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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Pale Muse with the discerning eye and the sharp tongue
Pauline Kael and movie criticism was at its height when American and foreign movies were at their height. The two go hand in hand. The high quality of the movies of the time made for inspired debate. But even given the fortunate circumstance to be writing at such a time she still stands out because she brings to her criticism not just an appreciation of film but an...
Published on January 11, 2002 by Doug Anderson

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3.0 out of 5 stars Check your movie library!
This book is great, if you don't already own any Pauline Kael movie books. It's a compilation of several other volumes, with some new material. I didn't read the notes about it carefully enough before buying. It has a lot of information I have in other books.
Published 17 months ago by maymay


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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Pale Muse with the discerning eye and the sharp tongue, January 11, 2002
By 
Doug Anderson (Miami Beach, Florida United States) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
Pauline Kael and movie criticism was at its height when American and foreign movies were at their height. The two go hand in hand. The high quality of the movies of the time made for inspired debate. But even given the fortunate circumstance to be writing at such a time she still stands out because she brings to her criticism not just an appreciation of film but an appreciation of art in all its forms. She is one of the few critics who can discuss Lolita or Women in Love or Sheltering Sky or Unbearable Lightness of Being as both literary work and film. She never really limits herself to being an expert on film, she always seems to be coming from some other expertise (like literature) and so she brings an authority and perhaps legitamacy to film criticism by talking about films in a way usually reserved for books. She believes more than anything else in the potential for film to be great, perhaps as great as literature, and I think her reviews are attempts to do her part in lifting the art form. Her belief in Bertolucci as one of films geniuses for instance is undiminished by the fact that she doesn't seem to like many of his films(Last Tango excepted). She is at her best when reviewing a great film like Altman's McCabe and Mrs. Miller, or Truffaut's Story of Adele H. at which time one can only sit back and listen as she is nothing short of inspired, ecstastic, and it is infectious. It is dissappointing that film never achieved the status she had in mind for it and she was dissappointed at the direction the art form went. her later reviews are still good but really the spark was gone by 75 or 76. She presided over what might be films greatest period(67-75). While the great directors were producing their best work she was the one who understood them first, so she will always be equated with that period, not merely a critic but a champion of an art form.
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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Cinema's most influential critic., December 30, 2000
By 
Augustus Caesar, Ph.D. (Eugene, Oregon United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: For Keeps: 30 Years at the Movies (Paperback)
Love her or hate her (or both), it cannot be denied that Pauline Kael was the most important, witty, insightful, maddening, funny, infuriating, exhilirating and incisive movie critic of all time. For me, the only critic that equals her is her antithesis, the great Stanley Kauffmann. Kael burst upon the scene in the 1960s (though her first review appeared in 1953) and movie criticism has never been the same since. With her conversational, waspish prose style and absolute belief in the rightness of her convictions, Kael had a talent for inspiring both intense debate and intense thought. Her reviews were often more anticipated than the movies she wrote about. Her retirement in 1991 due to Parkinson's was a great loss for both movies and American literature: she was definitely one of the great essayists of the 20th century.
"For Keeps" is the definitive one volume Kael collection. From some of her earliest 1950s reviews to her last reviews for The New Yorker in 1991, virtually every important essay she ever wrote is here. Her most famous and controversial reviews (on "Nashville," "Last Tango in Paris," "The Godfather" and "Stardust Memories") are all included, as well as her legendary "Citizen Kane" essay, "Raising Kane." While Kael was an intellectual, writing for a (presumably) literate and educated audience, she was no cinema snob. Her joy in movies extended from Ingmar Bergman to "The Spy Who Loved Me."
This is one of the great books on film ever published and a must have for any movie fan.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great American Criticism, May 1, 2000
This review is from: For Keeps: 30 Years at the Movies (Paperback)
It's said that what distinguishes a great critic from a good critic is that a great critic's work will stand on its own, even after the material he or she has written about has faded away, been forgotten, or lost appeal. Kael's writing is of the great kind - truly memorable and insightful, even when removed from the context of cinema.
