Literate and reflective, these reviews rival those by more famous critics like Pauline Kael and Andrew Sarris.

THE PRESS GANG

WRITING ON CINEMA FROM NEW YORK PRESS, 1991-2011

Film fans will love this massive compendium of intellectually savvy reviews from the long-defunct New York Press.

With great research and effort, editor Colvill has brought together more than 200 long-form film reviews and essays from the “raucous, drunken, snotty and punk rock” NYPress, as former staffer Jim Knipfel describes it in his highly informative introduction. Reviews were first written by Cheshire, later joined by Seitz and White. As Colvill notes in his foreword, their work represented “three distinctly different voices,” and it wasn’t unusual to have one contributor “directly challenging” another’s opinion. There were also interviews with directors, including Abbas Kiarostami, Edward Yang, and Crispin Glover, and thoughtful articles on film festivals and cinema in general. The encyclopedic, retrospective essay “The 1990s in Film” is a lengthy dialogue with all three critics, who engage in a spirited discussion of the state of foreign and independent films, Hollywood, and cinema’s future. Cheshire, “wise, clear-eyed and eloquent,” loved “indie arthouse cinema.” His “seminal” essay, “Death of Film,” sparked a “nationwide debate” and “got him fired.” Seitz was a “genre specialist” while White was a “provocateur.” In “The Magnolia Syndrome,” White writes that it takes “imagination to review movies worthily.” The NYPress writers were plenty imaginative. Cheshire admires Pulp Fiction’s “astonishing narrative architecture.” Gus Van Sant’s To Die For is a “tour de force…so brilliant as to suggest a mistake on the part of Columbia Pictures.” In a review of the “inventive, graceful and passionate” Mission to Mars, Seitz takes on its “indifferent-to-hostile critical reception.” He loves the “shaggy, funny, perverse and overflowing with life” Wonder Boys—a “sublime achievement.” The contributors rarely mince words. White calls Jim Jarmusch’s Ghost Dog a “patronizing failure,” and Seitz criticizes Hannibal as “glossily incompetent.”

Literate and reflective, these reviews rival those by more famous critics like Pauline Kael and Andrew Sarris.

Pub Date: Aug. 25, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-60980-977-5

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Seven Stories

Review Posted Online: April 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020

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A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

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GREENLIGHTS

All right, all right, all right: The affable, laconic actor delivers a combination of memoir and self-help book.

“This is an approach book,” writes McConaughey, adding that it contains “philosophies that can be objectively understood, and if you choose, subjectively adopted, by either changing your reality, or changing how you see it. This is a playbook, based on adventures in my life.” Some of those philosophies come in the form of apothegms: “When you can design your own weather, blow in the breeze”; “Simplify, focus, conserve to liberate.” Others come in the form of sometimes rambling stories that never take the shortest route from point A to point B, as when he recounts a dream-spurred, challenging visit to the Malian musician Ali Farka Touré, who offered a significant lesson in how disagreement can be expressed politely and without rancor. Fans of McConaughey will enjoy his memories—which line up squarely with other accounts in Melissa Maerz’s recent oral history, Alright, Alright, Alright—of his debut in Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused, to which he contributed not just that signature phrase, but also a kind of too-cool-for-school hipness that dissolves a bit upon realizing that he’s an older guy on the prowl for teenage girls. McConaughey’s prep to settle into the role of Wooderson involved inhabiting the mind of a dude who digs cars, rock ’n’ roll, and “chicks,” and he ran with it, reminding readers that the film originally had only three scripted scenes for his character. The lesson: “Do one thing well, then another. Once, then once more.” It’s clear that the author is a thoughtful man, even an intellectual of sorts, though without the earnestness of Ethan Hawke or James Franco. Though some of the sentiments are greeting card–ish, this book is entertaining and full of good lessons.

A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-13913-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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A handful of pearls amid a pile of empty oyster shells.

THE COMFORT BOOK

Bestselling author Haig offers a book’s worth of apothegms to serve as guides to issues ranging from disquietude to self-acceptance.

Like many collections of this sort—terse snippets of advice, from the everyday to the cosmic—some parts will hit home with surprising insight, some will feel like old hat, and others will come across as disposable or incomprehensible. Years ago, Haig experienced an extended period of suicidal depression, so he comes at many of these topics—pain, hope, self-worth, contentment—from a hard-won perspective. This makes some of the material worthy of a second look, even when it feels runic or contrary to experience. The author’s words are instigations, hopeful first steps toward illumination. Most chapters are only a few sentences long, the longest running for three pages. Much is left unsaid and left up to readers to dissect. On being lost, Haig recounts an episode with his father when they got turned around in a forest in France. His father said to him, “If we keep going in a straight line we’ll get out of here.” He was correct, a bit of wisdom Haig turned to during his depression when he focused on moving forward: “It is important to remember the bottom of the valley never has the clearest view. And that sometimes all you need to do in order to rise up again is to keep moving forward.” Many aphorisms sound right, if hardly groundbreaking—e.g., a quick route to happiness is making someone else happy; “No is a good word. It keeps you sane. In an age of overload, no is really yes. It is yes to having space you need to live”; “External events are neutral. They only gain positive or negative value the moment they enter our mind.” Haig’s fans may enjoy this one, but others should take a pass.

A handful of pearls amid a pile of empty oyster shells.

Pub Date: July 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-14-313666-8

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Penguin Life

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2021

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