Head-Slapper of the Week: Richard Corliss

by cnw
December 12, 2007 6:20 AM
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Kaycee Moore (above) was thrilled when she heard
Killer of Sheep was Time Magazine's third best movie of 2007.

From Richard Corliss's top 10 of 2007 in Time:
#3. Killer of Sheep
Completed in 1977 and virtually unseen since.... As the children play games in the post-apocalyptic rubble of Watts, the man's emotional exhaustion abrades against the woman's sexual yearning. This is surely the finest, most uncompromising film by a black director.

That's right: the "finest film...by a black director" (note: NOT "black American") is the third best movie of the year behind No Country for Old Men and The Lives of Others. Sorry Spike Lee and Ousmane Sembene, you've made some good movies, but nothing quite as good as The Lives of Others.

Seriously -- does anybody edit this stuff?

P.S. "Post-apocalyptic?"


  • jshumate | December 15, 2007 11:01 AMReply

    Must we continue to find excuses to heap praise on the Radiohead music video that was Children of Men? I know this is totally the wrong place to stage this argument-- but...c'mon.

    Killer of Sheep = awesome.
    A film eons from even casual comparison to any film mentioned above.

  • ian | December 13, 2007 11:08 AMReply

    Alex - he's also using a public venue to alert people that no matter how hard them black folks have tried, "surely the finest and most uncompromising film" film they've made is still only the 3rd best film of a decent year for cinema. Head-slapping is warranted.

  • Alex Murillo | December 13, 2007 9:27 AMReply

    That's a fair argument, I suppose. Personally, I've become quite fed up with the whole concept of lists and rankings when it comes to movies (although that doesn't stop me from creating them myself).

    I think if Corliss' list had been simply a list of his ten favourites of the year, without numerical weight, then the comments for "Killer of Sheep" would be appropriate. The fact that he has it as #3, then goes on to say that it is the "finest film by a black director" does lead on to the (logical) conclusion that he believes "The Lives of Others" is better than any film ever made by a black director. This conclusion may not be what Corliss intended (if so, then it is indeed a head-slapper, and your lament "Who edits this stuff?" is warranted), or it may be Corliss' honest opinion, in which case a questioning of Corliss' taste is in order, not snide sarcasm. We always disagree with lists (how Reverse Shot's editors could come to the conclusion that the pale Scorsese retread "The Departed" was a better film than the visionary "Children of Men" is beyond me, for example, but I wouldn't question Reverse Shot's overall taste because of it). My point was that Corliss is probably one of the few mainstream critics who are promoting "Killer of Sheep", and for that I think he deserves praise, not scorn. Corliss' error (which may be a racist one, although I don't believe it is) was in distinguishing films by black directors from every other film, thus provoking the anger that has ensued here.

    P.S. If you're going to take Corliss to task for anything, follow the lead of Evan (another poster here), who brilliantly dissected the contradictions in Corliss' article "Do Critics Know Anything?". Here Corliss seems to be playing both sides against the middle, praising the art films that spoke directly to him while at the same time lamenting the fact that many critics awards are going to films that haven't set the box office world on fire.

  • Evan | December 13, 2007 1:54 AMReply

    I have a long, rambling response to Corliss's shenanigans over at my blog, http://evandav.blogspot.com

  • Alex Murillo | December 13, 2007 12:20 AMReply

    Here's an example of why the snide attitude of Reverse Shot occasionally disappoints me. Yes, Corliss' article is poorly worded...and yes, I agree, "The Lives of Others" was too middlebrow and predictable to be considered a masterpiece. But Corliss is using a popular public venue (Time Magazine) to alert people to a forgotten masterpiece, "Killer of Sheep", and you guys are nitpicking that he didn't have it even higher on his list. Ease up a little.

  • brendon | December 12, 2007 8:32 AMReply

    Another 'does anyone edit this stuff?' moment, from Corliss's Lives of Others blurb:

    "In February, Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck's poignant, unsettling thriller won an Oscar as the Motion Picture Academy's Best Foreign Language Film. Now it's my favorite foreign language film too."

    Are we supposed to read that as Corliss saying that The Lives of Others is his favorite non-English language movie? Ever? And that No Country for Old Men is better than any film ever made in another language?

  • robbiefreeling | December 12, 2007 7:04 AMReply

    I also think The Lives of Others is better than Do the Right Thing. And Daughters of the Dust. And the entire oeuvre of Ousmane Sembene.

    (Coz that Stasi spy was so cute the way he fell in love and had that moral awakening. Awwwww!!!!i just want to squeeze his cheeks!!!)