Richard Corliss

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Richard Corliss
Born Richard Nelson Corliss
(1944-03-06) March 6, 1944 (age 70)
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Richard Nelson Corliss (born March 6, 1944)[1] is one of the editors of Time magazine who focuses on movies, with occasional articles on other subjects.[2] Corliss is the former editor-in-chief of Film Comment and author of three books, among them Talking Pictures,[3] which along with other publications, drew early attention to the role of the screenwriter, as opposed to the director, in the creation of movies. He coined the widely used term "drop-dead gorgeous" in 1985 when describing Michelle Pfeiffer's performance in the film, Into the Night.[4]

Personal life and background[edit]

Corliss was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of Elizabeth Brown (née McCluskey) and Paul William Corliss.[1] He attended St. Joseph's College, Philadelphia (now Saint Joseph's University), obtaining a bachelor's degree, before progressing to Columbia University to earn a master's degree in film studies. Corliss lives in New York City with his wife, Mary, whom he married on Sunday, August 31, 1969. Mary was formerly a curator in the Film Stills Archive of the Museum of Modern Art.

In a 1990 article, Corliss mentions his mother clipping movie ads with quotes of his and posting them to her refrigerator door.[5]


Corliss wrote for many magazines—National Review from 1966–1970, New Times, Maclean's and SoHo Weekly News in 1980. At Film Comment, Corliss helped draw attention to the screenwriter in the creation of movies. Corliss challenged Andrew Sarris's idea of the Director as author or auteur of this work. Corliss was one of Sarris's students at NYU and they remained friends until Sarris's death. Corliss also brought Jonathan Rosenbaum to Film Comment as a Paris correspondent. Despite working for National Review, a conservative magazine, Corliss is a self described "liberal."[6]

In 1980, Corliss joined Time. Though he started as an associate editor, he was promoted to senior writer by 1985. Corliss has written many cover stories for Time. His subjects have been Star Wars movies The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith, Andrew Weil, Michael Moore, Ronald Reagan, Russell Crowe, Johnny Cash, The Matrix Reloaded, vegetarianism, yoga, The Blair Witch Project, Oprah Winfrey, Jim Carrey, Steven Spielberg twice, DreamWorks, talk radio, the 1994–95 Major League Baseball strike, the campaign against smoking, Candice Bergen, the divorce of Mia Farrow and Woody Allen, David Lynch, Pornography, Tom Cruise, Kevin Costner, Mississippi Burning, Disney, Fatal Attraction, Steve Martin, Platoon, The Hidden Treasure Trove, Sigourney Weaver, Molly Ringwald, NBC, Nastassja Kinski, the new idea of beauty, On Golden Pond, Nicholas Nickleby, and TV's Dallas.

Corliss writes for as well as the print magazine including a retired column about nostalgic pop culture called That Old Feeling. Corliss has also writes occasional articles for Time Asia. In recent times, Corliss has criticized critics for being snobby and the Oscars for being too elite, that being the reason their ratings have suffered as of late. However, Corliss did say in his criticisms that his own taste is not much different.

Corliss has been a guest on Charlie Rose's show a total of 14 times commenting on new releases, most of these times during the 1990s with Janet Maslin and David Denby. His most recent appearance on the show was in December 2005 to talk about the year in film. Corliss also appeared on A&E Biography to talk about the life and work of Jackie Chan.[7] He also appeared in Richard Schickel's documentary about Warner Brothers.

Corliss has attended the Cannes Film Festival along with Roger Ebert and Todd McCarthy for the longest period of any US journalist. Today he blogs from Cannes at He also attends festivals in Toronto and Venice. Corliss used to work on the board of the New York Film Festival, but resigned in 1987 after longtime head Richard Roud was fired due to his challenging of editorial direction of the festival.

