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Meet the New York Film Festival Critics Academy, Class of 2014

Meet the New York Film Festival Critics Academy, Class of 2014

The opening-night premiere of “Gone Girl” is the New York Film Festival’s big event, but it’s also part of the NYFF Critics Academy, a joint venture of Indiewire and the Film Society of Lincoln Center. For the next two weeks, you’ll be reading their work here on Criticwire as well as the Film Society’s site, but for now, let’s get to know the Class of 2014 a little better.

The NYFF Critics Academy Class of 2014:

Name: Jackson Arn    

Age: 21

Home: Phoenix, Arizona

Twitter handle: @jcksn1993

Area of Cinematic Expertise: ‘60s Italian, ’70s
Hollywood, the 1% existential ennui subgenre, special effects on film.

Best Movie You’ve Seen in 2014: “Goodbye to

Movie You’re Most Looking Forward to at
“Inherent Vice”

Favorite Book (or Writing) About Film:

It’s a toss-up between War and Cinema by Paul Virilio
and Easy Riders, Raging Bulls by
Peter Biskind. They couldn’t be more
different, but they both express different things I love about the movies.

I’m taking part in the NYFF Critics Academy

Part of loving film
is talking about it with people who love it, too.  There’s no better way for me to improve as a
writer and a critic than to meet with seven other cinephiles.  And getting to see dozens of world-class
movies for free ain’t too bad, either.

What unique perspective would you like to bring
to the world of criticism?

I’m a big advocate for the critical essay as a great art
form, the equal of the novel or the lyric poem. 
Many of my favorite writers – Amis, Orwell, Rancière, Borges, Eliot –
were at their most inventive and inspiring when they were writing about the
work of others.  When I write a review, it’s
my job to produce something that doesn’t just prepare readers for the
experience of watching a film, but also gives them an artistic experience in
its own right.

All of which is a wordy way of saying that I think reviews
should be well-written.  You can see if
I’ve lived up to my own rule here.

Name: Freja Dam

Age: 30

Home: Copenhagen, Denmark

Twitter handle: @freja_dam

Area of Cinematic Expertise: Danish/Scandinavian cinema, American independent, documentary, romantic
comedies (proudly)

Best Movie You’ve Seen in 2014:

Movie You’re Most Looking Forward to at
NYFF: “Citizenfour”

Favorite Book (or Writing) About Film: Woody Allen on Woody Allen by Stig Björkman. More recently, I was blown
away by “Sleepless in Hollywood” by Lynda Obst.

I’m taking part in the NYFF Critics Academy
because… In addition to the
excitement of attending a great film festival, I’m excited to be mentored by
professional film critics who have had my dream job for years. I’ve read
Indiewire religiously for years, and it’s an honor to contribute to the site.

What unique perspective would you like to bring
to the world of criticism? 

I have Master degrees in
both film studies and journalism, and I’m not that interested in writing for
other experts. I’d rather use my knowledge to communicate to ‘regular’ people
who enjoy arts and movies. And maybe inspire them to watch something more
experimental or substantial that they normally would have picked at the multiplex.
Furthermore, I’m very preoccupied with the growing debate about women and
Hollywood in regards to the representation of women behind and in front of the
camera. I think critics have a responsibility to bring attention to
stereotypical depictions of women — as well as minorities — and as a woman
among a majority of male critics, I think I have an advantage in being
naturally more attentive to this issue.


Name: Michael Blum
Age: 22
Home: New York
Twitter: @blumblumb
Area of Cinematic Expertise: I’m
most at home in the cinemas of France, Italy, and Germany — from the
1920s to the present day — as well as studio system Hollywood (Lubitsch,
Hawks, and others). No real expertise to speak of, but I’ve written a
couple hundred pages on Godard in the past years, specifically on his
later period, from “Sauve qui peut” (1980) onwards.
Best Movie You’ve Seen in 2014: “The Puppetmaster” (1993)
Movie You’re Most Looking Forward to at NYFF:  Goodbye to Language”
Favorite Book (or Writing) About Film: The texts that have been most consequential for my own thinking and
writing about film are often not explicitly about cinema itself, about
any film or filmmaker. With that said—the writings of André Bazin. 
I’m taking part in the NYFF Critics Academy…  To learn from and engage with a bunch of
different people about journalism and film, and to plunge head-first
into the idiosyncratic rhythms of film-festival-going. Walking out of a
movie in total awe, being ushered into the next screening, adamantly
holding onto the memory of the first one—but then gradually letting up,
whether out of unanticipated appreciation for the second film or just
dumb resignation—and, finally, learning something (or nothing) about
film or about myself from this whole process. 
What unique perspective would you like to bring to the world of criticism? 

