Inside Story: Cannes critics

As the world's biggest film festival gets underway, Compton Miller assesses the journalists who, from the comfort of a screening room, can make or break a new movie


Cosmo Landesman, 51, Wapping's answer to Kenneth Tynan

He relishes his street-fighting reputation, boldly attacking schlock films while pricking the pretensions of art movies. "I'm not a film critic," Cosmo declares. "I'm a journalist who writes about films." He shuns the Cannes Film Festival and Baftas because he hates "the back-slapping luvvie part of the film business". So who could argue with this description: "Landesman is the critic least likely to bore the pants off you with obscure references to films you've never heard of and [the most likely] to write a review that sounds like an intelligent best mate telling it like it is."

Classification: 18
Education: Holloway Comprehensive.
Review: "A pointless film that should have gone straight to video. No star." (I'll Sleep When I'm Dead, 2003)
Favourite movie: Sweet Smell of Success (1957)


Henry Fitzherbert, 33, preview-theatre Adonis

Film PRs can usually count on him to provide friendly reviews of most Hollywood blockbusters. But he occasionally reveals venomous tendencies. He described Hugh Grant's latest film American Dreamz as "this awful satire (which) will go down as one of the clunkers of the year". Married to a child psychiatrist, Fitz began as a Daily Express trainee.

Classification: 12A
Education: Ampleforth and St Peter's College, Oxford
Review: "This sequel remains about as sexy as wet socks." (Basic Instinct 2, 2006)
Favourite movie: The Sound of Music (1965)


Anthony Quinn, 42, the film critics' critic

He believes that to be a successful critic, whether of restaurants or films, the writing is more important than the subject. "You should entertain, amuse and touch people." Quinn began as a film critic on Marie Claire and The Mail on Sunday before joining The Independent eight years ago. He combines his film role with literary reviews and is currently a Man Booker Prize judge.

Classification: 18
Education: St Francis Xavier's College, Liverpool and Pembroke College, Oxford
Review: " Another British comedy for the slab." (Alien Autopsy, 2006)
Favourite movie: All About Eve (1950)


Matthew Bond, 45, Cary Grant with a dagger

Showbiz is in Matt's blood. No, not James, but his sisters, Samantha Bond (007's Miss Moneypenny) and casting agent Abigail Bond, actor father Philip Bond (The Onedin Line) and late mother, The Bill producer Pat Sandys. Bond's old schoolmate is Hugh Grant, but that didn't stop him from monstering Grant's latest film, American Dreamz ("isn't quite funny or biting enough to make an impact").

Classification: 18
Education: Latymer Upper School and Wadham College, Oxford
Review: "It's gross, wretchedly unfunny and at barely 80 minutes long will leave those unfortunate enough to see it feeling as shortchanged as they are unamused." (Date Movie, 2006)
Favourite movie: Gregory's Girl (1980)


Peter Bradshaw, 43, Simon Carr with claws

Bradshaw spoofed the late Tory MP Alan Clark's "diaries" in the Evening Standard and was sued for "passing off". Life is much calmer on the Guardian millpond where he has been film critic since 1999. With a Cambridge First and PhD, he could turn his savagery to anything. Study his fiction (Lucky Baby Jesus and Dr Sweet and His Daughter) for the deepest wounds.

Classification: 15
Education: Haberdashers' Aske's School and Pembroke College, Cambridge.
Review: "Sam Shepard, an actor of increasingly bimbo-ish narcissism, gives another tiresome, cowboy-hat-wearing performance in a monumentally boring and conceited film." (Don't Come Knocking, 2006).
Favourite movie: Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949)


Nigel Andrews, 59, Britain's answer to André Bazin, co-founder of Cahiers du Cinéma

Cerebral and stimulating, his writing has an uncanny feel for the tenor and weight of a movie. Yet Andrews' exalted status does not prevent him from writing potboilers such as The Life and Times of Arnold Schwarzenegger and a John Travolta biography. Andrews' first job was at the British Film Institute editing its Cinema One book series. He began reviewing on Sight and Sound, and joined the FT as film critic in 1973. He can be prone to the cardinal sin of revealing a film's ending.

Classification: 18
Education: Lancing College and Jesus College, Cambridge
Review: "The best Andrei Tarkovsky film Tarkovsky never made. First-time Mexican film-maker Carlos Reygadas lays before us 137 minutes of mesmerising cinema." (Japon, 2002)
Favourite movie: Spirited Away (2001)


Johnny Vaughan, 39, would-be Jonathan Ross

Fellow critics rarely meet this larky TV and radio personality at film screenings. His 1993 TV debut was presenting Channel 4's Moviewatch and, after making his name onThe Big Breakfast, he fronted The Johnny Vaughan Film Show. This former Rutland Herald reporter nearly self-destructed in 1988 when he received a four-year prison sentence for attempting to sell drugs to detectives at an M1 motel. The Sun's three million-plus readers deserve better than a critic who paraphrases the synopsis and makes cheap jokes.