Lolita, Corliss's third book was a study Vladimir Nabokov's book and Stanley Kubrick's film. More recently Corliss has written an introductory essay for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: A Portrait of Ang Lee's Epic Flim.[8]

Corliss is also a fan of Pixar movies, including listing Finding Nemo as one of his and fellow Time critic Richard Schickel's 100 all time greatest movies. With recent Pixar releases Cars and Ratatouille Corliss has had access into the studio's inner workings.[9] Pixar director Brad Bird has said of critics in general that he has "got nothing against critics." He also that he had "done very well with them, over the years."[10]

In addition to writing for Time, Corliss has had a lengthy association with Film Comment magazine, serving as its editor from 1970 to 1990. Corliss covers movies for the magazine and for simultaneously. Corliss along with Martin Scorsese first came up with the idea for the issue on "guilty pleasures".[11]

Corliss along with Richard Schickel made a 100 Greatest movies list. Corliss alone created lists of the 25 greatest villains, the 25 best horror films, and the 25 most important films on race. In addition Corliss was on the 2001 jury for AFI's 100 Greatest movies list.

Most of Corliss's body of work is about movies, but during the 1990s, episodes of Mystery Science Theater 3000 and The Simpsons frequented his Film Comment top tens.

In a 1993 Time magazine movie review of The Crying Game, Corliss subtly gave away the spoiler of the film, by spelling it out with the first letters of each paragraph of his review.[12]

Conflict and criticism[edit]

Corliss has had movies on his top ten lists that fellow Time critic Richard Schickel has rated the worst of the year. These included 2001's Moulin Rouge!, 2003's Cold Mountain and 2004's Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. In August 2004, Stephen King, criticizing what he saw as a growing trend of leniency towards films by critics, included Corliss among a number of "formerly reliable critics who seem to have gone remarkably soft -- not to say softhearted and sometimes softheaded -- in their old age."[13]

Richard Corliss appears in the 2009 documentary film For the Love of Movies: The Story of American Film Criticism, confessing that he was the film critic who, in the 1970s, coined the term "Paulettes" for the ardent followers of Pauline Kael, a label which has stuck.

Despite challenging Siskel and Ebert in his Film Comment article, "all thumbs", Corliss praised Ebert in a June 23, 2007 article "Thumbs up for Roger Ebert." Corliss later appeared in Ebert's book Awake in the Dark in discussions and debates with Ebert about film criticism where "all thumbs" was reprinted.

Number Ones from Corliss' Top-Tens[edit]

Best English language film in parentheses:


  • "Every artist undresses his subject, whether human or still life. It is his business to find essences in surfaces, and what more attractive and challenging surface than the skin around a soul?"
  • "Hollywood was born schizophrenic. For 75 years it has been both a town and a state of mind, an industry and an art form."
  • "It is said that no star is a heroine to her makeup artist."
  • "The line readings of Portman and Lloyd are often flat, or flat-out wrong."
  • "Mausoleum air and anguished pauses: If this production were a poem, it would be mostly white space."
  • "Today is a time of turbulence and stagnation, of threat and promise from a competitor: the magic, omnivorous videocassette recorder (VCR). In other words, it is business as usual."
  • "By dint of dogged charisma, Brynner has identified himself with a role more than any other actor since Bela Lugosi hung up his fangs."


  • Talking Pictures (1974)
  • Greta Garbo (1974)
  • Lolita (1995)


  1. ^ a b
  2. ^ Villanova University Proquest search list of 2596 articles, 2009-2005.
  3. ^ Richard Corliss (1974), Talking Pictures: Screenwriters in the American Cinema, 1927-1973
  4. ^ Time, 25 February 1985
  5. ^ Richard Corliss (1990) "All Thumbs, Or, Is There a Future for Film Criticism?" Film Comment, March/April. Reprinted in Roger Ebert (2006), Awake in the Dark: The Best of Roger Ebert, p. 394.
  6. ^ Richard Corliss (August 17, 2007). "Superbad: A Fine Bromance". Time. 
  7. ^ Jackie Chan: From Stuntman to Superstar at the Internet Movie Database
  8. ^
  9. ^ "Savoring Pixar's Ratatouille". Time. June 7, 2007. 
  10. ^
  11. ^ "Mail Page". Entertainment Weekly. October 3, 1997. 
  12. ^ "Queuing For The Crying Game". Time magazine. 1993-01-25. Retrieved 2011-08-12. 
  13. ^ King, Stephen; "The Four-Star Follies"; August 20, 2004.

External links[edit]