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RIP, Judith Crist

By Rich Heldenfels Published: August 7, 2012

The film critic has died. One long, respectful obit ishere. For many of us living outside the big metropolises, Judith Crist was the first movie critic we knew by name. Every week, there she was in TV Guide (back when it was a big, much-read mag), hectoring, sniping, suggesting that a knack for invective was the same as perceptiveness, but tightly assessing movies in a way that for many years was readable and engaging,

But the Times obit linked here seems to sneer fainlty at her most important quality:

Ms. Crist eschewed pretension, but never explanation. Though she had disagreements with Pauline Kael of The New Yorker, she generally avoided the kind of intellectual dueling that Ms. Kael engaged in with Andrew Sarris of The Village Voice. Her job, she said, was to expand on the “Wow!” or the “Yuck!” a moviegoer might utter on leaving the theater. The author and editor Richard R. Lingeman, writing in The New York Times Book Review in 1968, said her “level of discourse” was more that of Consumer Reports than of Partisan Review.

While I can't say that I picked it up from Crist, the idea of a Consumer Reports view of movies is not one to be dismissed. It's especially important when your're writing for the general readership of a newspaper, where not everyone is versed in, say, the movies on the Sight & Sound list. Folks have to shell out considerable amounts of money to see a movie, and I try to keep that in mind (especially when it's a matter of the 3D premium).  Is it worth the cost? That's a question Crist did not mind posing.

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