The slightly contemptuous spirit of "fun trash" fatuity infests our contemporary relationship with pop culture—not without reason—but Sarris could be dead funny without trivializing. (Obits dwelled on Sarris's "feud" with Pauline Kael, but he was at his best when arguing with himself.) Altogether the most likable of our great critics, Sarris took intelligence, rather than rampant idiocy, as the rule. He credited the audiences that flocked to Hollywood movies as something more than a great unthinking mass, saw art in filmmaking that had largely been dismissed as hackery and opportunism, and believed above all in his readership. This beautiful optimism is his legacy, and long may it stand.
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