Watching Movies with a Critical Eye with Clarisse Loughrey
Owen Shapiro 00:04
Welcome to Kino Society with Owen Shapiro. Welcome to Kino Society and today we have Clarisse Loughrey, the chief film critic for The Independent and also a regular stand in for regular stand-in for Mark Kermode on BBC Radio 5 Live’s “Kermode and Mayo.” She’s worked extensively with BBC making guest appearances on radio for radio three, BBC Four and Radio One screentime podcast. She’s also written for BAFTA Games Radar and Little White Lies.
Clarisse Loughrey 00:40
Yeah, thanks so much for inviting me on.
Owen Shapiro 00:41
Would you mind telling us a bit about your background? And what drew you to film criticism?
Clarisse Loughrey 00:46
Yeah, sure. It was a little bit of an accident, because I knew I always wanted to do something with film, because that’s what I’d always loved since I was a child. You know, additionally, I wanted to be an actor, I had three, you know, I used to practice my Oscar speech in the mirror. Like a very sad little kid. And that was initially what I pursued. University, I did a bunch of comedy, I thought I was gonna be a comedian. I don’t know why I’m not funny. But while I was at university, I just started writing film reviews for the, like the university paper, just as like something to do something to try. And I discovered that I really enjoyed it. And I started doing it more and more. And at first, it was sort of the backup thing that I always had in case, things didn’t work out. But I think as time went on, I realized that something about it felt, right, you know, when you’re doing something, and it just feels like the thing you’re meant to be doing. And, yes, yeah, I just, I just kept going. And I guess here I am now.
Owen Shapiro 02:05
So what skills are needed to be a film critic,
Clarisse Loughrey 02:08
I think the most important thing nowadays because you know, what we’re dealing with now is this brilliant democratization of the art form in which you know, anyone who has access to a blog, or even a letterbox account can write a detailed review and have people read it. So I think what’s becoming really important now is just having a unique point of view, having something to say. And also, I think having the current like the I don’t know, the courage that makes it sound like you have to be brave to be a film critic, which is ridiculous. But I think have the dead dedication to stand by your beliefs to want to share your perspective how, however, strange or unique it may be. And also, I guess, to have the imagination to deliver it in a way that that’s interesting, and that that readers connect to and that readers feel engaged with.
Owen Shapiro 03:05
So is there anything in particular that you love about being a film critic,
Clarisse Loughrey 03:09
I guess, going back to that thing of, of knowing that I always wanted to be doing something good to develop as a kid, it’s just, I guess it’s the closeness, it’s again, it’s about being able to be a part of that, or that that is the film worlds. Even if it’s just watching the film, I know. That sounds dumb, but I just love watching movies. And getting to do that as part of a job as something that I get paid for is still really wild. To me, like, but a dream come true. That’s awesome.
Owen Shapiro 03:44
So you think that film critic should have a degree in film or anything since you seem to care more about film is about film in general than the actual journalism?
Clarisse Loughrey 03:55
Like it depends I I don’t have a degree in journalism, or in film, I studied ancient history. So I guess I have to say, though, because otherwise, my entire existence is invalidated. I kind of believe No, I think it’s, it’s helpful certainly to have a degree in either things in either journalism or in film. But I think if you have the passion for it, and you’ve had the curiosity, the the desire to sort of do the research in your own time, then I don’t think it’s essential.
Owen Shapiro 04:32
So do you think that it’s more important to like movies primarily for being a film critic or to like writing because like, especially in recent years for game journalism, mostly as well, people are seeing a lot of there are a lot of videos of game journalists that are you acting in video games, like they’re playing like a five year old. So and then there’s like all these debates online of if game critics should be required to have a particular skill or just Knowledge of video games rather than just being journalists?
Clarisse Loughrey 05:03
Yeah, I guess I guess there’s no equivalent to like being bad at a game in a film because yeah, I don’t know. I guess could you watch a film badly? I that’s an interesting question. I think you really do have to have both. Because I don’t think it’s enough to just say, Hey, I really love movies like that should make me a great film critic that makes you a great film fan. But you know, a whole other part of it is the writing. And if you can’t connect to your audience, then you know that that’s kind of a problem. I would say you are not a good film critic. If you if you can’t vocalize effectively, what you’re feeling inside. And that’s the thing like you could love movies to death. They could be your entire world and existence. But if you’re having lots of thoughts and opinions that you can’t really communicate very well, then that’s sort of that’s sort of a barrier to your audience, I guess.
