dissection of film technique, but perhaps I'm wrong. Anyway, she's no more "political" than any other worthwhile reviewer I can think of. This book is full of buried treasures --- quite a few films in it that I had never even heard of before. It's just a darned entertaining read, too. Every few pages, there is a laugh-out-loud funny turn of phrase. Usually a pretty mean turn of phrase but it's hard to have harsh feelings towards someone who writes, for example, in her review of "Funny Lady", "The moviemakers weren't just going to make a sequel to 'Funny Girl'---they were going to kill us." Or, in a review of "The Last Tycoon", " enervated, it's like a vampire movie after the vampires have left."
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29 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Jay Dickson VINE VOICE on January 5, 2003
Format: Paperback
Since this book first came out in the mid 1980s I have gone through no less than four well-thumbed, well-handled editions that have fallen apart from overuse. This is a compendium of all Pauline Kael's shorter reviews from the front of THE NEW YORKER, and it has perhaps given me more pleasure than any other book in my life. By no means exhaustive (Kael even made a gesture towards its ultimate incompleteness by neglecting to comment directly on GONE WITH THE WIND and THE WIZARD OF OZ), the book covers more films than you would imagine, and its always fun to see what Kael saw and what she thought about it. Her aesthetic--simultaneously magisterial and informal, Olympian and fun-loving--has been discussed, critiqued, and even criticized to death; yet there is no getting around the fact that she is not only smarter than most other movie critics but also funnier. Her reviews of works as disparate as "The White Cliffs of Dover," "The Sound of Music," and the 1951 "Show Boat," have given me joy for years. Buy this, and see if you don't have to buy yourself another copy when the first one wears out.
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27 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Michael Aita on August 28, 1998
Format: Paperback
This is a very good anthology of Pauline Kael's writings, but capsule reviews are very unsatisfying to those who are familiar with the strengths of her reviews as they were originally written. Kael is known for her flowing, "conversational" writing style; by chopping many of her reviews into two or three paragraphs, the main reasons for reading her in the first place tend to evaporate. In a typical Kael review, she literally layered opinions on top of opinions. It was not enough for her to simply review a movie--she had to express exactly how the directors and actors had grown (or diminished themselves). One looked forward to reading her because she had such a superb way of relating the film she was writing about to other films, whether by the same director or not, and she could intelligently speculate on how the film tied in to current events or may have been a product of them. She would talk expertly about how many films seemed to evolve out of other less superior ones and then expand due to a director's vision and desire to update a particular theme. Kael focused on what a movie is about--what it is really saying--and her dedication and playfulness was quite infectious (the many reviewers who used her style became known as Paulettes.) For a reference book, "5001 Nights At The Movies" is fun to look through; it is full of reviews but it is Kael-lite. She didn't call one of her best books "Deeper Into Movies" for nothing!
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Eugene Koh on July 25, 2003
Format: Paperback
As someone who is just beginning to explore the classics, I love being able to see what Pauline Kael thought about many of the most important movies of our time. Since I often agree with her, it helps me save time and money in determining which movies I want to rent (and if not available to rent, buy). All movie titles are in alphabetical order, and there is an index in the back which contains film titles, directors, actors, etc.
However, the capsule reviews can occasionally be misleading. From the capsules, I thought Pauline liked (or at least didn't dislike) "8 1/2" by Fellini and "Hiroshima Mon Amour" by Resnais. But in her book "I Lost It At The Movies", the full reviews are a pretty harsh pan.
I also wish that she had a "Best Movies" list. Nevertheless, still a very useful (but thick) book.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Miles D. Moore on March 8, 2008
Format: Paperback
Pauline Kael was at her tangy, erudite best in the long-form reviews she wrote for "The New Yorker." Nevertheless, these capsule reviews she culled from her longer articles to comprise "5001 Nights at the Movies" manage to capture the acerbic essence of her style. (There are a few exceptions, such as the bare-bones squib on the Gene Deitch-Jules Feiffer satirical cartoon "Munro," so short and bland that I wonder why they bothered to print it.)

Kael was the first celebrity film critic, and still the most bracing and fun to read, although she can be extremely annoying when you disagree with her. (I don't understand her enthusiasm for John Boorman's indigestible "Excalibur," or her condescending summation of John Ford's masterful "The Quiet Man" as "fearfully Irish and green and hearty," to give two of many examples.) Kael had an encyclopedic knowledge of film technique and history, and she was never afraid to call them the way she saw them. One of her sharpest putdowns was of the Dustin Hoffman-Mia Farrow romantic drama "John and Mary": "Remember when that man in `The Graduate' told Hoffman to go into plastics? Well, he did when he made this one." And she was no respecter of inflated reputations, as when she took on Alain Resnais' revered "Hiroshima, Mon Amour": "Hushed and hypnotic, it makes you feel so conscious of its artistry that you may feel as if you're in church and need to giggle."

Kael excelled at giving readers the exact mood and feel of a movie, and when she was right about a movie, she was very, very right. She puts the finger on Jean Cocteau's "Orphee": "Cocteau's special gift was to raise chic to art.
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