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WHAT SHE SAID: A VALUABLE DOC ABOUT PAULINE KAEL

Believe it or not, there was a time when film critics were widely discussed and debated, none more so than Pauline Kael during her long tenure at The New Yorker. Equal parts essayist, crusader and provocateur, she famously championed emerging talents and held them to account when they disappointed her.

Rob Garver’s valuable documentary will serve as a primer for those who don’t know about Kael and an evocative reminder of what she meant to those of us who grew up reading her. Using home movies, talk show clips, flashes of vintage films, and interviews with friends and admirers like Quentin Tarantino and David O. Russell, What She Said: The Art of Pauline Kael is stimulating and informative. I learned about Kael’s struggle to get by as a single mother—even after landing the coveted New Yorker gig. Her daughter Gina James is a prominent voice in the film and relates that even that august publication didn’t afford Kael a living wage.

I vividly recall her firing from McCall’s magazine after a scathing review of The Sound of Music and read about acrimonious meetings of the New York Film Critics Circle where she sparred with Andrew Sarris. No one was spared her poison pen, but if you were one of her protégés she could be uncommonly generous. Seeing her speaking extemporaneously on television is a particular treat; I doubt that she could find such a forum today.

No film buff or budding critic should miss this. What She Said opens at Film Forum in Manhattan today. For more information about the film, go to www.paulinekaelmovie.com

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Leonard Maltin is one of the world’s most respected film critics and historians. He is best known for his widely-used reference work Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide and its companion volume Leonard Maltin’s Classic Movie Guide, now in its third edition, as well as his thirty-year run on television’s Entertainment Tonight. He teaches at the USC School of Cinematic Arts and appears regularly on Reelz Channel and Turner Classic Movies. His books include The 151 Best Movies You’ve Never Seen, Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons, The Great Movie Comedians, The Disney Films, The Art of the Cinematographer, Movie Comedy Teams, The Great American Broadcast, and Leonard Maltin’s Movie Encyclopedia. He served two terms as President of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, is a voting member of the National Film Registry, and was appointed by the Librarian of Congress to sit on the Board of Directors of the National Film Preservation Foundation. He hosted and co-produced the popular Walt Disney Treasures DVD series and has appeared on innumerable television programs and documentaries. He has been the recipient of awards from the American Society of Cinematographers, the Telluride Film Festival, Anthology Film Archives, and San Diego’s Comic-Con International. Perhaps the pinnacle of his career was his appearance in a now-classic episode of South Park. (Or was it Carmela consulting his Movie Guide on an episode of The Sopranos?) He holds court at leonardmaltin.com. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook; you can also listen to him on his weekly podcast: Maltin on Movies. — [Artwork by Drew Friedman]

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