Love Movies? Here Are Four Dallas Film Critics You Should Be Reading.

It's a question forever faced in my line of work: Does film criticism matter?

Depends who you ask, really. While a guy like Transformers director Michael Bay might reach into his deep pockets and assure you that no, it in fact does not, there are plenty of independent filmmakers out there, yearning for laudatory coverage to put their production over the top, who would beg to differ. For these little guys, whose movies have lived and died thanks to the words of a film critic, the picture they'll paint is much different.

To that end, here's something important that you should know: A film critic's job isn't to be right; rather, it's his or her job to to make you think.

Often, when I post my reviews online, someone will comment with a conflicting opinion — the occasional thoughtful “you suck, bitch” remark, is my favorite — and, y'know, that's OK. I encourage the discussion. Fact is, there's never a wrong answer when it comes to taste.

And, surely, there's no shortage of opinions out there. The Internet has made it very easy for anyone to call his or herself a film critic. Got a website and the know-how to write even the least little bit? You are now a film critic.

Hell, it worked for me way back when.

In the beginning, just to be perfectly frank, I didn't even want to call myself a film critic. But, over time, I asked a lot of questions, read a lot of books on writing, watched every movie I could get my hands on, studied the foundation of film criticism and found my voice through trial and error.

I am still learning every day. There's always room for improvement. But I'm here now, and occasionally people even listen to what I have to say.

It's really nice, actually.

Also nice? We have a lot of other great, veteran critics in Dallas, too — people like Chris Vognar, Robert Wilonsky, Boo Allen, Frank Swietek, Todd Jorgenson, Peter Simek, Nancy Churnin and Cary Darling, just to name a few.

But it seems there's always room for new blood, too.

A few years ago, I moved away from Dallas to see what other parts of the world had to offer. I lived in Austin, then Los Angeles, then New York and now I'm back in Dallas, here to stay. Before moving away, a few younger writers here caught my attention and stuck with me. Even while I was away, I studied these upstarts' work. Their words are sharp, they love movies just as much as me, and, most importantly, they are very passionate about discussing film — be it through a full, thoughtful review or just voiced on social media, 140 characters at a time.

Which brings me to the point of this piece: In this dog-eat-dog industry, it's time we shared the wealth some. To that end, allow me to introduce you to four up-and-coming film critics in North Texas who I read — and who I encourage you to read, too.

Marc Ciafardini.
Outlet: Go See Talk.

Why did you decide to start writing film reviews?
It was an article I read years back that prompted me to start writing. It was, and still is, informative and encouraging for anyone looking to start on this crazy path. But it was volunteering at the 2011 DIFF that really showed how writing about film can get you closer to filmmakers and the industry. It helped me shift the focus of the site from a hobby blog to one with more professional leanings.

Where can our readers find your work?
Since founding the site in 2009, I write exclusively for Go See Talk, but some content is also posted and shared on Movie Pilot. I'm a contributor there and, sometimes, around the Dallas International Film Festival, my interviews and reviews are re-posted to Pegasus News [now Dallas Morning News] and DallasFilm.org.

What are some of your favorite reviews you've written?
Like composer James Newton Howard told me in an interview, “I try not to look back.” As with anything, growth and professional maturity comes from moving forward, so I think my favorite reviews are the most recent ones, like The Expendables 3, Calvary and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

What are some of your favorite interviews you've conducted?
Although the transcription doesn't quite come off as fun as the actual experience, I had a blast talking with composer Patrick Doyle. Also, I learned so much about films and film music from conductor Richard Kaufman. While I get vastly different but satisfyingly answers out of each interview, my favorite, to this day, has to be the time I spent with Simon Pegg, Nick Frost and Edgar Wright, talking about The World's End.

Who are some writers or critics who've influenced your writing?
This is probably crazy talk, but I never look to people who do this for a living. Instead, I look to writers who are bold and hungry enough to defy convention and write the way they want to, and not the way they think they should be heard. That said, one of these journo-rebels has become a critic and it's because of his passion at a young age that he's become a solid and exemplary voice in smaller critic circles. Also, he's one of my best friends. Andrew Crump writes for Screen Rant, Paste and a few other websites. He's the rabbit I chase. Check out his stuff.

