Monday, 8 December 2014

[Feature] "That's a Wrap for At the Movies" -- Here's to you Margaret and David

This Tuesday night marks the end of an era as beloved Australian critics Margaret Pomeranz and David Stratton as they draw the curtain closed on their weekly film review television program -- At the Movies.

The show launched in 1986 on SBS and was originally titled 'The Movie Show.' For nearly 30 years the show has followed in the footsteps of the trailblazing American television show 'Siskel and Ebert at the Movies' highlighting two critics reviewing the weekly releases in a conversational format.

The critics in question were Margaret Pomeranz and David Stratton. Over the years, Margaret and David have grown to become two of Australia's most beloved critics. In some ways, they couldn't be more different from one another, but in others they were simpatico. Both were sharing an equal love of all things film related. Margaret usually being the fairer of the two whilst David was far sterner and more critically minded towards the art of film.

I was first introduced to the show back in 1998 when it originally aired on SBS and for 16 years I have followed it avidly. Following the program when it made its eventual jump to ABC in 2004 and rebranded under the new title 'At the Movies.' The show became a weekly tradition as it offered a vocal platform for all things film related.

Being the type of guy who actively seeks out lesser-known films, it was wonderful to have a program that offered a springboard for those lesser known films to garner attention at a time when they had less exposure. Sure, times have long since changed and thanks to the advent rise of the Internet it has become easier than ever for lesser known films to find exposure. But the show remained a weekly fixture thanks to the endearing qualities of Margaret and David and their valued opinions.

On the occasion that they did find themselves at odds ends it always made for amusing viewing. The Lars Von Trier film 'Dancer in the Dark' instantly springs to mind. Where David's zero-star rating infamously punctuated by the statement "that's my favourite horror film" was in direct opposition to Margaret's glowing five-star rating. But even when they did find themselves at opposite end of the spectrums it was still abundantly clear that they held each others opinions in high regard.

Despite my admiration for the two, there were many times where I would sit on my couch and actively and sometimes verbally disagree with them. Yeah, it feels a bit weird to admit that there were times where I would say out loud to my TV screen "you're wrong" but it happened on so many occasions. But none of that truly matters. Whether you agreed or disagreed with their opinions didn't matter. What mattered was that burning passion which radiated through the camera.

That burning passion of loving your field of work to such a degree only to be deeply annoyed when it lets you down or praising the high heavens when it gets it right. What mattered was that you felt as if you could have very easily engaged in conversational debate with them and still feel respected no matter the outcome. It's the mark of a true professional film critic.

But it wasn't just engaging with the weeks new releases that made this show what it was. No, there was also the weekly 'classics' segment where they devoted the closing segment of the show to a personal favourite classic. Through this segment, I was introduced to a number of great films. Great films such as 'To Be or Not to Be', 'The Night of the Hunter', 'Cries and Whispers', 'The Lady Eve', 'Cria Curevos', 'In a Lonely Place', 'Sunset Boulevard' and many, many others over the years.

And after 16 years its all comes to a close this Tuesday night. The end of a weekly tradition and the end of an era as Margaret and David retire from our screens. I'm not the type who is usually moved by a critic's farewell with exception of the late great Roger Ebert. But I don't mind saying that I will be a little emotionally fragile come this Tuesday night.

For the past 16 years, Margaret and David have played an important part towards the development of my critical thinking. In recent years, I have had the privilege of attending a few media screenings. I don't mind saying that I was a little star struck on the odd occasion that I would notice either one of them walk into the room. They've inspired me time and time again, and they will continue to inspire long past their final sign off.

Thanks, Margaret and David for the many, many years you have both provided informative and entertaining reviews. I may not have always agreed with your opinions, but the love of film you both shared could never be denied. As such, you both always had my respect and admiration. It's been a fun ride, and you will both be sadly missed every Tuesday night. Thanks for giving me inspiration in my pursuit of film criticism and thanks for the entertaining and informative show.

Here's to you Margaret and David.

If you're like me and you are a fan of the show, then make sure you head over to the official website and leave a farewell message.

-Daniel M



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