This is a huge book, and one the reader should dip into, not read straight through. But what is contained within the pages is some of the most intelligent, passionate, and controversial ideas about movies available. I don't want to suggest that Kael is middle of the road, because she ceratinly isn't, but what her makes her unique (and quite enjoyable) is that she neither plays to the lowest common denominator nor plays to the elitist crowd. She is staunchly, proudly, individualistic, and if lowbrows may be offended by her criticisms of popular favorites, highbrows will be just as outraged at her scathing dismissals of pompous auteurs. On one hand, Kael lambasts "West Side Story" and refers to "The Sound of Music" as the Sound of Mucus, but on the other hand, she calls Fellini on his pretentions, trashes Kubrick's "2001" as an "amateur movie," and yawns her way through Wim Wenders' angel extravaganza. Such dismissals can come as a shock to the well-meaning film enthusiast, but the trashing of sacred cows is refreshing as well as disturbing.
But there's so much more to this book than cheap shots. If Kael hates the films that fail to measure up to her standards, she adores those that do, and page after page is filled with warm praise regarding some of the finest cinematic works to grace screens since the mid-1960's. For helpful, intelligent reviews of films such as "Taxi Driver," "Nashville," "The Godfather," "Citizen Kane," and "Last Tango in Paris," look no further.
Perhaps Kael's greatest gift is her ability to write in such a way that her knowledge and ideas can be removed from the discussion of film, and applied to life in general. For keen insights into politics, morals, history, theory, art, and philosophy, Ms. Kael's reviews serve a greater purpose than mere movie writing. Her essays are great criticism, bar genre.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Acerbic analysis from one of the best......., November 5, 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: For Keeps: 30 Years at the Movies (Paperback)
Before the Age of Shalit and Siegel, there was Pauline Kael: uncompromisingly tough, outrageous, and never fearful of holding film to the highest of standards. In our current climate of yes-men, boosterism, and trite sound-bites ("A Thrill-Ride!", "Stunning!", etc.), we tend to forget that film can be dissected, penetrated, and endlessly analyzed. Kael was off the mark on numerous occasions, but she always provided well-reasoned and undeniably logical arguments. Incorporating film history, allusions, and a scholarly understanding of acting, lighting, direction, and screenwriting, Kael reinforced the notion that film could be much more than mindless, popcorn entertainment. True, most of the reviews are from the 1970s, but let us remember that she retired from the scene in the early 1990s. At the very least, Kael stimulates debate and it is impossible not to be pushed to defend one's cinematic choices after reading (and re-reading) this massive volume.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars R.I.P. Pauline, September 4, 2001
By 
J. Greg Clark (Atlanta, GA United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: For Keeps: 30 Years at the Movies (Paperback)
I'm writing this as the obituaries pour in. Pauline Kael was not just my favorite movie critic, but my favorite writer, period. A great writer's work can take root in your cerebral cortex (for keeps), change the way that you look at and appreciate art, and inspire and infuriate you in equal measure. Pauline Kael's writings are the lodestone of movie criticism. I truly believe that one cannot claim to be a movie fanatic and yet be unfamiliar with her pieces. Mind-expanding, joyous, passionate, often hysterically funny. Why aren't you clicking to your shopping cart now?
All of the working film critics are mere matchstick men. Buy and read this book and find out why.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Passionate movie love (even if you disagree with her), November 24, 1998
By 
Modemac (Cambridge, MA United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: For Keeps: 30 Years at the Movies (Paperback)
Whether you love her or hate her, there's one thing that can be her lovely prose on the high art of movies is a joy to read and a wonder to behold. (She never called them "films" because the word sounds too sophisticated and upper-class for such a mainstream medium.) Her reviews always make you think twice about the movies, and she has the courage to dare to attack those motion pictures considered timeless classics (calling "Casablanca" an example of "how entertaining a bad movie can be") and the insight and encyclopedic knowledge to back her claims with well-prepared arguments. Even when you find yourself violently disagreeing with her opinion (and you will disagree with her in places, I guarantee...her review of "The Sound Of Music" resulted in her being fired from her position at "The Atlantic" magazine!), you'll find yourself shaking your head and even understanding why she feels that way about some films...why she considers some two-bit hack films to be extraordinary marvels, while some of the greatest motion pictures of all time suffer from her barbed, witty poignancy. Her obvious biases do tend to flavour her reviews (she obviously has a heavy crush on Brian De Palma, while she despises Norman Mailer with a passion bordering on hate) but her writing is considered one of the cornerstones of modern-day film criticism. Along with the writing of James Agee, Kael's works are the standard to which all other film criticism is compared, outshining even such popular writers as Roger Ebert book you will want to keep; and if you are learning about the great classics of the cinema, it's a book you will return to time and time again
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Provocative and Stimulating, May 18, 2005
This review is from: For Keeps: 30 Years at the Movies (Paperback)
An important point to make here is that Kael understood this:

To write interestingly about a film, you need a point of view, and an opinion about it.

This she always, always had. And she expressed them with incredible wit and grace. I don't think she would have expected readers to always agree with her. How boring is that? No doubt Kael would love a spirited discussion of the good and bad points of cinema -- particularly with viewers who shared her true passion for cinema.

If you rate this book down because you don't agree with Kael's opinions of films, you are missing the point.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars WHY IS THIS OUT OF PRINT?, December 1, 1999
This review is from: For Keeps: 30 Years at the Movies (Paperback)
Omnibus edition spanning the career of our finest film critic. Nearly every major essay Miss Kael ever published is included here, and even though the material towards the end of her New Yorker gig sags somewhat (well, so did the movies she wrote about), FOR KEEPS is still the most important volume of movie writing ever issued in America. You might find yourself in violent disagreement with her in places, and so what? If you love movies and have any sense of history, you'll be engaged waist-deep in this book from the get-go. HOW can this be out of print?
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars nonfiction at its best, April 29, 2001
By 
"gregk23" (Bllomsburg, PA USA) - See all my reviews
Kael's writings on film are a sheer pleasure to read. She's strongly opinionated and not afraid to voice her thoughts. Her reviews and essays take you on an intellectual journey and leave you feeling the same passion for movies, art, and even intelligent thought - all the things that come across clearly in her writing. This collection is superb, better than 5001 nights in my opinion because it includes the full reviews and essays of her best work and most prominent movies, rather than abbreviated samplings of reviews and essays. Kael is at her best on long discourses, in which her sharp prose and intelligence take center stage. All of her books are excellent, but this is the equivalent of a two or three volume greatest hits anthology, spanning her entire career - easily worth buying.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Seminal--opening the door to a life well-spent watching movies, July 2, 2010
This review is from: For Keeps: 30 Years at the Movies (Paperback)
Pauline Kael was as influential in my movie-viewing pursuits as Nat Hentoff was in my early love of jazz. Born in a Puritanical parsonage, where both of the former "diversions" were little more than the devil's workshop, I wanted an apologist--and not a moralistic, didactic or pedantic one. Kael brought to her writings about the experience of watching remarkable films an excitement and passion that proved contagious, corresponding with the sense of discovery--of the world at large as well as the universe of self--to be gained from great literature and music. She went beyond the mere "story," or script, to the "mis en scene," or the meanings and life in film itself, insisting that this potentially cumbersome industry behave less like the Navy's largest leaden vessel than a seaworthy craft capable of tacking an individual course through the most treacherous waters. She looked for "significance" but only later: first, came the challenge confronting every creative artist whose primary responsibility is to the marketplace--perhaps not unlike the problems confronting the individual person in a social world characterized less by originality than the necessity of dealing with the bureaucratic, the homogenous, the hegemonic on a daily basis. But for Kael the profit motive, though necessary, was never excuse for bad movies; at best, it was testament to the cleverness and resourcefulness of filmmakers like Hitchcock who could realize a monetary gain in spite of the numerous ironclad circumstances seeming to rule out films of spontaneity, life and character. Look at any number of movie reviews, and more often than not the reviewer's discussion concerns the script, or "story," rather than the movie experience, or "discourse." Kael understood, and managed to convey, the life made possible by the filmmaker's art, whether by calculation or, as in the case of a Robert Altman, serendipity--movie making as an improvisatory exercise, or aleatory visual music.