Owen Shapiro 05:57
So do you have any favorites? movies or directors?
Clarisse Loughrey 06:00
Oh, gosh. This is such a hard question. Because I feel like it changes every single day the answers I always give that my two favorite movies are boy by by Tycho ytt. Just because I know something about the language of that film and the perspective and the mixture of like, hope being hopeful, but also being realistic about how life works really sort of fits with my worldview and how I also see things the other answer I give is the apartment by Billy Wilder, because it is just a perfect film perfectly made and it has kind of that that same that same idea of Hey, like be hopeful, but also like understand that happy endings don’t really exist in real life. So
Owen Shapiro 06:49
you know, yeah, apartments amazing movie. I love that one.
Clarisse Loughrey 06:52
Owen Shapiro 06:53
um, I think I’ve seen boy, I’ve seen a lot of takeaway 80s movies, definitely very feelgood factors movies most of the time.
Clarisse Loughrey 07:02
Yeah, yeah. It’s interesting, because boy, I think in the USA got released around the same time as like New Zealand, but in the UK, it just never got released until I think it was when Thor Ragnarok came out, they finally decided to release it in the UK. So for years, I’ve been sort of telling everybody, hey, you have to see this film. But the only way to watch it is you have to specifically order it from Australia to be delivered to your house. But I promise you it will be worth it. And not a lot of people took me up on the offer, but it’s fine. They’ve all seen it now.
Owen Shapiro 07:34
So what is the mover you had a hard time reviewing and why?
Clarisse Loughrey 07:40
Okay, I’ll give the same answer that I gave to this because I have been asked this question before once. And I think the hardest reviews are always the ones where there’s like some sort of practical restriction to it like either the deadline is ridiculous. Like you walk out the film and the deadlines. like two minutes later and you’re wildly typing in a cafe just trying to get words done down or, or I don’t know, there’s like, well, there’s something read about it. I think, you know, coming out of a movie and not being sure how I feel about it. Like it happens a lot. But I feel like I could deal with it. At this point. I know what to do. I scribble my thoughts down and I figure it out. So I think the hardest one for me recently was I saw cats and Star Wars The rise of Skywalker as a double bill like right after. So like cats completely broke my brain. And then I’m like a huge, huge Star Wars fan. And I had like a lot of very conflicted emotions about the rise of Skywalker. So the Little Star Wars fan part of my brain was trying to process all of that, but also processing the image of Judi Dench with like, no human hands, and But the worst part of it was that the deadline for both of those films was like 7am The next morning, so I was like, right, I need to just stay up all night and figure out how I feel about both of these movies at the same time. And like I did it, but it was a it was a weird it was a weird night with a lot of weird thoughts and the movies were starting to blend at some point.
Owen Shapiro 09:15
I can’t imagine it being too hard to find some to have an opinion on cat sad movies. It was just finding
Clarisse Loughrey 09:22
the words to describe it. That was the thing is that I don’t I don’t know what I was looking at for.
Owen Shapiro 09:28
Terrifying, just terrifying.
Clarisse Loughrey 09:31
Yeah, yeah, terrifying is the right word.
Owen Shapiro 09:33
Do you think the opinions of critics matter more or less than they did in the past?
Clarisse Loughrey 09:38
Oh, gosh. Oh, I don’t know it because I think it is a yes or no, because I think we’ve sort of moved past the idea of having the celebrity critic like the Raja eba or the Pauline Kael who is a figure of such sort of Titanic reputation that you know, they can make your Break of film depending on how they feel about it. I think we’ve moved on from that because of this idea of like the democratization of film criticism. But I don’t think that necessarily means that people care less what Film Critics think. I think it’s more that from my experience, it’s more that people will seek out credit to sort of, it’ll be like, Okay, this is the critic that I trust. And it might not be someone who works for The Guardian, or the LA Times or something. It might be somebody who had her own blog, but that will be the person that this film fan goes to every single time to be like, okay, I trust that we have either the same taste, or I can figure out from your V’s, how I’m gonna feel about something. So I don’t know. Like I, I don’t know what that I guess I would say I yes. And no, which is a really unhelpful answer to that question. I’m sorry.
Owen Shapiro 10:51
No, no, it’s helpful. A lot of datasets, especially with YouTube, that there are a lot of people that are gaining traction, that aren’t particularly hired by specific companies or anything, they’re just completely independent. And those people gain a lot more recognition than just one person with a face of IGN. It has a billion different people speaking and their opinions, their criticisms.
