Know Your Critic

Know Your Critic: Rolling Stone Senior Editor David Fear

Fear talks screening and reviewing habits, all-time favorites, and what movie he thinks best represents the 2010s.

by | January 17, 2020 | Comments

(Photo by Paramount Vantage, 20th Century Fox, Universal Pictures)

“Know Your Critic” is a new column in which we interview Tomatometer-approved critics about their screening and reviewing habits, pet peeves, and personal favorites.

When David Fear moved to New York 16 years ago, he was intending to continue freelance writing and keep his “day job.” Fate had other plans.

He decided to move from California on a Friday, and on the following Monday, a position opened up at entertainment and “things-to-do” magazine, Time Out New York. When it came time for his move across the country, things fell right into place: By the time he got the call for an interview, he could already tell them his new address in the city.

“You can be a film critic anywhere,” he told Rotten Tomatoes, “but there really is something about being in New York and being at the Film Forum, seeing a recently restored version or our print of Army of Shadows that you really just kind of feel like, Oh, I’m in Film Nerd Heaven.”

David Fear is now a Senior Editor and critic at Rolling Stone, and the former Film Editor of Time Out New York.

What’s your personal record for most movies seen in a day?

When I was younger and much, much more full of piss and vinegar, I think I did a six-film day at Sundance once. It might have been my first or second Sundance back in 2004, 2005. I don’t recommend it.

If you ate six meals in a day, they could be the greatest meals in the world. They could be five-star chef meals. But you’ve stopped tasting it after a while and it just becomes shoveling food into your mouth and going, “Oh my God, when is this going to end?”

I found that when I would start doing more than three, maybe four movies a day at a festival, I would stop tasting the food.

Do you prefer 3-D or non–3-D screenings?

Do you even have to ask that? I’ve actually gone out of my way to see to 2-D screenings because, here’s the thing, with very rare exceptions, there’s only really three movies that you absolutely, positively need to see in 3-D.

There’s really no point to seeing Avatar unless you’re seeing it in 3-D. It’s a bad movie, but how he uses 3-D to really immerse you in a bad movie that he’s made is remarkably impressive.

Are you pro– or anti–note-taking?

I don’t understand how you can do this gig and not take notes. If you’re really serious about potentially wanting to do this, practice writing stuff in a notebook without looking at your notebook. I’m very, very pro-note taking – so long as it’s not with one of those light pens. Man, f–k those light pens.

You’re sitting down to write. Would you prefer a shot of espresso or alcohol? What’s your spirit of choice?

Espresso for writing and then bourbon for transcribing. It makes the activity of transcribing so much less painful.

(Photo by Paramount Vantage)

What’s the hardest review you’ve ever written?

If I still had a chance to work on and revise my There Will Be Blood review, I would still be doing it. Not only because it’s just one of my favorite films ever, but there’s so much going on and it’s such a slippery film for me to try and really grasp and write about in a way that feels articulate and as close to complete as possible.

I still have nightmares about writing that review and really feeling like I hadn’t quite gotten it yet. Not that I hadn’t got the movie – I knew exactly how I felt about the movie – but to try and translate that into a piece, and explain why I think it’s one of the great artworks of the 21st century to date was… I still have nightmares about it.

Someone that everyone should follow on Twitter?

I’m biased because I know him, but Justin Chang [of the Los Angeles Times]. To my money, there’s just not a better film critic working today than Justin. You should follow him on Twitter for the puns – not just the fact that he’s one of the smartest, funniest film writers today, but he is like a God-level pun maker. His punny games, his punny business is just absolutely insane.

Up-and-coming critic that you think people should read?

There are two young critics that I hope people are paying attention to.

I hope people are reading Kameron Austin Collins, he’s one of the film critics for Vanity Fair. I ended up meeting him and found out he was only in late 20s. I was just like, “Oh my God. If you’re writing at this level in your late 20s, you’re going to be a f–king monster in the next 10 years.”

I would say the same about Monica Castillo. She’s all over the place byline-wise, but she’s one of those people I feel she’s maturing really beautifully as a writer.

(Photo by Paramount Pictures)

Do you have a favorite classic film?

I could watch The Lady Eve every single day for the rest of my life and never get tired of it. There are a handful of films that I feel are as close to perfect as humanly possible, and The Lady Eve is one of them.

It’s such a cliché answer, but I’ve probably seen The Godfather close to a hundred times and that’s barely an exaggeration. Between that and the second Godfather film, I almost feel like I can quote most of them off the top of my head.

