Richard Corliss, High-Spirited Movie Critic for Time, Dies at 71

By Weber, Bruce | International New York Times, April 28, 2015 | Go to article overview

Richard Corliss, High-Spirited Movie Critic for Time, Dies at 71


Weber, Bruce, International New York Times


Mr. Corliss was known for his firm opinions and punchy prose, melding the forthright Time style and its compact format to a joy in deadline invention.

Richard Corliss, whose well-informed and spirited movie reviews appeared in Time magazine for 35 years, died on Thursday in Manhattan. He was 71.

His wife, Mary, said the cause was complications of a stroke. He had been in a hospice care center.

A prolific contributor to Time who also wrote profiles, essays on popular culture, and television and theater reviews, Mr. Corliss was known for his firm opinions and punchy prose, melding the forthright Time style and its compact format to a joy in deadline invention.

An unabashed movie fan who believed that a couple of hours in a theater was time well spent no matter what the movie was -- "Everything is worth seeing," he often said, as Time's Richard Zoglin wrote in an obituary on the magazine's website -- he was nonetheless hardly a pushover as a critic, and he occasionally relished the contrarian view.

Among the popular films he disdained were Robert Altman's "M*A*S*H," the basis for the television show about American Army surgeons during the Korean War, about which he wrote in The New York Times (before his tenure at Time began) that the supposedly charming and mischievous protagonists were boorish bullies; "Titanic," the James Cameron hit whose special effects Mr. Corliss praised but whose dramatic storytelling he panned, and whose economic prospects he got spectacularly wrong ("Dead in the water," he predicted); "A Chorus Line," Richard Attenborough's adaptation of the long-running Broadway musical that Mr. Corliss found, at best, inoffensive; and "The Full Monty," the British comedy about laid-off steelworkers who concoct a striptease act, which he condemned as a formulaically sentimental audience-pleaser, lumping it with "Ghost," "Cinema Paradiso" and other, in his phrase, "masterpieces of emotional pornography."

Even so, Mr. Corliss's work shone brightest when he could vent his eclectic enthusiasms, from George Lucas and Quentin Tarantino to Ingmar Bergman and Francois Truffaut, from Chinese kung fu films to Disney animation, from high-minded, ambience-saturated dramas like Anthony Minghella's "The English Patient" to quirky teenage tales like John Hughes's "The Breakfast Club."

Mr. Corliss promoted screenwriters against the headwind of opinion that said movies were made by auteur directors. He expressed adoration of movie stars as different as James Stewart and Cameron Diaz. In a 1985 review of the comedy-thriller "Into the Night," he described Michelle Pfeiffer as "drop-dead gorgeous," helping to popularize the phrase. …

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