What else would you like our readers to know about your career in film criticism?
In the end, whether you're a critic, a fan or just a casual cinema goer, no one has it exactly right. Remember; Film is subjective, so don't let anyone change what you feel is good or bad about film. Thanks in large part to my father for allowing me to watch such great films (Animal House, The Thing, Predator) much earlier than I should have, and the friends I've kept over the years, I have great idea of what works for me and what doesn't. That said, I am always on the lookout for something that surprises me, be it a new or old film.

If today's date was September 23, 1990, who would win in a fist fight and why — Rowdy Roddy Piper or Brian Bosworth?
Damn, man. Good question. You know Rowdy is my first choice, by far. But while They Live has the mother of all back-alley street brawls, I'm going to go with the Boz. Being a lineman, I think he's just a step or two quicker than Piper and that's all you need really. Still, it pains the Carpenter fan in me to go against the grain especially because Piper obviously the better actor. Now if you had asked who had a better mullet, it would have been a different outcome — the winner would be Kurt Russell.

Preston Barta.
Outlets: FreshFiction.TV, Red Carpet Crash.

Why did you decide to start writing film reviews?
As a kid, I was obsessed with movies. My first theater experience was Jurassic Park, and my love for film only grew from there. In middle school, I started reading movie reviews written by the Denton Record-Chronicle's Boo Allen. He inspired me to pursue film criticism. I started small, writing paragraph reviews for my friends on MySpace. Some of them spread the word, and a radio station in Fort Worth asked me to write for them shortly afterwards.

Where can our readers find your work?
My most recent work can be seen on FreshFiction.TV, the sister site of FreshFiction.com that I am the editor for. I also write for Red Carpet Crash. However, my largest body of work can be seen on The NTDaily, which is the newspaper that I used to write for at the University of North Texas. It includes my reviews, articles and opinion pieces from the past two years.

What are some of your favorite reviews or articles you've written?
My favorite reviews are 12 Years a Slave, Rush, Only God Forgives, and Boyhood, and favorite articles are “Coming of Age Flicks Mark Life's Milestone,” “A Filmgoer's Guide to Dallas' Film Festival” and “Five Landmark Films Depicting Black History.”

What are some of your favorite interviews you've conducted?
The Maze Runner, Boyhood Q&A, The Fault in Our Stars, Nebraska and In a World.

Who are some writers or critics who've influenced your writing?
Boo Allen, Peter Travers and Roger Ebert.

What else would you like our readers to know about your career in film criticism?
While I love watching and writing about films, my real dream is to make them instead. I made several shorts in high school and college. For now, though, I am gathering all the wisdom I can by watching and enjoying as many films as possible.

If today's date was September 23, 1990, who would win in a fist fight and why — Rowdy Roddy Piper or Brian Bosworth?
Brian Bosworth because his knuckle sandwiches got to be as good as his one-liners.

Angela Jones.
Outlet: We Drink Your Milkshake!

Why did you decide to start writing film reviews?
Javi [Fuentes] and I met while we worked at Starbucks back in the day, before we landed our current big-kid jobs. We found a mutual love of movies, and first bonded when I came to get coffee after watching There Will Be Blood. I mentioned I had seen the movie, and he told me he saw it too and loved it. I was impressed he had even heard of the film, so we've been talking movies ever since. We loved the idea of writing reviews and thought it would be cool to have a site where you could get two points of view — hence how the he said/she said concept came to be. Our concept isn't always a guy versus girl perspective. Sometimes one of us might have more of a background with the subject material, and therefore brings an experience perspective to the material versus a novice. After seeing Up in the Air one night, we decided to just go for it and created our site, named after a favorite line from the first movie we bonded over, We Drink Your Milkshake.

