What a great day for this here movie blog! Over the last many years, my favorite film critic on the Internet has been James Berardinelli, who writes at reelviews.net. I admire his writing style and have followed him for years. Years ago, he struck up a relationship with the late, great Roger Ebert. Mr. Ebert even proclaimed Berardinelli one of the finest critics working. High praise indeed. I reached out to James recently with the following five questions and he was generous enough to respond to me. I sincerely appreciate it and the Q&A is below for your enjoyment!
Question 1: You’re clearly a writer, as opposed to strictly being a film critic and have written novels in your spare time. Tell me a little bit about your novels and whether or not that preceded your work in film reviewing or came later?
I started writing books when I was in fourth grade and continued writing them through junior high, high school, and college. I had my first brush with a publisher around 1990. At that time, he told me that although the book I submitted was probably good enough to be published (with some changes), it wasn’t a good gamble for him because I didn’t have a name. So I spent the next 25 years acquiring a name. I began writing the current trilogy in 2007 and completed it (for the most part) in 2013. Over the last three years, I spent time haggling with publishers until I got fed up with the traditional framework and decided to self-publish.
Question 2: You had a relationship with Roger Ebert before he passed. What was it in your estimation that made Roger special in his craft?
His ability to relate to people on an everyday basis. Also, his generosity. People would come up to him and engage him in small talk, ask for a picture, etc. He always made time for them.
Question 3: Is there or a film or films that spring to mind that you believe are totally overrated in the circles of film criticism? On the contrary, what is a movie that hold in high regard that received mostly negative critical response?
I find most of Ingmar Bergman’s films to be unbearable tedious. Not all of them but many of them. For something more mainstream, “The Sixth Sense,” which I found to be a predictable and tedious. As for a film I hold in higher regard than most critics… how about “Revenge of the Sith.” Most of the movies I laud are *liked* by other critics, just not beloved. It’s hard to think of many that I loved but everyone else hated.
Question 4: How long does it take you to write a review? Is there a period of time you prefer to wait after screening before you create your review?
Some reviews take longer than others. The average is probably about 45 minutes, but there are some that take as long as 90 minutes. I see most films at evening screenings and don’t write about them until the next day.
Question 5: You are one of the first film critics to gain attention primarily through the Internet. How do you believe this digital age has changed the face of film criticism?
As a means of making a living, it has destroyed it. It’s no longer possible to make a living wage by writing about film. But, in terms of making a wider variety of opinions available, it has been amazing. I remember pre-Internet, if I wanted to read something about a new release, I was limited to reviews in the local papers (there were three of them) and The New York Times (which was published everywhere). Then there was “Sneak Previews” and some of the TV stations had short movie reviews. That was it. No depth and not much breadth. Not so today.
– James Berardinelli