The best critic in Denver has announced his departure.
No, I don’t mean me, but thanks for asking.
Robert Denerstein announced in his Saturday column that he was leaving the Rocky Mountain News, apparently accepting a buyout package from the newspaper, which has been trying to shrink its staff lately.
Denerstein wrote, “I’m at a point in my life where it makes sense to slow down and smell the artificially flavored popcorn. That means that my name won’t be appearing regularly in the paper after today. If upon waking Tuesday, I reflexively begin the drive toward the Rocky, you’ll have to forgive me - I’ll be battling 30 years’ worth of conditioning.”
Denerstein has been writing movie reviews since 1980, but he didn’t appear on my radar until ten years later, when I was old enough to appreciate what a good movie review entailed. I remember being on vacation in Florida and reading a syndicated review in a local paper; it was Bob Denerstein’s review. It was then that I finally appreciated that our homegrown film critic was nationally recognized. It made me see his work in a whole new light, it made me pay closer attention to what he had to say.
When I finally got serious about film criticism I appreciated Denerstein’s even keel. There are critics who try to write snappy reviews, more interested in their own style than substance. There are critics who for an academic audience, dropping references and big words that even your average Mensan would have to look up. Denerstein’s tone strikes a happy middle ground. He knows that movies are entertainment, and he doesn’t hold that against them. And when an artful film offers something different and worthwhile, he champions it, making sure even the broad audience of the Rocky Mountain News would be forced to consider culture and art. His top ten lists have been treasure troves of films worth looking up, not just the popular titles you heard about at the Oscars.
I have had the privilege of meeting Denerstein — “Bob” — and even, in recent years, of thinking of him as an industry colleague (that’s probably just a little presumptuous on my part). As I spent more time with the Denver film critics, what struck me about Bob as a person was — once again — his even keel. At press screenings, before the film rolls, there can be a lot of posturing. There are know-it-all critics who talk just loud enough to be deliberately overheard. There are aloof critics who barely deign to say hello. There are nervous critics awed by the other critics who appear on TV or in the big newspapers. Bob, refreshingly, doesn’t play any of those games. He’ll talk to you about movies if you like, or the Nuggets, or the Broncos, or politics. He’s intelligent, well-informed, unpretentious, and decent.
I’m sorry to see Denerstein leave the Rocky Mountain News. He says he may still contribute on a freelance basis, so I’m not going to write about him in the past tense. If I had to bet, I’d say we haven’t seen the last of him. But we’ll probably have to wait a little to see how it all shakes out.
As the editor of a web site that takes a lot of time and generates very little money, I allow myself the luxury of being selective about which movies to write about. Denerstein, on the other hand, has been covering almost everything for the last 30 years.
As he wrote in his farewell, “It’s rewarding to rip apart a bad movie and even more fulfilling to embrace a good one, but there are only so many ways to shrug one’s shoulders in print. I’ve seen a lot of mediocre movies; my shoulders need a rest.”
My own best wishes, then, are this: Bob, may you not have to watch another bad movie, except for the ones you want to see.