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For Keeps

Whether you love her or hate her, there's one thing that can be said about the late, great Pauline Kael: she got you to sit up and think about the movies. Many people avoid and put down her writing simply because she didn't like their favorite films; this is a pity, because her lovely prose on the high art of movies is a joy to read and a wonder to behold. (She never called them "films" because the word sounds too sophisticated and upper-class for such a mainstream medium.) Her reviews always made you think twice about the movies, and she has the courage to dare to attack those motion pictures considered timeless classics (calling Casablanca an example of "how entertaining a bad movie can be") and the insight and encyclopedic knowledge to back her claims with well-prepared arguments. Even when you find yourself violently disagreeing with her opinion (and you will disagree with her in places, I guarantee…her review of The Sound Of Music resulted in her being fired from her position at The Atlantic magazine!), you'll find yourself shaking your head and even understanding why she feels that way about some films…why she considers some two-bit hack films to be extraordinary marvels, while some of the greatest motion pictures of all time suffer from her barbed, witty poignancy. Her obvious biases do tend to flavor her reviews (she obviously had a heavy crush on Brian De Palma, while she despised Norman Mailer with a passion bordering on hate) but her writing is considered one of the cornerstones of modern-day film criticism. Along with the writing of James Agee, Kael's works are the standard to which all other film criticism is compared, outshining even such popular writers as Roger Ebert and Leonard Maltin. For Keeps is a book you will want to keep; and if you are learning about the great classics of the cinema, it's a book you will return to time and time again.