Pixar is the first studio that is a movie star.
I began my work as a film critic in 1967. I had not thought to be a film critic, and indeed had few firm career plans apart from vague notions that I might someday be a political columnist or a professor of English.
Robert Zonka, who was named the paper’s feature editor the same day I was hired at the Chicago Sun-Times, became one of the best friends of a lifetime. One day in March 1967, he called me into a conference room, told me that Eleanor Keen, the paper’s movie critic, was retiring, and that I was the new critic. I walked away in elation and disbelief, yet hardly suspected that this day would set the course for the rest of my life.
In my very first review I was already jaded, observing of “Galia,” an obscure French film, that it “opens and closes with arty shots of the ocean, mother of us all, but in between it’s pretty clear that what is washing ashore is the French New Wave.” My pose in those days was one of superiority to the movies, although just when I had the exact angle of condescension calculated, a movie would open that disarmed my defenses and left me ecstatic and joyful.
I believe empathy is the most essential quality of civilization.
Absolutists frighten me. During all the endless discussions on my blog about evolution, intelligent design, God, and the afterworld, numbering altogether thousands of comments, I have never named my beliefs, although readers have freely informed me that I am an atheist, and agnostic, or at the very least a secular humanist — which I am.
I have discovered a goodness and decency in people as exhibited in all the letters, e-mails, flowers, gifts and prayers that have been directed my way. I am overwhelmed and humbled. I offer you my most sincere thanks and my deep and abiding gratitude. If I ever write my memoirs, I have some spellbinding material. How does the Joni Mitchell song go? “Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone”? One thing I’ve discovered is that I love my job more than I thought I did, and I love my wife even more!
“Kindness” covers all of my political beliefs. No need to spell them out. I believe that if, at the end, according to our abilities, we have done something to make others a little happier, and something to make ourselves a little happier, that is about the best we can do. To make others less happy is a crime. To make ourselves unhappy is where all crime starts. We must try to contribute joy to the world. That is true no matter what our problems, our health, our circumstances. We must try. I didn’t always know this and am happy I lived long enough to find it out.
For 40 years, I didn’t miss a single deadline, but since July, I have missed every one. I also, to my intense disappointment, missed the Telluride and Toronto film festivals. Having just written my first review since June (The Queen), I think an update is in order.
I lost faith in the Oscars the first year I was a movie critic — the year that Bonnie and Clyde didn’t win.
A depressing number of people seem to process everything literally. They are to wit as a blind man is to a forest, able to find every tree, but each one coming as a surprise.
Herzog by his example gave me a model for the film artist: fearless, driven by his subjects, indifferent to commercial considerations, trusting his audience to follow him anywhere. In the 38 years since I saw my first Herzog film, after an outpouring of some 50 features and documentaries, he has never created a single film that is compromised, shameful, made for pragmatic reasons or uninteresting. Even his failures are spectacular.
I wear a pedometer, a little device that counts every step. It works as a goad, because you walk additional distances to pile up the numbers. The average person walks 2,000 to 3,000 steps a day. I walk 10,000 steps a day. I have lost a lot of weight as a result.
Many moviegoers and video viewers say they do not “like” black and white films. In my opinion, they are cutting themselves off from much of the mystery and beauty of the movies.
It is human nature to look away from illness. We don’t enjoy a reminder of our own fragile mortality. That’s why writing on the Internet has become a life-saver for me. My ability to think and write have not been affected. And on the Web, my real voice finds expression.
I didn’t have a stop watch, but it seemed to me the elephantine action scenes were pretty much spaced out evenly through the movie. There was no starting out slow and building up to a big climax. The movie is pretty much all climax. The Autobots® and Decepticons® must not have read the warning label on their Viagra. At last we see what a four-hour erection looks like.
Doing research on the Web is like using a library assembled piecemeal by pack rats and vandalized nightly.
Meyer is an auteur whose every frame reflects his own obsessions. Like all serious artists, he doesn’t allow any space between his work and his dream.
Of what use is freedom of speech to those who fear to offend?
So on this day of reflection I say again, thank you for going on this journey with me. I’ll see you at the movies.
I must slow down now, which is why I’m taking what I like to call “a leave of presence.”