On Film Criticism: Adina Glickstein

Views from Somewhere
Adina Glickstein

To convey a sense of the headspace I was in when I determined that being a film critic was the most glamorous career imaginable: I wrote my college application essay about Susan Sontag, delighted at myself for cannily dropping her moniker, “the Dark Lady of American Letters,” in the opening line. As a senior in high school in Denver, Colorado, I had a keen (if conditioned) sense that I had to end up in New York, and an equally strong intuition that, once there, I would spend most of my time parked in darkened cinemas. I have now lived in New York for almost four years, save for a six-month spell in London, and while most of my early fantasies about life here have since resolved into naive, endearing memories (cue Eileen Miles: “when I simply/am this/green”), moviegoing has remained steady, central to my existence. The periods between my ninety-ish minute sojourns expand and contract in step with my other commitments, but spending the afternoon at the cinema still registers as an act of self-care.

I’m grateful to be in dialogue with so many other exceptional critics, both here in New York and elsewhere—going to the cinema with friends slides, easily and comfortably, into a shared night of processing and putting-into-words, often spilling over into strings of ecstatic texts exchanged hastily the following morning. I also feel particularly lucky that I can count among my friends and mentors here such a vast array of writers of all different stripes, all of whom deal with different media in their work and gravitate towards different themes and contexts. Collectively, they inspire me to work beyond the boundaries of traditional film criticism—writing about cinema in ways that feel more unconventional and experimental, or writing about other art forms altogether. The interpretive lens that I bring to any kind of art analysis, though, is invariably shaped by my background in film studies, which taught me formal rigor and patient attention to detail and duration. I think that so much of the richness of the critical circles that I run in (if one can be permitted to make such a social calculation about oneself!) comes from the diversity of backgrounds represented—disciplinary backgrounds, personal backgrounds, ages and life experiences. I don’t quite feel qualified to gauge the “state of the field,” so to speak, since I occupy a very small niche within it—but I can briefly and enthusiastically nod toward its value.