Clarisse Loughrey 11:14
Yeah, I agree. And I think that’s something great about that. I know that, you know, praed projects can be a little snobby about YouTube critics or bloggers or stuff like that. But I, I just think it’s so brilliant, because honestly, the the more voices, the better, because it’s really interesting to hear different perspectives. And we need that, like, I kind of get tired of reading the same review over and over again, because it’s the same kind of person who’s working as a critic, and they all feel exactly the same about every film. You know, I think diversity in every meaning of that word is just good for film criticism, period.
Owen Shapiro 11:52
How would you describe your personal taste?
Clarisse Loughrey 11:55
I don’t know. I sort of weird, weird, probably. Yeah, I think I I do tend to be attracted the most to films that I’m a huge David Lynch fan. And you know, I’m a fan of anything that falls under the umbrella of lynchin. I love dream logic. I love films that take place in a fantasy world or a semi fantasy world, something that’s not quite grounded in reality, anything like that is, is really out my shape. Because I think what I love most about film is the escapism aspect. Like I just kind of want to leave my body and leave my existence and go somewhere else for two hours. And I’m really appreciative of any film that allows me to do that.
Owen Shapiro 12:38
So do you think there’s a belief of intellectual superiority in the people who criticize things harsher?
Clarisse Loughrey 12:45
No, I think like, obsessing too much over like panning things, or, you know, over praising things, or just being kind of over the top with everything. I think it’s dishonest, because I don’t know, maybe I can only really speak from my experience of film watching. But I rarely come out of a film feeling like 100% like, this is the worst thing that has ever happened to me. Because it’s not, it’s a movie. Or to go Oh, this is the greatest masterpiece ever made. Like I would give up my firstborn for this movie. You know, I you’ve got a two hour experience in which your emotions are gonna naturally fluctuate and and you’re gonna love some things and really emotionally respond to some things, other things might not work for you or they might just not really correspond to your experiences or how you feel you might have just not not played with it in some way. And I think the most important thing in film criticism is just to be honest about your own emotions. And that’s really hard. Because, you know, I think there is always a pressure to to like, feel a certain way about movies. And I think there is a pressure to pan things because it gets all the clicks and everyone loves to read a one star review of a movie but I think like if you’re forcing yourself to feel that way just so you can write a one star review it Yeah, I don’t know. It’s it’s really dishonest to me. And and I love nuance. I’m a big fan of nuance. Yeah, I don’t know. I guess that’s how I feel about that.
Owen Shapiro 14:22
So are there any critic sets you admire or follow?
Clarisse Loughrey 14:26
Oh, gosh, that’s really hard. Because I I try to read as everybody I’m trying really hard to just to just say it goes back to this idea that I really love, like diversity of opinion and hearing different perspectives. So I feel like I’m just always chasing after every review. I really love Justin Chang his writing at the moment because it’s the stuff I really enjoy is a balance between like really sharp analysis and stuff that just reads beautifully. And he’s really, really good at that. I’ve been reading a lot of stuff by this critic in the UK Cold jacking as well, who does a similar thing of it mixing personal sort of like personal perspective and also historical and social analysis, which I also really enjoy? Yeah, I don’t know. I like a lot of people, it’s hard to pick.
Owen Shapiro 15:17
Are there any big misconceptions about critics that stand out to you
Clarisse Loughrey 15:20
that we are telling you whether to like the movie or not? I think that’s the source of all the the aggressiveness towards critics is this idea that if a critic gives a negative review of film, it’s them telling you that you are not allowed to enjoy it, which is very much not what I’m doing. Like, to me, a review is the start of a conversation. Like it’s a jumping off point for you to develop your own feelings about it. And it’s like, if you disagree with the thermal, why do you disagree? That’s really interesting. explore that. Like, what maybe what caused that that separation of opinions? Is there something about YouTube as people that means that you feel very differently about this film, that’s the stuff that I find really interesting. I just hate all the fighting, and the anger and like, it’s like, we could all get along that just movies like, it’s totally fine to have a different opinion on something. It’s great. Let’s embrace that. So yeah, just just we are we are not the teacher coming around to be like, Hey, did you like that last Marvel movie? Well, you’re not allowed to because I’m the big main critic. And I said it was bad.
