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News: Duncan Shepherd Retires

An Appreciation for ‘The Reader’s‘ Film Critic

Above: Film critic Duncan Shepherd was a fan of the Coen brothers. Here is John Turturo in "Barton Fink."

I didn't always agree with "The Reader's" film critic Duncan Shepherd but I never doubted his passion for film and I appreciated the high standard he set for cinema.

I have been reading Duncan Shepherd's reviews for decades. Sometimes I scratched my head as he praised "Star Trek Voyager" or "Somewhere in Time." Other times I chuckled with delight as he pondered where to place the emphasis in the title "Prick Up Your Ears." On some occasions I actually agreed with him and was happy to share his passion for Alain Resnais, Preston Sturges, and the Coen Brothers among others. Then there were the times when I was envious of the way he could turn a phrase as in describing Alan Arkin in "The In Laws" as displaying "freeze-dried hysteria" or calling"Days of Heaven" a "coffee table book" film. I never read his reviews to find out if a film was good or bad. I read his reviews because I could count on him for a different perspective and he could provide insights that maybe I hadn't considered.

He had a gift for provoking readers and I did not envy the kind of hate mail (and later hate comments) he sometimes received. Getting more than a black dot or a single star from Shepherd was a daunting task for a film but I think people were wrong to say he hated everything. I think he loved movies too much and just wanted everything he saw to live up to his highest standard. I admired that and I can understand how the flood of hollow and uninspired films of late could make him long to go to only movies of his own choosing.

The image of Shepherd that I will always remember is of him arriving for a Coen Brothers film, I can't remember which one but I think it was "The Big Lebowski." He arrived at the Hillcrest with a rosy glow on his cheeks and a bounce in his step; he was like a kid on Christmas morning unable to contain his anticipation and excitement over a gift he was about to open. That kind of passion for film is rare. Shepherd's high standards and intelligent writing will be deeply missed in San Diego.

Here's a link to his final column.

Comments

Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | November 11, 2010 at 2:28 p.m. ― 3 years, 5 months ago

Anyone who gives Pasonlini's beautiful GOSPEL ACCORDING TO MATTHEW and Jewison's underappreciated ROLLERBALL, its LOWEST rating, deserves nothing but CONTEMPT.

Good riddance!

(I will give him credit for being familiar with older films, but then again, that was his job!)

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Avatar for user 'wggmn3'

wggmn3 | December 13, 2010 at 11:13 a.m. ― 3 years, 4 months ago

Pretty well took the sentences right off my keyboard...I refer to BA's Appreciation...as for the comment above read BA"s Appreciation...

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