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The Independent Culture
4 'ALLO, 'allo, 'allo. D I Hughes, awards policeman, here. It's a dirty job, but someone's gotta do it. There are awards for virtually everything in the arts, and much attention is paid to them. The critics, as a rule, are sniffy. They will be even sniffier when they hear who is shortlisted for Critic of the Year in the British Press Awards. Julie Burchill.

Burchill is a columnist of some reknown and a novelist of some popularity, but her recent foray into film criticism has been - how can one put it without seeming tactless? - a disaster. She has a column on the Sunday Times. Spreading herself over the best part of two pages, she reviews one film a week, leaving the others to be rounded up by someone else in a paragraph each. This would be fine if what she had to say were interesting, informed, or authoritative.

Soon after she began, The Piano came along. In this paper, and others, it was hailed as one of the films of the year. For Burchill, it wasn't even film of the week. It opened the same day as Michael Winner's Dirty Weekend. Forced to choose, she reviewed Dirty Weekend.

It used to be thought that a critic should have some affection for her art-form. Like the terrible twins of TV reviews, A A Gill and A N Wilson, Burchill prefers a shameless contempt. Last Sunday, apropos of Pret- -Porter, she wrote: "I stayed from start till finish (unusual for me), didn't dish the dirt with my girlfriend throughout (even more so), wasn't bored for more than a minute at a time (practically unheard of) ..."

If the Sunday Times want to pay for this stuff (a six-figure sum is rumoured), that's up to them. For the great and the good of our trade to put it up for an award is a small scandal.

4 ANOTHER blow for my critical chums. The new cartoon series from the people who made The Simpsons is The Critic. It's about a film reviewer who's "rude, unattractive and unpopular". Sadly, he's not based on any of the aforementioned. Or anyone else, though the makers concede that he "physically resembles Ebert, except for his hair, which resembles Siskel". His voice is done by the actor Jon Lovitz, who may be a groper (as Jamie Lee Curtis found out at an awards do this week), but whose comic gifts are not in doubt. The good news: episode one is very funny. The bad news: it'll be on cable.

Jack Hughes