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Film Critic Wesley Morris Wins the Pulitzer Prize

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by Matt Singer
April 16, 2012 4:50 PM
4 Comments
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For just the fifth time in the award's history, a film critic has been awarded the Pulitzer Prize.  

The Boston Globe's Wesley Morris has won this year's Pulitzer Prize for criticism, awarded to him by a jury of his peers for "his smart, inventive film criticism, distinguished by pinpoint prose and an easy traverse between the art house and the big-screen box office." The image above, snapped by Andy Boyle, comes from Morris' newsroom acceptance speech earlier today, where, according to the Globe's Glen Johnson, Morris broke into tears describing the sacrifices his partner had made for him in pursuit of his career.

Morris was nominated for an outstanding year of writing and ten pieces in particular, all of which can be found at Boston.com. They include his superb obituary for Sidney Lumet, a thoughtful analysis of Terrence Malick's "The Tree of Life," and articles on the portrayal of race in "The Help" and "Fast Five." His celebration of "Fast Five" and the entire "Fast & Furious" franchise is an outstanding piece of film criticism, and one that really reshaped the ongoing discourse about the wildly underrated series and its impact on popular culture:

"Go on and laugh your Benetton, Kumbaya, Kashi, quinoa laugh, but it’s true: The most progressive force in Hollywood today is the 'Fast and Furious' movies. They’re loud, ludicrous, and visually incoherent. They’re also the last bunch of movies you’d expect to see in the same sentence as 'incredibly important.' But they are -- if only because they feature race as a fact of life as opposed to a social problem or an occasion for self-congratulation. (And this doesn’t even account for the gay tension between the male leads, and the occasional crypto-lesbian make-out.) The fifth installment, 'Fast Five,' comes out Friday, and unlike most movies that feature actors of different races, the mixing is neither superficial nor topical. It has been increasingly thorough as the series goes on—and mostly unacknowledged. That this should seem so strange, so rare, merely underscores how far Hollywood has drifted from the rest of culture."

The Pulitzer jury was right: Morris is one of the most versatile film critics working today.  But he doesn't just traverse between the art house and the big-screen box office, he brings the same intellectual rigor to both worlds.  Morris is just as interesting to read about a supposedly stupid blockbuster as he is about a supposedly brilliant meditation on life and the universe.  That is a rare and inspiring quality.

With his victory, Morris joins an elite group of film critics who've won the prestigious prize.  Since the Pulitzers began awarding outstanding criticism in 1970, there have been just four other winners from the field of film criticism.  The Chicago Sun-Times' Roger Ebert was the first, back in 1975, and for almost 30 years, he was also the only.  Then, in 2003, The Washington Post's Stephen Hunter won, followed two years later by The Wall Street Journal's Joe Morganstern.  Three years ago, Morris' Globe colleague Mark Feeney won for his work covering numerous visual arts, including film, photography, and painting.
 
Congratulations to Wesley Morris on his well-deserved award.  
 
Read more of Wesley Morris' Pulitzer Prize-winning film criticism.
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4 Comments

  • Will Dowd | August 25, 2012 3:36 AMReply

    While the article mention Mark Feeney, it's important to add that Sebastian Smee, who is the chief art critic for the Globe, won the Pulitzer in 2011, and Gail Coldwell, who is a book critic, won in 2001.

  • Kay | May 2, 2012 5:12 PMReply

    @Jefferson: It's hardly "fair use" when you use an *entire* work (e.g., this photograph) and then top that by using it for commercial purposes. They're lucky Mr. Boyle was gracious. Copyright infringement remedies aren't pretty.

    That said, kudos to Matt Singer and Indiewire for a great article.

  • Jefferson | April 22, 2012 7:25 PMReply

    fair use buddy.

  • Andy Boyle | April 18, 2012 10:10 AMReply

    Hey folks,

    Thanks for writing about Wesley Morris and his accomplishments. That's real cool.

    Just thought I'd point out a few things you may not know about using Instagram photos: The people who made them own the copyright. That means you can't just put them on a page, give credit and hope it's all peachy.

    While I have no problem with you using my photo for commercial usage in this instance, you should ask permission beforehand. Just wanted to keep you folks out of hot water in the future, should you use instagram photos again.

    Thanks for the write-up!

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