Is that the movie you’ve watched more than any other?

Yeah, that would have to be it. There’s a couple of movies that I’ve definitely gotten into the double digits with. I’ve seen Dazed and Confused a lot because it’s a comfort movie. I can sink into that movie.

Is there an actor, director, or screenwriter whose work you always love?

The closest thing I would say I have to a favorite filmmaker – and take that phrase with a huge grain of salt – would be Yasujirō Ozu. I feel the movies he makes were reverse-engineered for me.

Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope, 1977 (20th Century Fox Film Corp.)

(Photo by 20th Century Fox)

Do you have a favorite movie from your childhood?

I remember seeing Monty Python and the Holy Grail on PBS one night… I watched that constantly as a kid. You know when you found something that’s your sense of humor?

And then, because I’m a child of the ‘70s, Star Wars. My parents actually took me out of school to go see a matinee of it the first week that it was open. I had no idea what I was going into and as a six-year-old kid and then walked out of it a changed human being.

Is there anything that you consider “required viewing”?

Yeah. Actually, I think it’s out of print now… Visions of Light. It’s a documentary about cinematography and covers the gamut, talks a lot about cinematographers in the ’30s and ’40s, talks a lot about the new Hollywood guys, talks a lot about British cinematographers. It really is this incredible primer that not only is just a beautiful film, obviously, because it’s talking about people who’ve shot movies beautifully. It’s an extraordinary gateway drug.

(Photo by Universal Pictures)

You recently wrote a piece on the 20-year resonance of Fight Club. I’m wondering if there’s a movie released this decade that you think in 10 or 20 years we’re going to look back and think, “That was the 2010s.”

If I had to be honest, I think the movie would be Get Out. It feels like it’s very much a movie for the end of the Obama era and very, very much a movie for the beginning of the Trump era. Never mind that it’s also a really great move and it’s a movie that keeps giving the more you see it, and it’s so beautifully constructed. It works well as a horror film, works well as a satire, works well as social commentary, and worked well as a personal expression of the sensibility of the person who made it.

What’s the biggest misconception you hear about critics?

That we hate movies. It’s really the opposite. I think a lot of us love the art form enough that when we see it used badly, we feel we need to call it out. I don’t trust the critic that doesn’t live, breathe, eat, and s–t movies.

What are you most proud of in your career so far?

As an editor, I’m not a religious person but, I think blessed is really the only word I can think of… When I get something from a good writer and think like, “Oh, this is good but there’s a great piece in here. Let’s find this great piece.”

In a way, it’s like you’re not the mother, you’re the midwife – being able to help a really beautiful baby be born into the world by trying to be a good editor. Getting back a second, or a third, or sometimes a fourth draft and finally having the moment where you’re like, “Yes! Holy s–t! You found it.”

David Fear is a Senior Editor and critic at Rolling Stone. Find him on Twitter: @davidlfear.