Nothing unique really — I’d just like to illustrate and
convey an emphatic, subjective experience of film, one wholly receptive
to the medium’s expressive possibilities, while maintaining a critical,
somewhat distanced perspective. Parts of my recent gloss on Chris Marker
might accomplish this.

Name: Amanda Yam

Age: 23

Area of Cinematic Expertise: I
wouldn’t consider myself an expert but I have an inclination towards
foreign films (particularly from Austria, Greece, and Korea/Asia) and
independent American cinema.

Best Movie You’ve Seen in 2014: “Nymphomaniac, Part 1″

Movie You’re Most Looking Forward to at NYFF: “The Wonders” and “Clouds of Sils Maria”

Favorite Book (or Writing) About Film: Not a favorite but most recently “The Disaster Artist”

I’m taking part in the NYFF Critics Academy because… it
is an invaluable opportunity to immerse oneself in an environment where
different ideas, perspectives, and doctrines converge and collide
simply because of the common passion for cinematic culture. I hope to
learn more about the craft of film commentary while engaging in vibrant
discussions in order to further understand film as an art form and as a
vehicle for communication. 

unique perspective would you like to bring to the world of criticism?

literally grew up on movies; my father owned a movie theater when film
and projectors were required equipment rather than antiquated symbols.
One of my fondest memories is of him wrapped up in spools of film in a
small cramped projection booth. In school, I began my own exploration of
cinema which has lead me to my current pursuit of film and writing.
With experience as both a filmmaker and goer, I see cinema as a kinetic
ball of energy that begins with an inkling of an idea which is then
cultivated by the collaborative efforts of the filmmakers which is in
turn hopefully digested by the participating audience. I tend to give
films, particularly the more idiosyncratic, the benefit of the doubt as I
view cinema as an artistic endeavor to reify what once was intangible.

Name: Eric Fuchs

Age: 23

Home: Bayonne, NJ

Blog: BlueHighwind

Area of Cinematic Expertise: SciFi/Fantasy

Best Movie You’ve Seen in 2014: “The Wind Rises”

Movie You’re Most Looking Forward to at NYFF: “Birdman”

Favorite Book (or Writing) About Film: “Your Movie Sucks”, Roger Ebert

I’m taking part in the NYFF Critics Academy because…  I
have been an amateur film critic writing for myself for nearly five
years now.  I’m fascinated to see how real critics ply their craft, and
how to improve my own work.  I am hoping to evolve as a writing from an
amateur ranting about a film I saw during the weekend to a true judge of
artistic merit, giving my audience a deeper understanding of the works I
am discussing.  Getting to see an amazing selection of films with
unique perspectives and styles from around the world is also a plus, I
must admit.

What unique perspective would you like to bring to the world of

do not come from any kind of academic film background.  I simply watch
movies for the love of film itself, judging movies on their own merits
as stories.  Everything I have learned about writing and filmmaking has
come just by watching movies compulsively, and writing non-stop.  I
write for my own joy and for the joy of my readers.  If I get crack a
joke during the course of my review, I will not pass up the
opportunity.  Appreciate the art, of course.  Bemoan the failures,
definitely.  But I always try to keep my work a conversation with my
reader, one where my personality can shine through, and maybe we can
share a laugh together.  A review needs to be entertainment just like
any other medium.  We have deeper goals in transmitting to our audience a
brief flavor of the fiction we have experienced, but we cannot separate
ourselves from the writing.

