Monday, February 25, 2013

State of the Art

1985, first edition, from Dutton
Pauline Kael
State of the Art
Original price $12.95, purchase price $6.95
Worn paperback

Pauline Kael made me drop out of college.  Not directly-- we never met-- but as a sophomore I checked out a lot of her books from the library, and she was so much more intelligent and sarcastic than anyone on campus, that (along with a few other reasons) I decided that I could probably learn more on my own than in school.  A quarter century later, I'm certainly not as influenced by Kael as I was-- we part company on feminism and gay issues, not to mention violence in films-- but I still get a kick out of some of her reviews.  I found this collection less fun than Rex Reed's, but every once in awhile there's a great line, like this one after the novelization of Rambo being a "love letter to Rambo's weaponry," including how to order it:  "I can hardly wait for my set to arrive."  Or this:  "Downtown Prague does just fine as eighteenth-century Vienna.  It was fine as Dresden in Slaughterhouse-Five and as Hanover in Saraband and in many other roles, but I can't remember its ever being cast in a good movie." 

Not that it's all snark.  Sometimes she celebrates the joy of movies, as with Prizzi's Honor.  Still, as the back cover blurb says, "State of the Art" is less sexually suggestive than her past titles because movies weren't as fun in the 1980s as they were before.  This collection covers 1983 to 1985, so it was good to see she gave positive reviews (if not complete raves) of two movies I just rewatched recently for their 30th anniversaries, Yentl and Zelig.  But overall, there's a lot in here that I didn't care about, so I can't give her a higher grade.  We'll see how I feel about her take on the later '80s movies, when we get up to Hooked (1989)....

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