Interview with Film Critic Claudia Puig

“...having a breadth of diverse critical voices is all the more crucial, not just to reflect a diverse audience, but to speak to the differing concerns and issues of a wide expanse of people.”
— Claudia Puig

Claudia Puig is president of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association and a nationally recognized entertainment journalist. She is currently a critic for NPR’s Film Week and a contributor to NPR’s Morning Edition and All Things Considered. She was USA Today’s film critic for 18 years and host of USA Today’s video series The Screening Room. She was also a contributing film critic on KNBC-TV. Prior to that she was a staff writer for 11 years at the Los Angeles Times. Claudia also has written for The Wrap, AARP Magazine was a speechwriter and diversity consultant for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. She has been program director at the Napa Valley Film Festival, and is currently program director for the Mendocino Film Festival and FilmFest 919 in North Carolina.  Claudia is also much in demand as a moderator for entertainment industry panels and Q&As, and has a consulting business specializing in film analysis, curating, and diversity issues.
She has covered the Sundance, Toronto and Cannes film festivals, and has been a juror at dozens of film festivals around the world from Ashland to Zurich.

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Why do different critical voices matter?

Critical voices matter more than ever in the world we live today. We have an unprecedented number of entertainment choices so the guidance and acumen of critical voices is essential. With the vast array of opinions expressed via social media, critical perspectives that are well-reasoned are all the more valuable, even indispensable. Voices that rise above the cacophony on social media are those that offer the greatest context, wisdom and creative analysis. Additionally, having a breadth of diverse critical voices is all the more crucial, not just to reflect a diverse audience, but to speak to the differing concerns and issues of a wide expanse of people.

What inspired you to be a critic?

I have been a film lover since I was a child. I was raised by parents who were cinephiles—but their tastes differed. My father was a fan of foreign cinema and filmmakers like Fellini, Visconti, Bunuel and Truffaut. My mother loved classic American films. Both encouraged me to watch their favorities with them so I was exposed to great movies at an early age.   I loved reading and writing going back to when I first learned how to do both. I knew I wanted to make my life’s work something in which I was always learning and also imparting what I’d learned via writing. Journalism fit the bill exactly. I  abegan my writing career as a journalist covering crime, courts and city government. Then I went on to writing about movies and television and some music.  After 12 years writing objectively, I wanted a new challenge: to write criticism. And I had always loved critical essays and been a longtime film aficionado, so I approached my editors at USA Today about writing criticism. I began writing film reviews in 2001 and then also added some book reviews in 2012. It’s been such a joy and honor to review thousands of films over the last 17 years, in print, on television (KNBC, KCET), on radio (NPR, KPCC) and via podcast (Film Week).

What films are you excited about right now?

I am super excited about Black Panther, not only for its well-told, deftly acted and masterfully directed story that had profound resonance, but because of the change its huge success could mean for more inclusive filmmaking by major studios.  The most exciting movie of the previous year for me was Get Out, which had so much to say about race in the U.S. and was consistently entertaining in the way it spoke volumes about essential issues.

What “hidden gem” do you think deserves more attention? 

There are so many hidden gems I’ve seen over the years. The first ones that come to mind are: Ex-Machina, The Brothers Bloom, Bottle Rocket, Kedi, Beach Rats, Infinitely Polar Bear and I Don’t Feel At Home in this World Anymore.

  Ride or Die Film   Magnolia (1999) Directed by  Paul Thomas Anderson

Ride or Die Film
Magnolia (1999) Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson

  Feast For Your Eyes Film   Pan’s Labyrinth (2006) Directed by   Guillermo del Toro

Feast For Your Eyes Film
Pan’s Labyrinth (2006) Directed by Guillermo del Toro

  Hot and Bothered Film   Out of Sight (1998) Directed by  Steven Soderbergh

Hot and Bothered Film
Out of Sight (1998) Directed by Steven Soderbergh

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