Name: Bruno Guaraná

Age: 28

Home: Recife, Brazil

Twitter handle: @brunoguarana 

Area of Cinematic Expertise: Latin American Cinema 

Best Movie You’ve Seen in 2014: Richard Linklater’s “Boyhood”

Movie You’re Most Looking Forward to at NYFF: Olivier Assayas’s “Clouds of Sils Maria,” Martín Rejtman’s “Two Shots Fired,” and Alejandro González Iñárritu’s “Birdman.”

Favorite Book About Film: Deleuze’s Cinema 1 and 2

I’m taking part in the NYFF Critics Academy because… of its nurturing film community, the festival’s unique edge, and for the opportunity to push myself in my writing and expand my horizons as a film viewer,
alongside a huge group of kick-ass people. This immersive experience in
the world of film is one not to be missed.

unique perspective would you like to bring to the world of criticism?

I write about films, first and foremost, in order to figure out why they
matter to us viewers. Film criticism carries the potential to assess,
explore, and suggest how each film communicates with its audience (at
times, impacting our world views) while promoting the cultural exchanges
of filmgoing practices.

Name: Tanner Tafelski

Age: 22
Home: South Bend, Indiana; New York, New York
Twitter handle/ Blog: @TTafelski / mongrelmuse.blogspot.com
Area of Cinematic Expertise: I don’t know about “expertise,” but I do have interests in Andrzej Zulawski and Andy Warhol’s work, arthouse and extreme cinema, and aesthetics in the general sense of that term.
Best Movie You’ve Seen in 2014: New: “Goodbye to Language.” Old. “Ixe” (Lionel Soukaz)

Movie You’re Most Looking Forward to at NYFF: “Horse Money

Favorite Book or Writing About Film: Just one? Here’s three: Adrian Martin’s “Dinosaurs, Babies and the Sound of Music” ; Jonathan Rosenbaum’s “In Dreams Begin Responsibilities” ;  and Raymond Durgnat’s Films and Feeling.

I’m taking part in the NYFF Critics Academy because… I need to stretch myself. I need to meet critics, cinephiles,
and filmmakers, and learn from them.  I need to work in a festival
setting.  And I especially need to write more.  These are all lovely

What unique perspective would you like to bring to the world of criticism? 

I write about cinema, when I think about cinema, when I talk about
cinema, form, aesthetic, the image, what have you, all come first.  This
might seem like a given in the field of criticism.  Then again, a
healthy portion of it distills this
kind of work into opinions and judgments.  That’s fine, I do this too. 
Sometimes.  But I’d like to go back to the image, and back again.  This
might be difficult in a festival setting though.
try to reach a film’s DNA by using (often thick) description to
translate its permuting aesthetic.  And, hopefully, through this
translation, meaning emerges from my writing.  This is by no means easy,
but I make an attempt at this type of writing.
Here’s a recent short piece on Gary Oldman’s “Nil by Mouth” that demonstrates such an attempt.  

Name: Tim Wainwright

Age: 23

Home: Pittsburgh, PA

Twitter handle/blog: @Tim_Wainwright / Tim Wainwright’s Blog

Area of Cinematic Expertise: I’m not an expert in anything, but I’m interested in genre theory and British cinema.

Best Movie You’ve Seen in 2014: “Calvary.”

Movie You’re Most Looking Forward to at NYFF: It’s hard to choose
between the obvious ones, so I’ll put forward John Boorman’s less
obvious “Queen and Country.” My father grew up in post-war Britain, and
we watched “Hope and Glory” together when I was coming of age. Its
sequel’s presence at the NYFF has a personal resonance.

Favorite Book (or Writing) About Film: I’m currently reading a Pauline Kael anthology and In the Blink of an Eye: A Perspective on Film Editing.

I’m taking part in the NYFF Critics Academy because… Who
wouldn’t? It’s an opportunity to become a better writer, to meet people
I’ve been reading for years, and to peek behind the industry curtain.
I’m incredibly lucky to be involved.

What unique perspective would you like to bring to the world of

nothing that hasn’t been done before. I did study economics in school
and my first job out of college was writing policy briefs on public
sector employee pension structure, so perhaps I approach the
intersection of art and commerce differently than many critics. Also, I
don’t see film criticism as a narrow field. To talk about movies is to
talk about politics, history, culture, religion, and philosophy. I try
to study all of those things.

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