Stephanie Zacharek, the Village Voice‘s chief film critic, was named a finalist for the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for criticism. Zacharek’s in excellent company: Mary McNamara of the Los Angeles Times won the award for her stellar TV criticism, and film critic Manohla Dargis of the New York Times was also named a finalist.
The Pulitzer judges singled out Zacharek’s work for combining “the pleasure of intellectual exuberance, the perspective of experience, and the transporting power of good writing.”
Zacharek joined the Voice in 2013. Week after week, she treats her readers to learned yet approachable considerations of the films that seem to her that week’s most urgent. She does so with a rare attentiveness to the actual experience of watching the films: To read Zacharek’s evocations of feeling and texture, performance and design, is to feel as if you’re already there in the theater.
Here’s some of the work from 2014 that caught the judges’ attention:
Reappraising A Hard Day’s Night on the occasion of its 50th anniversary, Zacharek paints the film’s look, feel, and craft, but she also writes movingly of the spell that it has held over her for the better part of her life — and of what its youthful madness now means to someone with, as she writes, the knowledge “that there’s more of my life behind me than ahead of me.”
That enthusiasm and that urge to take art personally also stamps Zacharek’s reviews of Love Is Strange, in which she wrestles with the grim realities of New York real estate, or of The Missing Picture, a Khmer Rouge documentary built around puppets.
Her celebration of Top Five, Chris Rock’s comeback comedy, acknowledges the film’s imperfections while also toasting everything in it that moved and cheered her during what had been an especially hard week in New York City.
Zacharek doesn’t just evoke the powers of the movies. She also digs deep into just how the movies summon up that power. Here’s her penetrating essay about the joyousness of the violence in John Wick. She opens with the admission that there’s too much violence in the movies, in general, before getting to the root of what makes the shootouts and fisticuffs in this movie a grand exception.
Another uncommon attribute of Zacharek’s: humility. In her essay “I’m Trying to Love Wes Anderson, That Miniaturist Puppet-Master,” Zacharek examines the film of a widely admired director she has never admired much herself. Rather than dismiss the work of Wes Anderson, Zacharek examines what it is in the films that she does not respond to. She demonstrates that the critic has a responsibility to address her audience not as if she’s some singular authority. Instead, she presents as an engaged, honest, informed individual, restless in her drive to share what matters to her most.
Congratulations, Stephanie. Your family here at the Voice could not be more proud of you — and, as always, we can’t wait to see the next piece.
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