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20 Publications That Inspired Generations of Film Critics — CriticWire Survey

We asked several critics to share the publications that influenced them at an early age.

Every week, the CriticWire Survey asks a question to a handful of film and TV critics and publishes the results on Monday. 

This week’s question: The news last week that Fangoria fired its longtime editor-in-chief stimulated a lot of supportive words from horror fans who grew up reading the publication. What was the film (or entertainment) publication that you idolized in your youth?

Richard Brody (@tnyfrontrow), The New Yorker

How far back are we going? To age eight or nine, when I dreamed of designing a car that thrilled me as much as the Corvette Stingray and swore by Car Craft, Car Model, and Hot Rod? To high school, when no jazz periodical offered anywhere near the stimulation and education of Amiri Baraka’s book Black Music (published years earlier under the name LeRoi Jones), even if many of the musicians he was writing about had either died or were playing no place nearby? Or to college, the time of movies, when Cahiers du Cinéma was the distant beacon and the Village Voice was the near one? The critics at both of these publications were writing mainly about movies which, there in college, were largely unavailable; the writers didn’t move me or, for that matter, inform me or educate me with the analyses of movies; what they did, above all, was to stoke desire. I learned early on that an essential function of criticism is, in effect, pornographic–as distinguished from mere advertising, it’s meant to evoke an experience that’s available to all but fundamentally incommunicable in its infinitely variable intimacy. Thus, pornographic and yet poetic. In any case–as Jacques Rivette suggested in his very first published criticism–not innocent.

David Ehrlich (@davidehrlich), IndieWire

I remember being hooked on Premiere as a teenager, but I think that the entertainment publication I read most frequently — “idolized” doesn’t feel quite right, in this case — was… Entertainment Weekly. I read it for Owen Gleiberman and Lisa Schwarzbaum, both of whom would reliably score things much lower than my teenage enthusiasm would think necessary (a fact that my own most outspoken critics will find ironic). It’s a bit outside the bounds of the question, but the one text that really turned my life around, for better or worse, was Stuart Galbraith IV’s “The Emperor and the Wolf,” a massive dual biography of Akira Kurosawa and Toshiro Mifune. I remember discretely lugging that brick around high school when it was published in 2002, and how the book exposed me to the mythic allure of cinema in a way that nothing else ever had. 

Kate Erbland (@katerbland), IndieWire

Without question, Entertainment Weekly. I have little recollection of our home serving as a depository for any kind of magazine other than ones aimed at cooking (and, for a brief period of time, also log cabins; yes, Log Cabin Living is a magazine), and so I had to greedily consume EW whenever I saw it at a friend’s house or folded in amongst the Highlights and Town and Country issues that littered every doctor’s office. In a pre-Internet (yes, I am that old) age, EW was the easiest way to gobble up quick slices of pop cultural goodness, from film to TV, books to music, in the minimum of time. Bop wasn’t so bad either.

Glenn Kenny (@Glenn_Kenny), The New York Times, Some Came Running

If we’re talking about early youth, I guess I’d have to say Famous Monsters of Filmland, which is the direct precursor to Fangoria. Boy, avuncular Forrest J. Ackerman sure had quite a different persona than the famous monsters of fandom at work today. After that, it wasn’t much—organs such as Film Comment were a little difficult to come by in the Jersey hinterlands. It was Creem and then the Village Voice that made me think about becoming a critic, and by college my one goal in life was to write for Robert Christgau in the Voice. I got to do that at age 25 or so, and then, oh crap, I realized I had to have a “career.” The whole thing’s just been a goddamn tragedy, really. 

David Sterritt (@DavidSterritt) Quarterly Review of Film and Video

Anything about horror movies was catnip to a kid growing up with Zacherley, Shock Theater, and “Dinner with Drac,” but mainly it was the photos that hooked me. Sometimes better than the films they were glommed from, and genuine treasures in the pre-VCR era when “home video” meant analog transmissions on a 19-inch screen. I once wrote the mag a letter and they published a couple of lines – can’t remember what they were, but I’m sure they were idiotic and heartfelt. Six decades later, I’m still in famous Filmland and still fond of monsters. This is progress?!

Brian Tallerico (@Brian_Tallerico), RogerEbert.com

My first job as a teenager was at an amazing book/magazine store called Metro News Center in the Detroit area, which carried hundreds of magazines from around the world. Of course, I devoured the movie magazines, subscribing to formative ones like Premiere and Movieline, but also spending much of the time I should have been restocking shelves looking at the latest issues of everything from Video Watchdog to Sight & Sound. The big one for me though was Film Threat, which felt like a unique voice covering films big and small. I was honored to close that circle by actually writing for the online version in the ’10s. I often think back on that job, wondering if I would be where I am as a writer if not for what I learned as a reader.

Jen Yamato (@jenyamato), The Daily Beast

As a kid in the early ’90s, Premiere Magazine was the epitome of slick Hollywood movie coverage — but I was obsessed with everything I could get my hands on, from the haute gloss of Vanity Fair to the meticulously compiled listings of every single motion picture to be broadcast each week that filled the back pages of the O.G., TV Guide.

As for the new Fangoria moving on without longtime staple and editor-in-chief Michael Gingold: Fango will never be the same. The challenges of sustaining a specialty print publication in a digital world may have forced his exit, but it leaves a gaping hole in a niche world of horror journalism that needs to be celebrating its established and experienced voices as it cultivates new ones, not cutting them loose. 

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