Classification: U
Education: Uppingham School and HM Stocken Prison, Lincolnshire
Review: "Any way you look at it, this little puppy is a stinker of Catwoman proportions." (Aeon Flux, 2006)
Favourite movie: The Searchers (1956)


Jonathan Romney, 48, master of the cast list

Fellow critics were surprised that the eminently readable, unpretentious Romney failed to land the Guardian film job when Derek Malcolm retired in 1997. He had been Malcolm's deputy and had written for Sight and Sound, City Limits and the New Statesman. Instead, he joined The Independent on Sunday in 2000. With a doctorate in French 19th-century literature Romney, not surprisingly, majors in French cinema. "The danger for today's film critic is that, with 12 to 14 new releases a week, the bad films can eat away your brain before you see the good ones." Fortunately this solicitor's son needs to review only one film a week.

Classification: 18
Education: City of London School and Trinity Hall, Cambridge
Review: "Without a doubt this is the most eerie, enigmatic, downright inspired French art film ever to be influenced by the works of Enid Blyton." (Innocence, 2005)
Favourite movie: Hellzapoppin' (1941)


Chris Tookey, 56, the joker in the pack

Behind the tabloid "Tookey's Turkey" swagger is an upmarket critic with the lid on. Before joining the Mail in 1993, he was the Sunday Telegraph's film and TV critic. He also writes for Prospect magazine, appears on Radio 4's Back Row, lectures at the British American Film Academy and publishes Tookey's film guide on the net. This former president of the Oxford Union is the only critic to have written, directed and produced a West End stage musical, Hard Times. What will Paul Dacre make of his latest venture, Suddenly, a stage musical set in a mid-market tabloid's newsroom?

Classification: 15
Education: Tonbridge School and Exeter College, Oxford
Review: "In 20 years as a critic I have never seen a film so utterly abhorrent." (Hostel, 2006).
Favourite movie: too many


Philip French, 72, Alex Walker with a lisp

This former paratrooper and Booker Prize judge wins respect across the board as a journalist, broadcaster and author. Urbane and generous-spirited, he is one of only three British critics to have sat on the Cannes Film Festival jury. A lifetime admirer of westerns, his reviews can be surprisingly perverse.He described Roberto Benigni's award-winning Life Is Beautiful as "truly terrible".

Classification: 18
Education: Bristol Grammar School and Exeter College, Oxford
Review: "Like an exquisite Swiss watch powered by a Mediterranean heart. " (Talk to Her, 2003)
Favourite movie: Singin' in the Rain (1952)


Sukhdev Sandhu, 35, Ben Kingsley with a PhD

In a cabal of mainly male Caucasians he provides a refreshing alternative view. "I wish there were more British Asian films I could rave about, but they'll come in time," he muses. Currently Critic of the Year, this factory-worker's son integrates academia with journalism. He completed a postdoctoral fellowship at New York University before beating rivals to replace the Telegraph's disillusioned critic Andrew O'Hagan in 2002.

Classification: 12A
Education: Sir Thomas Rich's grammar school, Gloucester, and Brasenose College, Oxford
Review: " Steve Martin gives autopilots a bad name." (The Pink Panther, 2006).
Favourite movie: The Third Man (1949)


Derek Malcolm, 74, Lord of the Reels

Derek toes the critical line without being fawning, even though he admits that about half of the 10 to 12 films he sees each week are "complete crap". In his autobiography Family Secrets he writes: "No film I ever saw was any more dramatic than the story of my parents, whose marriage was so soon overtaken by a tragedy that received huge publicity and effectively destroyed the happiness of both." His father, Lieutenant Douglas Malcolm, murdered his mother's lover but was acquitted because the judge dubbed it a crime passionnel.

Classification: 18
Education: Eton and Merton College, Oxford
Review: "Exceptional works of art like this are seldom flawless but ... even when you are bored you feel it's a fault of concentration and not what is actually up there on the screen." (The Sacrifice, 1986)
Favourite movie: Tokyo Story (1953)


Polly Graham, 33, the Joan Collins of the film pack

Polly is a rare female film critic. She began as a Daily Express graduate trainee, reported for the Daily Mail and became a founder 3am Girl on the Daily Mirror in 2000. She claims to be the only critic to have been a film star. ("Well, I was an extra in Spiceworld in 1997!").

Classification: 15
Education: Norwood Comprehensive, south London, and the University of East Anglia
Review: "No need to cross your legs and think of Michael Douglas in this sequel. It's just not remotely sexy. Basically it stinks." (Basic Instinct 2, 2006)
Favourite movie: A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Ben Little, right, is a Labour supporter while Jonathan Rogers supports the Green Party
general election 2015
The 91st Hakone Ekiden Qualifier at Showa Kinen Park, Tokyo, 2014
Life and Style
Former helicopter pilot Major Tim Peake will become the first UK astronaut in space for over 20 years
food + drinkNothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
Kim Wilde began gardening in the 1990s when she moved to the countryside
peopleThe singer is leading an appeal for the charity Thrive, which uses the therapy of horticulture
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Alexis Sanchez celebrates scoring a second for Arsenal against Reading
Life and Style
An easy-peel potato; Dave Hax has come up with an ingenious method in food preparation
voicesDave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Japan's population is projected to fall dramatically in the next 50 years (Wikimedia)
Life and Style
Buyers of secondhand cars are searching out shades last seen in cop show ‘The Sweeney’
motoringFlares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive - OTE £25,000

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This publishing company based i...

Ashdown Group: Content Manager - Publishing

£30000 - £35000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Guru Careers: Report Writer / Reporting Analyst

£25 - 30k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Report Writer / Reporting Analyst is nee...

Guru Careers: German Speaking Account Manager / Account Executive

£24-30K + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: A German speaking Account Manager ...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own