Critical Press

Critical Press

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The Critical Press (Raleigh, NC)


Alessandra Wike | | 512-501-4399 ext 710 | @AlessandraWike

The Critical Press is changing the face of film writing in the 21st century as they celebrate the perceptive and ambitious writers of the film critic community. Based in Raleigh, North Carolina, they publish short books on film and culture, as well as criticism on classic and contemporary cinema. Their primary focus is short- and medium-length books, covering topics and arguments that delve into subjects thoroughly and yet make them accessible within 100 to 150 pages.

“The Critical Press is committed to publishing and selling well-written, high-quality critical arguments about new and classic films in print and digital formats, especially at a length which otherwise would get overlooked.”

November 2015

Richard Pryor: American Id
by Jason Bailey
This series of essays examines Richard Pryor’s work – from his albums to his concert films to his movies –  as one of the most powerful yet idiosyncratic voices of American culture. By tracking the parallels between the comic’s life and the black experience, and contextualizing his art and persona among the tradition of Southern storytellers, the Civil Rights movement, and the complicated racial identity of Reagan’s America, Jason Bailey attempts to answer a series of questions about this uniquely American entertainer: Was Richard Pryor a product of his society, or an instigator of it? Was Richard reflecting us, or were we reflecting Richard? Was he a mirror, or a prophet?

Yesterday is Forever: Nostalgia and Pixar Animation Studios
by Josh Spiegel
Since its first feature film in 1995, Pixar Animation Studios has often been treated, rightly, as a powerful, influential, and forward-thinking animation company. However, many of its films are incredibly besotted with a nostalgic longing for the past, one that may not have truly existed outside of the mind’s eye. From the Toy Story trilogy to the first Cars film, many of Pixar’s films (the good and the bad) are about chasing what used to be instead of embracing the future. What’s more, Pixar’s influence has spread far beyond its technological prowess, as other animation studios such as Disney have more wholeheartedly embraced nostalgia for the past in recent years. In this book, published on the 20th anniversary of the original Toy Story’s release, Josh Spiegel examines some of the films from Pixar and Disney over the past 20 years that have embodied one of the most important lines of dialogue in Disney history, courtesy of theme-park narration: “Here, tomorrow is today. And yesterday is forever.”

October 2015

Facing Blackness: Media and Minstrelsy in Spike Lee’s Bamboozled
by Ashley Clark
In 2000, Spike Lee released the controversial film Bamboozled, which follows a frustrated black TV producer on his quest to create a show so offensive it will get him fired. The result is a modern-day minstrel show that, contrary to expectations, becomes a massive hit. A satire of race, media, celebrity, and American history, Bamboozled received mixed reviews at the time of its release and has been conventionally regarded as one of Lee’s lesser efforts.

In this reappraisal of the film for its 15th anniversary, film critic Ashley Clark makes the case for Bamboozled as one of Lee’s most rich and enduring works, and as one of the most important satires of American culture in this young century.

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September 2015

The Gag Man: Clyde Bruckman and the Birth of Film Comedy
by Matthew Dessem
Though today he is barely remembered, Clyde Bruckman was a key figure in early film comedy, collaborating with icons like Buster Keaton, Harold Lloyd, W.C. Fields, Laurel & Hardy, and the Three Stooges. Working while screenwriting was still in its infancy, Bruckman helped shape many influential shorts and films, developed the gags that made them legendary, and eventually became a director himself. But Bruckman’s own life was filled with tragedy and disappointment, from alcoholism to accusations of plagiarism, and over time his story has been relegated to little more than a footnote.

Matthew Dessem’s The Gag Man, an expansion of his study of Bruckman for The Dissolve, will be the first book-length biography of this fascinating but elusive figure. Drawing on archives, court documents, and of course the films themselves, Dessem brings Bruckman’s story to life and shines a light on an important corner of Hollywood history.

I Lost It at The Video Store: A Filmmaker’s Oral History of a Vanished Era
by Tom Roston
For a generation, video stores were to filmmakers what bookstores were to writers. They were the salons where many of today’s best directors first learned their craft. The art of discovery that video stores encouraged through the careful curation of clerks was the fertile, if sometimes fetid, soil from which today’s film world sprung.

Video stores were also one of the last vestiges of media’s analog world. We are now at the whim of online distributors like Netflix, iTunes, and Amazon. Convenience has trumped curation. It’s time to look at what’s lost. And to come to terms with the world we live in.

In I Lost It at the Video Store, Tom Roston interviews the filmmakers who came of age in the era of video rentals, and constructs a living, personal history of an era of cinema history which, though now gone, continues to shape film culture today.

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