Some lunatic has put online all 2,846 of Pauline Kael’s capsule reviews from her fine compendium, 5001 Nights at the Movies. While I don’t advocate the unauthorized hijacking of anybody’s copyrighted works (the site’s been out there for a while now, so who knows whether or not it’s been sanctioned), it’s indeed handy having these insightful cinematic kernels available at one’s fingertips. (Which is to say, it saves me the arduous task of getting up off my butt and taking the book itself off the shelf.) Such is the insidiousness of the Internet.
On paper or in cyberspace, one thing these reviews reveal is that Kael was at her best writing in the long form. Reduced to the amount of space usually permitted in Entertainment Weekly, often lost are the insights, the snap of her words, and the sense of enjoyment that shone through her writing. Kael, like Paul Nelson, was as much a stylist as she was a critic, in some cases rendering the reviews she wrote better than the films she was writing about.