Leonard Maltin and Film Criticism

Leonard Maltin, a famous film critic and historian, is the subject of my writer profile. Most of his work is based off of his opinion on other people’s work, so naturally his writing process looks a bit different than that of other writers. I found an article that had an interview with Maltin, and in the interview he talks about his process as a critic.

Q: You’ve reviewed a lot of movies in your time, including the famously short review for the 1948 “Isn’t it Romantic?” “No.” What’s your criteria for judging a film? 

A: I don’t have a checklist. I try to judge each movie on its own terms, that it’s good for what it is. So if you’re going to make a silly ghost movie, make a good silly ghost movie. I can only give my personal response. I put a lot of stock in originality – something I haven’t seen six times before in the last year. That said, I see some formula movies that work because they revitalize the formula. Some people put comic book super-hero movies into a pigeonhole, but Marvel turned “Captain America” into a very scary political thriller with a point of view about geoprivacy and what’s happening in the world. … It’s a film that satisfied super-hero fans but managed to bring a new perspective to (the genre).

Later, Maltin talked with the interviewer about how the internet has changed his job as a critic.

Q: How would you justify your job now?

A: I don’t think that’s changed since the beginning of journalism. As a film-goer, I don’t need critics for their opinions. I look for insight, for illumination of something I didn’t see myself, whether good or bad. I’m looking for good writing. That’s what makes a good critic, and I know that’s what other people look for too.

Regardless of which path you want to take in writing, it can be helpful to look at others who took that path before you and were successful. If I find myself pursuing film criticism one day, I can look back on Maltin’s thoughts and see how he did what he did, and what he thought made people good critics.

One thought on “Leonard Maltin and Film Criticism

  1. chadprom March 16, 2015 / 12:34 am

    I saw the film Captain America in high school and really did not like it. After reading this opinion of it I am curious enough to watch the film again. I went into Captain America expecting another super hero movie or a “formula” movie and I felt like that is what I got. I never thought of it as a “very scary political thriller.”


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