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Showing 1-10 of 20 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 36 reviews
on July 4, 2015
"Pauline Kael: A Life in the Dark" is less a biography than a lengthy recapitulation of Kael’s reviews and other writings. Having read those works (many as they came out) I found Brian Kellow's book tedious and exceptionally unhelpful. As to insight into Kael’s work, Kellow offers far less in hundreds of pages than do Peter Bogdanovich and John Gregory Dunne respectively in the relatively short essays “The Kane Mutiny” and “Pauline.”
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on March 18, 2015
A little sad. There doesn't seem to have been anything going on in her life except movies. 😁 I was the recipient of her kindness. She agreed to read a script of mine.😍 She said it was a good script to forget about. 😘 Her early work is more interesting and more iconoclastic. As she gains fame and the provenance of The New Yorker her work slowly at first begins to suffer. As she gets more influential her contrarian impulses get more pronounced. Look at her review of "A Clockwork Orange" and even her bizarre takedown of a pretty good horror movie "The Exorcist." There are still good pieces. She was right about "Nashville," wrong and weird about "Last Tango in Paris," which despite a superlative ending was not particularly erotic or even provocative. Brando's mprovisation was stuff I'd heard him tell interviewers before. Karl gets credit for her masterful and evocative review of "McCabe and Mrs. Miller," her careful parsing of Sam Pecinpah's "Straw Dogs" and her controversial championship of Brian DePalma, who made silly movies with mindblowing set pieces, most of them sexy and lyrical if usually derivative. In the end Kael needed to be reprimanded for her dogmatism by Renata Adler who wrote a careful, cogent, one thing at a time piece. It's hard to say whether Kael repented. She was immediately surrounded by acolytes like the odious James Wolcott who used to be unbearably clever and smug but has I'm roved with age. Brian Kellow has written a good biography.. Kael's reputation has gone from a slight decline to a fair reassememt. She was a great critic who taught us how to be critics -- discerning moviegoers and maybe more. I keep 5001 Nights at the Movies on my coffee table as a companion piece to Turner Classic Movies. It's fun to read what Pauline Kael has to say.
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on November 9, 2015
Almost unbelievably well researched and full of the
atmospheric background of the times when she was
reviewing movies. I never thought I could be so interested
in Pauline Kael's life but Brian Kellow has done a brilliant job.
The only inaccuracy I noticed was his misspelling of "My
Beautiful Laundrette" (He writes: "Launderette")
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on December 6, 2013
I feel strange writing a capsule review of this book. Karl's reviews were always do in depth.
I don't think I learned more about her here than I did through her writings.
I miss those reviews and this book has reminded me of just how influential she was on my taste in movies and my writings.
The book is well researched but Pauline the Subject is not as interesting as Pauline the Writer.
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on December 21, 2014
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on August 3, 2016
Interesting personality revealed in Kellow's excellent bio. While my respect for her as a critic has diminished over the years she does make for a good read and has many worthwhile things to say.
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on February 18, 2012
To many, Pauline Kael was THE voice of American film criticism. Her ascent to that lofty position didn't happen overnight and Brian Kellow's biography charts her rise from humble beginnings in rural California to her lofty perch as film critic at The New Yorker. Through Kael's story, Kellow also takes us on a journey through the convulsions, controversies and artistic breakthroughs of film in the latter half of the twentieth century.

Both serious movie buffs and cultural observers will find much to embrace here as Kael's writings on cinema often reflected the currents moving through the times, particularly the 1960s and 1970s. Kellow wisely lets Kael's contemporaries, friend and foe alike, tell much of the story. There are many great behind-the-scenes revelations here by such luminaries as Buck Henry, Peter Bogdanovich, Sidney Lumet, Sam Peckinpah, Elliot Gould, Roy Blount, Jr. and William Friedkin, to name a few.

As a biographer Kellow has no interest in hagiography. He doesn't shy away from Kael's missteps, both professionally and personally. Kael could be an unwavering champion of talent she believed in and she could be also be a devoted and beneficent mentor to younger acolytes. She could also be petty and vindictive, and, surprisingly, deceptive. One of the book's most startling revelations examines Kael's manipulation of a young academic to form one of her most celebrated essays "Raising Kane", a revisionist and controversial look at Orson Welles' masterpiece, "Citizen Kane". Apparently filching some salient points of this groundbreaking essay from her uncredited and unwitting academic collaborator, Kael displayed a disturbing lack of conscience when confronted on it. For those of us who came of age reading Pauline Kael as the ultimate diviner of all things cinematic, this troubling episode is one of several that reveal a darker side to her genius.

In short, Kellow's biography paints a nuanced and even-handed portrait of one of the twentieth century's most celebrated and influential cultural figures. As with Kellow's previous biographies of Ethel Merman, and Hollywood's famed Bennet sisters, the writing is crisp and the pacing vibrant. He skillfully reveals the very human and sometimes quietly tragic aspects of his subjects without resorting to salaciousness and sensationalism. Kellow is a biographer much too rare in my mind, in that his work is both entertaining and revelatory. This portrait of Pauline Kael is perhaps his strongest example of that yet.
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on December 1, 2011
I loved Pauline Kael, loved her talking-to-you-as-a-pal literary style, in the early days at least. When she started to indulge her inner-groupie search for idols (Streisand, Altman, DePalma) she lost me a bit - though I'd still read her with pleasure (and/or exasperation). This book throws much light on some of the (to me, as a fan) oddities in her reviews. She didn't like auteurs, she didn't like Hitchcock (how could she not?? oh yeah, she didn't discover him - she hated other critics' discoveries and idols).

I had forgotten she hated Shoah. I only saw Shoah a couple of years ago. I agree with her - it was mind-numbingly overdone and doesn't hold a candle to Sorrow and the Pity. That took great cojones on her part - and she suffered the consequences for her honesty.

I wrote her a fan letter when she retired. Her daughter Gina replied. I always thought that was such a generous gesture to a fan and was very interested to learn (and a bit saddened, too) that Gina's life as her mother's dogsbody, was no bed of roses.

Well worth a read - just as Pauline's reviews are. We don't really need reviewers like Pauline anymore, since Spielberg and Lucas destroyed the movies. But it is great to look back on a more adventurous time in the cinema and the lady whose good opinion the best filmmakers actively sought.
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on December 25, 2016
Service was great..but I'm not going to read it....Too big..
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on January 16, 2017
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