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Film Critic Lisa Schwarzbaum on Movies, the Good, Bad and Ugly of Engaging with Readers, and Leaving EW After 22 Years

Thompson on Hollywood By Anne Thompson and Beth Hanna | Thompson on Hollywood February 21, 2013 at 2:57PM

When Lisa Schwarzbaum announced earlier this month that she would be leaving Entertainment Weekly, I wrote her asking why. "I'm leaving under the happiest of circumstances," she replied. "22 years is enough for anything, don't you think?"
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Lisa Schwarzbaum
Lisa Schwarzbaum

When Lisa Schwarzbaum announced earlier this month that she would be leaving Entertainment Weekly, I wrote her asking why. "I'm leaving under the happiest of circumstances," she replied. "22 years is enough for anything, don't you think?"

Fact is, a generation of film critics is leaving their chosen profession, some earlier than they intended. (More on recent media transitions, including Time Warner and EW, here.) I will miss Schwarzbaum's sharp writing, which did much to set EW's bright and breezy house style, as well as seeing her at Sundance's Eccles Theatre as part of a troika with fellow critics Manohla Dargis and Amy Taubin. The February 15 issue of the magazine published Schwarzbaum's eloquent goodbye; she wrote that her experience of engaging with the EW readership over two decades was "A+." Excerpts are below.

The piece can be read in its entirety here.

On the good responses to her film criticism:

I once received an effing cool email from Josh Brolin telling me, and I quote, “You can f—ing write!” and promising to be in my movie. Not that I have any plans whatsoever to write a screenplay.

And the bad:

The pissed-off wife of a wildly successful producer of high-octane action schlock once sent me a popcorn bucket filled with stones because…well, I’m not sure why, something about throwing stones at her husband’s work. Anyway, she wanted to remind me that, while her beloved’s pictures rake in billions, my stuff would be gone in 60 seconds.

On grading a film:

Grades, stars, thumbs, and assorted icons are inevitably crude, if handy, quantifiers of quality—they’re shorthand, attention-getting invitations to the party. Once we’ve both shown up, though, let’s have a good time pondering both the complexities of Django Unchained and the simplicities of A Good Day to Die Hard.

On the film reader's mission:

Your mission is to read with an open mind, watch movies with an open mind, and use the places where we diverge as inspiration for an ongoing conversation about this ever-changing medium we love together.

What's next?

My plans include a book, an online project, speaking engagements about popular culture—oh, and a dog!

This article is related to: News, News, Entertainment Weekly, Media, Critics, Stuck In Love, Reviews, Reviews


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.