What are some of your favorite reviews you've written?
American Mary. I had the most fun writing this review because I disliked the movie so much. I know that's awful to say, but sometimes it's more fun writing about a movie you didn't care for than a movie you're just lukewarm about. Or, Get Him To The Greek. This was one of my earlier reviews, and because of this piece, my parents decided to see this movie. It was the first time anyone said they wanted to go see a movie because of something I wrote. Granted it was my parents, but it still made me feel good inside. And, Up In The Air. I will always have a special place for this review in my heart because it's what started it all.

Who are some film critics or writers who've inspired you to start writing about film?
The cornerstone would be Roger Ebert. I grew up catching any episode of At The Movies, and then began reading his reviews online later on. The fluidity and his way with words is like nothing I've ever read before, and I fell in love with the idea of being able to do that. When I began to read more and more sites, the reviews over at Pajiba really stuck with me. I enjoyed their style; the personalities of the writers shine in their reviews, and I enjoyed relating to them.

What else would you like our readers to know about your career in film criticism?
I don't pretend to know everything about film or film history. But I look at criticism as more of a discussion of film. Not everyone will agree on whether they like a film or even if a film is even good, but the mere discussion of it will make you gain a deeper appreciation of the art of film. You can never stop learning. My “shame” list of great movies I never got around to seeing (Casablanca, Vertigo, Raging Bull, Gone With The Wind) will probably never end, and that's what makes me so happy.

If today's date was September 24, 1990, who would win in a fist fight and why — Rowdy Roddy Piper or Brian Bosworth?
I have to go with Rowdy Roddy Piper, strictly because I watched the WWF growing up. Yes, I have older brothers, and no they didn't make me watch it. I watched it because I liked it — quite weird I know. So I have a soft spot for him.

Javier Fuentes.
Outlets: We Drink Your Milkshake!, Screen Invasion.

Why did you decide to start writing film reviews?
Jonesy and I had thrown around the idea for a whole after listening to movie podcasts such as the /Filmcast. Since we didn't know anything about what went into making a podcast, we decided to write instead. Taking our inspiration from the podcast format, we wanted to do reviews that were more like debates and discussions instead of just a definite “This stinks!” or “This rules!” kind of format. I think it lent itself to some of the more interesting reviews we've had, especially when we disagree about something.

What are some of your favorite reviews you've written?
I have a few that I like. One I did with Jonesy in our “he said/she said” format was The Raid. I also wrote a review for the [Oscar-nominated] foreign film Bullhead that turned out to be a little more intense than I realized. Finally, I did a series where I watched all 27 Japanese Godzilla movies, and this one from Godzilla Vs. Destroyah was my favorite to write.

What are some of your favorite interviews you've conducted?
To be honest, I don't do a lot of interviews. During festival times, I'm too busy trying to watch as many movies as I can and to write the reviews as quickly as possible that I don't have too much time. I will say that some of the best conversations I've had during film festivals are with filmmakers — especially short film directors — and just talking with them as fans and not as subjects lends itself to pretty interesting topics. I really should do more, though!

Who are some film critics or writers who've inspired you to start writing about film?
Definitely Roger Ebert, but that's a standard answer. To be honest, my inspiration came more from podcasts and friends discussing a movie's themes more than any specific film critic — at least at the time that I started. Nowadays, I love to read people like Drew McWeeny, Evan Saathof's hilarious Sam Strange Remembers reviews on Badass Digest, as well as Matt Singer, Keith Phipps and the rest of the crew over at The Dissolve.

What else would you like our readers to know about your career in film criticism?
Film criticism and writing about movies is a huge passion of mine and while having a day job definitely limits me in a lot of ways, it's something I take seriously. I want to have more readers and foster film discussion. I want to be influential if only because I want to be advocate for things I'm passionate about, like the Dallas film scene. I think that Dallas is underrated film-wise and it doesn't need to be. There's a lot of great stuff happening in our backyard between the guys at the Texas Theatre, the [Alamo] Drafthouse, and all of the film events going on in Dallas> We're becoming a great film-lover's city.

If today's date was September 24, 1990, who would win in a fist fight and why — Rowdy Roddy Piper or Brian Bosworth?
Obvs, Rowdy Roddy Piper. Any guy that makes a badass like Hulk Hogan cower in fear will win any fight.

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