The majority of movies are formulaic exercises aimed at reaching the widest possible audience, thus guaranteeing a profitable return on what is usually an investment running into many millions of dollars. Writing movie scripts, in turn, has become less of an adventure than a formal discipline yielding tired, predictable results that would make a Leni Riefenstahl propaganda film look like a personal, imaginative triumph by comparison. First, there was Syd Field's ubiquitous manual with its gospel-like litany of rules governing any screen-play, from the number of climaxes to their precise positioning; next came the computer programs for writing screenplays, most using a "fill-in-the-blank" approach following the same reductive pattern of the "hero's journey," one of the most popular latter-day Jungian archetypes. Thousands of screenplay hopefuls have been taught the same way--the opening scene, the importance and placement of the indispensable 'plot points," the kind of closure guaranteed to send the audience out of the theater more blinded by reality than ever but no less desirous of returning for another temporary escape. That's the "business" of the dream factory, and it would appear the reviewer's role has been reduced to little more than helping the reader decide if two dreams--the one that's been fabricated and the one that's awaiting illustration in the consumer's psyche--match up.

Kael knew the traditions, rules and restrictions of cinema, all of which contributed to heighten her awareness of the differences that really mattered--the moments of genuine spontaneity, serendipity, life. Not that movies should be servile "imitations of life," but Kael showed that a popular, collaborative art like film can be informed, insightful, life-affirming. Optimally, film is both "truth 24 frames per second" (Godard) and "a ribbon of dreams" (Orson Welles)--Hemingway's "lie that tells the truth," albeit on a grand, public scale. Kael was able to show how films like "Citizen Kane" combine sophisticated technique and technology with individual imagination and creativity to produce images filling a space that is best seen as a "screen-mirror." It tantalizes with images offering vicarious experiences; it provokes with images of startling self-recognition. It is at once the most individualized and the most archetypal of expressions, and we are served best by those rare films that affect us equally and simultaneously on both levels.

What impressed me about Pauline Kael (as well as Roger Ebert) was her ability to fully "get" the unique importance of "mavericks" like Robert Altman, and the sheer joy that any serious student of the cinema (and of life) must derive from viewing films as spontaneous and even extemporaneous yet imaginative and inspired as "Nashville." The images of such films remain indelibly imprinted on the viewer's "mindscreen" for many years, even decades, after they've left the celluloid screen. And therein lies the true brilliance and importance of film--not in cookie-cutter scripts, more formulas calculated to extract dollars from the masses, more and more special effects (that soon become affectless, numbing, anesthetic intervals)--but in playful and resourceful, informed and imaginative representations that simply refuse to be corrupted by the technology and business behind their making.

The present millennium at times seems light-years away from Kael's era, yet certain films--perhaps "There Will Be Blood"--serve as reminders that visionary temperaments such as hers are still here--behind the screen and even, if only rarely, on it. It helps to have teachers like Kael, if only to catch those rare, infrequent glimpses of a popular entertainment becoming for just a moment--and in the moment--the most vital art of all.
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For Keeps: 30 Years at the Movies
For Keeps: 30 Years at the Movies by Pauline Kael (Paperback - September 1, 1996)
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