Slate movie critic Culture Gabfest co-host Dana Stevens took to Reddit to answer reader questions and chat with scores of fanboys on Wednesday. This transcript has been edited for clarity.
Trustrobots: We’re four (some would argue five) years into a new decade—what would you say is the best movie that’s been released so far?
Dana Stevens: Oh wow, best movie released since 2010? I'm so not a list-maker, and choosing just one is sort of the ultimate list. But off the top of my head, I'm going to go with Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master.
NerdFromDenmark: Pancakes or waffles?
Dana Stevens: French toast. Though I do love a good thin Swedish-style pancake too.
Weltretter: The Adam Kempenaar scenario: Aliens land and will erase every single copy of every film ever made—except one. And you get to choose which one survives. What’s your pick?
Dana Stevens: So this would need to be a movie that contains strong enough cinematic DNA to allow a future alternate movie history to spring from its preservation—I think for the sake of humanity, you have to pick Citizen Kane, The Wizard of Oz, or Buster Keaton's The General. Preferably a mutant clone movie incorporating elements of all three.
JessePinkman: You have a doctorate in comparative literature from Berkeley and you could have probably pursued a tenure-track professorship, but instead you became a film critic. What happened with academia?
Dana Stevens: Oh boy. Well. It wasn’t me that rejected academia but academia that rejected me: I finished my Ph.D., went out on the job market for several years running, and never got offered a university job. At the time I thought this was a sign of the injustice of the hiring system in the humanities (which is, in fact, screwed six ways from Sunday), but looking back I am sure there were candidates for those jobs who felt more sure about their profession.
When my writing started taking off (i.e., going from blogging 1x/week at the High Sign to actually gettin’ paid, initially as a TV critic at Slate), I wasn’t too sad to leave academia behind, though I miss some things about it. There are a few critics who have had a similar trajectory, educationwise: A.O. Scott and Virginia Heffernan both either have or went a long way toward getting lit Ph.D.s. I know I wouldn’t be the writer and thinker I am if I hadn’t had those years at Berkeley.
Revere1: If you could create one new Oscar category, what would it be?
Dana Stevens: Maybe there should be an ensemble cast award? Or a second-best-score category that would include some use of pre-existing music as well as new? A lot of the best scores don't get considered now because of those rules.
Weltretter: Who should play you in the Dana Stevens biopic, and what would it be called?
Dana Stevens: Someone once told me Naomi Watts should play me in a movie, and I ascended to heaven on wings of angels. I think I am more of a ... I don't know ... Jennifer Jason Leigh? But 20 percent less crazy? I don't have a title either. How about The Scribblin’ Samurai?
Im_the_Zeppo: Do you have any reviews you look back on where your opinion has wildly changed for the better or worse?
If you could cast a new Siskel & Ebert-type review show, which two critics would you like to see go back and forth (not counting yourself)?
Dana Stevens: Changed for better or worse: I need to resee Young Adult. In our Spoiler Special podcast on it, Dan Kois pretty much persuaded me I saw it wrong. But I'm not sure at what point I will care enough to address that issue. As for a new Siskel and Ebert, I actually thought A.O. Scott and Michael Phillips were just getting their sea legs when they were taken off the air. Do I really not get to cast myself, even in fantasy? I would love to do a show like that with Stephanie Zacharek. We are friends (IRL!!!) but have very different movie taste, and I think we would have a fun rapport. Networks, you know where to find us.
Frdelrosario: Do you take notes in the dark? Favorite films and folks from the Golden Age? Which Pixar films missed?
Dana Stevens: Notes in the Dark! That’s the title for my biopic. Yes, I do scribble stuff in the dark, though I rarely look at it later and would probably not be able to read it if I did.
Golden Age—I don't know what we're saying that is, but some of my favorite classic filmmakers are Buster Keaton, Fritz Lang, Preston Sturges, Douglas Sirk, Nicholas Ray, Billy Wilder—the usual suspects, I guess.
I think I've seen every Pixar movie except A Bug’s Life, which I never got around to because nobody seems to love it.
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