A story about the passing of longtime film critic gets me thinking about the art

(From syracusenewtimes.com)

(From syracusenewtimes.com)

Charles Champlin was a couple of letters, a few decades and the opposite side of the camera away from a film legend.

Nevertheless, the man who shared an industry and initials with Charlie Chaplin earned major stories in the Hollywood Reporter and Los Angeles Times upon his passing at the age of 88 this week. I decided to write about Champlin for my weekly Film News Blog for the Syracuse New Times because he was the Times’ film critic for 13 important years, from 1967 to 1980.

You can read my piece on the New Times’ attractive site by clicking the link below.


On Mondays, my Film Blog for the New Times is a movie review. I’ve written a sister piece weekly for that review here, too, since May 2013. Of course I was interested in this man who wrote so many for the daily newspaper that served the city in which most movies were made during his career.

He’s quoted in the stories I read. Those are linked in my piece you can find by clicking above.

Reviews themselves are art, this man said, I will report in a cut-to-the-chase paraphrase.

I spent 21 years writing music reviews for the big daily here in Syracuse, before this film duty. Yes, I thought, Charles Champlin’s death deserved a story by me. It’s a good time to reflect. Perhaps I can discover some things about the audience, too.

When you read reviews in newspapers, magazines, or online, do you look for the name of the critic who wrote the piece or go straight for the opinion, and why? Do you want a review to be more informative or more entertaining, and why? Who’s your favorite critic, and why?

Fish of Gold

32 thoughts on “A story about the passing of longtime film critic gets me thinking about the art

  1. Thank you Mark, I’ve been wanting to read his books for the longest time. I’ll take the time to check out Amazon or eBay. Did you ever meet his brother, Father Joe? Undoubtedly, the finest man I ever met. He spoke of his brother often with much love & pride.


    • Judy! I was fortunate enough to have been in an audience with Father Joe on several occasions to hear him speak eloquently. He was quite an ambassador for Syracuse. When I wrote this piece, I did not make the connection that Charles and Joe were brothers. Thank you for doing that for us all, my friend.


  2. Boy oh boy do I have great respects for quality reviewers. Heck, I admire anyone who can translate a concert, movie, or theatrical production into words that make sense to those who did attend as well as those who did not.

    So, after seeing a movie, I head straight to the reviews online when I get home. I don’t really care if it got good reviews, I’m checking to see which of the reviews got it right by agreeing with me and who missed the boat. I check on our local reviewers who can get cocky and just like to stand out in the crowd to see what they did. And quite importantly, I would check with Roger Ebert who could get to the soul of a movie and help me really see.


    • That’s the attitude, WAWW. When I was doing 100 concerts reviews a year for the daily here in Syracuse, I wanted those at the show to run and check what I had to say, to see if they agreed or disagreed. And I always told the community at large that my plan was to be the eyes and ears for those who could not be there. As far as I’m concerned, you nailed it! ๐Ÿ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Beth. I appreciate that. ))

      I have been reading the work of another of your friends lately. Thank you for intrducing me to the words of Roy Sexton of Roy’s Reels. That critic can paint a picture!


  3. I read reviews when i come across them – but don’t seek out reviewers. Your reviews are good Mark – however so many have such divergent opinions. We seem to be from a similar socio-economic background, around the same age, with similar work ethics, etc. I find your reviews right on. Many reviewers have very different tastes than mine and as a result reviews can range from trashing a movie to gushing about the quality and I have no way to know which would apply to my reaction. So it isn’t really helpful for me to read very many. For instance i love submarines and submarine movies – but a lot of reviewers don’t, so these movies often get a poor rating when i enjoy them.

    Anyway, I do like your reviews Mark. Thank You.


    • That is a good point, Paul. The vantage of the reviewer does not always align with that of the reader. That is why I take great pains to explain the whys, not just the whats. Thank you for reading my work. I agree that you and I have similar positions on many of our life traits, and I am glad you are in my readership circle. Your comments are reviews in my daily habits. Your guest blogs feed my intellectual and entertainment needs. You need your own platform, sir.


    • Wow, Elizabeth, I really appreciate you pitching in with a personal view from a desk in a room where Charles Champlin displayed his knowledge and talent. You were lucky to be one of the students to which he passed along those tools of the art and industry. ๐Ÿ™‚ Thank you for taking the time for telling us about it here.


    • Here’s why I think it”s important to note the writer of the review, Aud — other than the obvious sell that I am a writer of reviews, har-har. The recognition and possible subsequent relationship with opinion gives the reader a better base of judgment regarding the opinion within, the patterns of taste and consistency of likes and dislikes. If Jameela Jones always hates action flicks, you might go to the action flick you’ve been waiting a month to see regardless. It’s a trust issue, somewhat, because there are so many reviews available these days and so little time to choose what you want to see.


  4. You wrote a lovely tribute, Mark! I’m reviewer ignorant–you’re the only one I know. Though Roger Ebert was a favorite as he was an amazing human being. Couldn’t eat a thing for years before the end and he wrote a rice-cooker cookbook! An entertaining read all around.

    Reviewing is a different game these days. Everyone is very literally a critic. I enjoy reading your reviews because I enjoy reading your work, but for the most part, I wouldn’t see a movie or not based on what someone else wrote. It’s too personal a thing. Though. I do trust the local restaurant reviewer here in Mpls.


    • Thanks for reading my reviews, Liz, and my work. It is a different game because everybody thinks they can. But, really, it’s tough to do … I am pleased to hear that you trust your local restaurant reviewer in Minneapolis. Yay!


      • I suppose you’re right–it’s not as easy as it looks to write a solid review. A tightrope of sorts, I’d imagine. Respect, man. You have mine.


      • Here are the three words that always sit on my sighline as I’m writing a review, Liz, so it’s juggling more than balancing: Entertain. Inform. Educate. When I move from music to movies, I have add a phrase: don’t give away too much about the plot.

        Thanks for your respect.


  5. That’s sad that he passed. Actually, I only read the reviews of people whose opinions I trust. My favorite? I think you already know that answer… It’s YOU! Why? Because for the most part, you have a lot of the same taste as me, though you also tend to also like some manlier stuff than I do. But every movie I’ve seen based on your recommendation has been worth my money and my time. I can honestly say that I can’t say that about any other reviewer I’ve read.


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