6. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
With Raiders of the Lost Ark, Steven Spielberg created one of the most iconic heroes in cinema history; Indiana Jones. Raiders set the bar for adventure/fantasy films, made Harrison Ford even more of Hollywood star (after Star Wars), and produced three decent sequels (with the promise of a fourth on the way). The film is a classic in almost every way.
Kael tears Raiders of the Lost Ark apart by calling it a product of “machine-tooled” marketing. She states there is no reality in the film, that everything is so cinematically dramatized that it’s hard to take seriously. Indiana Jones “makes the kind of bright-eyed entrance that’s so intensely dramatic it’s funny” (Reviews).
Kael seems overwhelmed by the constant action in the film. It’s too much for her. “It’s so thrill-packed you don’t have time to breathe” (Reviews). She does say that Raiders is beautifully made, but in order for it to work it needs to slow down between action sequences.
7. Dirty Harry (1971)
Dirty Harry not only set the example for multiple police themed movies to come, but established Clint Eastwood as the ultimate bad ass cop, willing to do anything for justice. Although the film sparked controversy over police brutality, it was still a critical and commercial success, and is now considered one the best films of 1971.
As a genre piece, Kael says that DIrty Harry works, but overall it’s not an accurate portrayal of the San Francisco police force and is an attack on liberalism. Kael does not care for justified violence in films in general. With Dirty Harry she insists that “violence has rarely been presented with such righteous relish” (Abrahams 421). Her overview of the film is that it is a deeply immoral one with manipulative skills and “fascist potential” (421).
8. Vertigo (1958)
Alfred Hitchcock directed Vertigo during the fifties, a decade where he seemed not able to make a bad movie. The film is now considered to be one of the director’s finest and is ranked #61 on the AFI Top 100 List. In 2012 film magazine voted it the greatest film of all time.
Kael was not the biggest fan of Alfred Hitchcock. She found his films amateurish and didn’t particular care for the mechanical camera movements and effects he used. Although she loved Kim Novak’s performance in Vertigo, she found the movie in general unintelligent. “She viewed [Hitchcock’s] motifs as indulgences, not intellectual or emotional echoes” (Reviews). Bernard Herman’s haunting score and Robert Burks acclaimed cinematography had also no affect on her.
9. Stand By Me (1986)
Stand By Me is a wonderful coming of age movie/adventure movie directed by Rob Reiner. The film received critical praise for its young actors’ performances (especially River Pheonix) and for successfully transferring Stephen King’s novel “The Body” into a fantastic movie.
Although most critics applaud the four young actors’ portrayal as good friends, Kael sees the relationship more as a support group, insisting that the film “overdoses on sincerity and nostalgia” (Reviews). The only part of the film she seems to enjoy is the story Gordie tells around the campfire about Lardass.
10. Superman (1978)
In 1978 director Richard Donner made audiences believe a man could fly. Before Marvel made superheroes dark and troubled individuals, actor Christopher Reeve gave viewers a wholesome superhero who believed in truth, justice and the American way. Superman the movie was feel good film, fun for the the whole family, and praised by the critics.
Christopher Reeve “is the best reason to see the picture” (Revews) states Kael. Overall though, she says the film is disappointing, looking as if it was made in a panic. It’s “cheesy looking” and the plot points are hit and miss. Kael goes on to attack director Donner who she says offers little consistency betweens scenes. It looks as though “each sequence might have had a different director and been color-processed in a different lab” (Reviews).
“Pauline Kael Reviews”. http://www.geocities.ws/paulinekaelreviews/. May 2, 2016.
Abrahams, William. “Pauline Kael For Keeps”. Plume, 1994.
Editors of Encyclopedia Britannica. “Pauline Kael – American Film Critic”. http://www.britannica.com/biography/Pauline-Kael. May 3, 2016.
Author Bio: Born and bred in Portland, Oregon, Rollyn Stafford loves the city of roses and hopes to continue acting and directing films there in the future. He has appeared in numerous films such as Victoria’s Exorcism, Romance, and Poison, as well as appearing on NBC’s GRIMM. Besides directing short films, Mr. Stafford teaches chess and computer coding to after school kids.