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THE PRESS GANG by Godfrey Cheshire


Writing on Cinema From New York Press, 1991-2011

by Godfrey Cheshire & Matt Zoller Seitz & Armond White ; edited by Jim Colvill

Pub Date: Aug. 25th, 2020
ISBN: 978-1-60980-977-5
Publisher: Seven Stories

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.