Tag Cloud

docuseries razzies streaming Lionsgate El Rey women Sundance Now Sundance nature LGBTQ asian-american documentary festival Logo Mindy Kaling aliens unscripted cinemax foreign dragons Western parents Action Mudbound Disney Plus TCA 2017 IFC Nickelodeon tv talk blockbuster Freeform Bravo justice league stand-up comedy Trivia RT History disaster Shudder 2018 reviews Disney king kong CMT Funimation IFC Films award winner political drama 2017 Food Network PaleyFest Apple Shondaland crime 45 The Arrangement medical drama Pop APB Tubi news Hulu indie toronto football Mary Poppins Returns crossover criterion mission: impossible Music fast and furious comics Holiday Awards Britbox Pop TV BET quibi thriller science fiction Biopics Drama animated SDCC strong female leads worst obituary Walt Disney Pictures Creative Arts Emmys Esquire golden globe awards popular rom-coms FOX First Reviews kids Apple TV+ spain Best and Worst video on demand french dc Academy Awards zombie cops jamie lee curtis golden globes ID DC streaming service scary movies GoT TCA Winter 2020 Warner Bros. chucky Classic Film Tomatazos emmy awards prank crime drama Discovery Channel cancelled true crime Amazon Studios Opinion Sony Pictures 99% Infographic Ellie Kemper doctor who black game show biography San Diego Comic-Con Dark Horse Comics finale social media trailers best LGBT Epix travel directors children's TV 2016 Masterpiece Pet Sematary 2020 nbcuniversal Chernobyl robots spinoff versus sitcom VOD halloween tv slashers 93rd Oscars GLAAD natural history History Emmys Reality Competition 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards HBO Go dogs ITV ViacomCBS Netflix new star wars movies mockumentary sequel Comedy Central hispanic supernatural Hallmark Christmas movies Polls and Games Pirates sequels CNN Photos comic romance The Purge toy story Superheroe Mystery Year in Review Interview die hard Sneak Peek 72 Emmy Awards FX indiana jones Comic Book Video Games Animation zero dark thirty New York Comic Con documentaries psychological thriller Black History Month Acorn TV revenge composers kaiju Film Apple TV Plus christmas movies Comedy 007 YouTube Red facebook Crunchyroll Television Academy Winners VH1 nfl movies jurassic park anthology a nightmare on elm street YouTube halloween dceu Lucasfilm CW Seed venice DC Comics Marvel Television classics Sundance TV Amazon pirates of the caribbean elevated horror screenings green book MCU PBS 21st Century Fox name the review Tumblr PlayStation Syfy Certified Fresh critics Oscars BBC YouTube Premium Cannes video Turner Classic Movies Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt all-time rotten Awards Tour Fox Searchlight renewed TV shows hollywood Peacock crime thriller dark Hallmark BET Awards Horror telelvision 2019 Legendary TCM Star Trek Holidays BAFTA Paramount Network Captain marvel Superheroes breaking bad President Adult Swim police drama discovery space game of thrones WGN spy thriller Pride Month miniseries Broadway monster movies Columbia Pictures Spike witnail cars italian films TV MSNBC Paramount Plus Binge Guide Spring TV 4/20 child's play VICE Teen TCA Awards stop motion First Look fresh twilight worst movies Paramount Star Wars romantic comedy Trophy Talk teaser boxoffice james bond Endgame Valentine's Day Ovation Quiz Fall TV talk show transformers docudrama Women's History Month Toys adaptation deadpool harry potter independent The Witch vampires ABC canceled TV shows OWN Lifetime Christmas movies Ghostbusters Winter TV NYCC TLC cooking BBC One war Fox News cancelled TV shows TIFF historical drama WarnerMedia Tarantino Universal Rocketman Watching Series Countdown mutant remakes Mary Tyler Moore latino period drama Mary poppins book adaptation Stephen King Film Festival Disney+ Disney Plus hidden camera reboot NBC HBO rt archives BBC America Christmas Travel Channel Lifetime based on movie Amazon Prime spider-man TV One Turner australia ABC Signature Nominations laika YA HBO Max E3 TCA werewolf Arrowverse RT21 SXSW batman ESPN kong diversity Brie Larson Amazon Prime Video Emmy Nominations cancelled TV series Rock 2015 book canceled technology archives 24 frames blaxploitation joker Rom-Com AMC 20th Century Fox movie franchise Writers Guild of America TruTV Marvel Studios SundanceTV binge The CW Schedule Set visit Calendar sports politics Podcast festivals Premiere Dates Extras MTV heist movie dramedy Chilling Adventures of Sabrina USA Network The Walking Dead Starz television Rocky boxing 2021 FXX Trailer singing competition spanish language See It Skip It DGA cults A&E DC Universe American Society of Cinematographers richard e. Grant Hear Us Out The Walt Disney Company casting Fantasy Comics on TV TV renewals CBS comic books 71st Emmy Awards cats Black Mirror USA what to watch X-Men Marathons Red Carpet Marvel blockbusters hist comedies TV Land Disney Channel cartoon TBS Nat Geo cancelled television anime ghosts Spectrum Originals superhero Pixar Baby Yoda Grammys A24 superman rotten movies we love zombies Disney streaming service screen actors guild spanish godzilla Avengers Cartoon Network OneApp Summer Family comiccon The Academy CBS All Access Cosplay concert National Geographic Thanksgiving ratings theme song psycho Super Bowl Musical Kids & Family sag awards south america Television Critics Association Country Anna Paquin Martial Arts scorecard Box Office Elton John free movies Reality FX on Hulu Crackle E! Exclusive Video Heroines Election Musicals Song of Ice and Fire stoner japanese Netflix Christmas movies Sci-Fi serial killer adventure DirecTV ABC Family series TNT Alien Vudu universal monsters GIFs Character Guide Showtime satire