Owen Shapiro 16:38
So speaking of opinions, though, are trending movies, you change your opinion,
Clarisse Loughrey 16:42
I think not in any way that’s like really dramatic. I don’t think I’ve ever had like a complete like one ad and gone from this is the worst thing ever to Oh, my God, I love that. I do think that revisiting stuff, my feelings kind of deepen like that, I realized that there’s a lot more layers to how I feel about something, which is interesting. Like, that’s kind of the annoying thing about being a credit is that you get one usually at one shot to watch through B. And you have to form a very concrete opinion of that one experience. And sometimes I feel like, you know, this is the thing that critics ever want to talk about. But, you know, your your opinion of a movie is always going to be slightly not in a way that’s going to dramatically change their view, but it’d be slightly shaped by the headspace that you’re in. Like, if something if I’m having a really, really terrible day, and like, I just think the world is a garbage pile that I hate everything in it. And then I try and go watch a light comedy. I think it would be I think it would be naive to think that those, my mood is not going to have any effect on how I interpret the film, you know? So yeah, I think definitely, I always feel slightly different about films when I rewatch them. But never like a turtle. You know, I don’t know, maybe it’ll happen one day, we’ll see.
Owen Shapiro 18:09
I see. So what about the modern landscape of film with streaming service? Has that changed film criticism at all?
Clarisse Loughrey 18:18
Um, I think yeah, it’s really interesting to answer that question in the middle of a pandemic. In the UK, our cinemas are all closed. So it’s been old leaf streaming services at the moment, I would say, honestly, in terms of what I do, and like the day to day practicalities of my job, it doesn’t really affect it that much. Because a movie is a movie and and whether I watch it at home, or I watch it cinema, you know, in terms of how I write about it, it’s not going to be any different. Certainly, you know, people who do other aspects of this job, I’m sure it impacts them greatly. But for me, honestly, not that much.
Owen Shapiro 19:02
Do you have any future plans?
Clarisse Loughrey 19:04
Honestly, at the bourbon, I’ve just take it day by day. You know, the world is is very stressful at the moment. And I feel like last year told me to not make plans, because last year I was going to try and write a book. And then we got three months into the year and I realized that was not going to be happening. So we’ll see. I don’t know. Maybe I’ll write a book one day, I would like to but let’s say
Owen Shapiro 19:31
a workbook, would you plan on writing?
Clarisse Loughrey 19:33
I don’t know because I’ve been trying to think about what my specialty is. I would love to write like a proper essay book about takeaway Tz because like, he’s a beloved filmmaker, but I think like opposite and he gets to semesters, like the funny quirky New Zealand guy. And I think that his films have a lot more to them than that. And I would love to write a book to explain why we’ll see if anyone listening would like to publish this book, please contact me I’d be very willing to talk to you. Yeah, he’s
Owen Shapiro 20:07
definitely not the most talked about filmmaker in terms of analysis.
Clarisse Loughrey 20:11
Yeah, which I think should be rectified. And maybe I’m the person to rectify it. Who knows?
Owen Shapiro 20:17
What advice would you give to an aspiring film or aspiring filmmaker or critic?
Clarisse Loughrey 20:24
I would say, take the time to find your voice. Because a&r there’s, it’s so competitive nowadays. And it’s really, really easy to just get lost in the mass, the mass of of creative dreams and people wanting to make it work and make a career out of that. Because I think if you if you find your voice, if you find what makes you unique, what makes you special, and there will be something might not be obvious to you, but it will be something that makes you stand out. And then just like shout that from the rooftops because I mean, that’s the thing. I think I really wouldn’t have the career that I have today, if I hadn’t, like many years ago, gone. Oh, like, I don’t, I don’t see a lot of people who are both trying to do YouTube, film criticism and also writing at the same time. I mean, I think that’s a little bit more common now. But at the time, I feel like it was fairly rare. And so I really pushed that. And you know, it was one small thing, but it made me stand out. And you know, then I got, you know, an email from radio producer saying, Hey, would you receive your YouTube videos? Would you like to come test out for “Kermode and Mayo.” And then that’s how all of that happens. So yeah, I would just say, you know, think about something small that can make you different because it really can change everything. I would say.
Owen Shapiro 21:52
Finally, where can my listeners find to connect with you?
Clarisse Loughrey 21:56
Everything I do, I post on Twitter, which is @clarisselou. I’m doing podcasts and I’m doing videos and I’m doing articles so I just tend to put everything on there instead of making people chase me around the internet like common San Diego, something
Owen Shapiro 22:12
Thank you very much for your time. Please. That’s all for today. Don’t forget you can subscribe to keener society on iTunes and Spotify.