Meet a Critic: Scott Weinberg
You've seen his work online...now meet eFilmCritic's resident scribe!
Everyone in online journalism knows and loves Philadelphia native Scott Weinberg. Like his hometown, Weinberg's passion for movies engenders a feeling of fraternal, film-geek kinship...and his well-observed film reviews are as satisfying as a cheese steak from Pat's King of Steaks. (Or Geno's. You choose.)
A beloved member of the RT community (and our former Newsdesk anchor), Weinberg has written extensively as a film and DVD critic for websites like Apollo Movie Guide, Cinematical, DVD Talk, FEARnet, Hollywood Bitchslap, and eFilmCritic, where he is managing editor. He also serves on the governing board of the Online Film Critics Association (OFCS), which counts over 175 international members among its ranks. As his 'net-spanning resume suggests, Weinberg is a consummate critic -- an opinionated writer with a voracious appetite for movies, sharing his insights into films you may not hear of otherwise.
And while he's got a natural bloodlust for all things horror (a recent review extols the covert virtues of 2006's Bikini Bloodbath), Weinberg's appreciation truly runs the gamut -- who else would dare take in a double feature of La Vie En Rose and The Evil Dead in one night? Read on to meet Scott Weinberg, look for him next month at Sundance, and give him a holler on the streets of Austin at South by Southwest!
Name: Scott Edward Weinberg
Age: I was born in the early 1970s. Someone else do the math!
Hometown: Philadelphia, as seen in Rocky, 12 Monkeys, Trading Places, Unbreakable, and (of course) Mannequin.
Years reviewing film: About nine, and thanks for reminding me.
Why and how did you become a critic?
Scott Weinberg: I've always been a junkie for films. The final product moreso than the casting reports, the gossip, and the production stuff. As a kid I used to wake up on Fridays and BOLT for the newspaper so I could read all the new reviews, check out all the new movie ads, and plan when I was going to sneak into something R rated. It's my dream job, really. As far as the HOW is concerned, I was working in Philly as a social worker when a friend who wrote for one of the weeklies read my stuff. She said it was a bit rough around the edges, but definitely informed, passionate, and entertaining to read. That one piece of praise and I was hooked. I found a few outlets that wanted my stuff, and I started writing (for no money) for a few years. I got a LOT better as a writer, made some contacts, asked around, and then some paying gigs came my way.
Fill in the blank: "If I wasn't a professional film critic, I'd be a ____________."
SW: Somewhere too depressing to think about. Thing is, you only live once, right? So it only makes sense to do something you LOVE. My hope is that everyone loves their job as much as I do. The money ain't great, I'll sure as heck tell you that much.
Describe your personal taste as a movie watcher...
SW: Well, thanks to my mom's mom, I grew up a carnivorous horror geek. (And I'll always love my grandmother for that!) But I also get misty-eyed at some of the girliest movies you can imagine. (Like, say, Waitress or Moulin Rouge.) Early in my career I discovered that you BETTER know a little about everything, just in case you're asked to review an old Fassbinder title, a new Wayans brothers debacle, or something in between. But while I can definitely get behind some of the "arthouse" fare, the honest truth is that I'm a popcorn junkie. I love summer-time movies (when they don't suck), and I still get pretty excited for certain 'event' movies. My #1 favorite, though, is being able to discover a new (usually horror) flick on the festival circuit and then helping to spread the word among my fellow film freaks. In other words, there's nothing I won't watch, but my preferences definitely lie in the genre department. Last night was a double feature: La Vie en Rose, followed by The Evil Dead.
Which filmmaker (living or not) who you'd most like to meet, and why?
SW: Either Sidney Lumet (check his filmography for why), Steve Martin (childhood hero, depsite his awful career choices of late), or Jennifer Connelly (just so I could stare at her face and then go stark raving mad). Or maybe Ed Wood, just so I could tell him that his name does live on.
What is your favorite film (or scene in a film)?
SW: If I had a dollar for every time I was asked this question, I'd have another 25 bucks to buy yet ANOTHER copy of Ridley Scott's Alien. Because, yes, that's my #1, all-time, top-of-the-chart, without question, supah-genius favorite film. For personal reasons, obviously, but also because I think it's one of the most "primally" effective horror films ever made. Good god did that movie scare me as a kid. Close behind in second place would be Mel Brooks' Young Frankenstein, which I think is just about the most perfect comedy I've ever seen. Smart, silly, strange, beautiful to look at, satirical yet affectionate -- and that cast! Tied for third place are about 500 films, including Miller's Crossing, Airplane!, Laura, The Blues Brothers, Strangers on a Train, Jaws and Raiders, the original King Kong, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and Halloween, and (yep) the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
Who is your favorite director?
SW: Sidney Lumet, Terry Gilliam, John Carpenter, Guillermo del Toro, Hitchcock (kinda goes without saying), Joe Dante, Kubrick (see Hitchcock), David Fincher, Ridley Scott, Spielberg (see Kubrick), John Landis (pre-1984), Wes Craven, Adam Shankman (just kidding), Brad Anderson, Peter Berg, Brian Levant (see Shankman), and (of course) Joel and Ethan Coen.
What's the worst movie you've ever seen?
SW: Oh jeez. It's an easy pick, but Jerry Springer's Ringmaster pops into my head. Ever seen Spun? Dear lord. Oh wait, I got it: Patch Adams.
Who do you think is a shoo-in come Oscar night?
SW: Daniel Day-Lewis for There Will Be Blood. The guy's a force of freakin' nature in that film. Plus he delivers one helluva two-hour Jack Palance impersonation, and I always liked Jack Palance. And while she's not nearly a shoo-in, I'd be very pleased if Helena Bonham-Carter got some love for her work in Sweeney Todd.
Best overlooked film of 2007?
SW: For my fellow horror geeks, I'd say Bug, Hatchet, Behind the Mask, and Severance. Oh, and Vacancy. (And The Mist should have done better!) For films in general, I'll go with Breach, Death at a Funeral, First Snow, The King of Kong, My Kid Could Paint That, The Nines, Sunshine, and the excellent This is England.
Overlooked or not, Before the Devil Knows You're Dead, Persepolis, Sweeney Todd, Redacted, There Will Be Blood, Waitress and The Orphanage are among the best I've seen all year.
What's your most anticipated upcoming film?
SW: I try not to look TOO far ahead, because waiting for Iron Man is sort of like torture. So I see in January we have Cloverfield (marketing aside, it's a monster movie, and I was born for monster movies), Rambo (ha!), and not one but two Uwe Boll films. Plus I get to go classy and see a bunch of Sundance stuff, and their slate looks pretty promising this year. But yeah, Iron Man. Or The Hobbit.
Favorite film event of the year and why?
SW: Despite the fact that I'm lucky enough to attend both Sundance and Toronto Film Festivals, my favorite events of the year both take place in Austin, Texas. In March we have my very favorite film festival, which is South By Southwest. (Great programming, excellent people, and you simply haven't lived until you've had authentic BBQ.) Then in September I roll back into Austin and writhe around like a pig in poop at Fantastic Fest, which is one straight week of horror, sci-fi, fantasy, foreign weirdness, and a few BIG surprises. Great fun, great people.