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Film critic Judith Crist, dead at 90

Film critic Judith Crist at the Festival of

Film critic Judith Crist at the Festival of India Diaspora in New York City. (2001) (Credit: Getty Images)

It was written in red ink with a felt-tipped pen. "This is boring. I wouldn't get past the first paragraph."

Welcome to critical writing, taught by Judith Crist.

I remember the assignment was to write about a blind man who'd been named a censor somewhere upstate. The details elude me. But Professor Crist's comment has stayed as vivid as the color in which it was written.

She died today at age 90.

This hasn't been a very good year for critics. It has claimed Andrew Sarris, the scholarly and devoted film critic whose great years were at the Village Voice; Robert Hughes, for decades the wise art critic at Time and a critic of culture; and, of course, Gore Vidal, the picador to all bull artists.

Crist, as kind and generous personally as she could be stinging in her criticism, was a reporter, feature writer, editor and critic. She wrote for the New York Herald Tribune, New York Magazine and TV Guide. She contributed commentary on the Today show.

And for so many years, she was a teacher at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, where I spent a semester in her class that took in moviegoing, review writing and periodic ego crushing.

I entered the school thinking about being a filmmaker. I left wanting to be a movie critic, something I still think about even when writing reviews of books or restaurants. In the days before she died, I wondered what Crist would say about "Vertigo" toppling "Citizen Kane" in the British Film Insitute's latest poll. I'm sure it would have been to the point.

And Prof. Crist wrote a lot more, including a letter of reference for a student who needed to come up with a better lede.

I suppose I should come up with a better kicker, too. But I'll leave it at: Thanks.


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