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Inter­view by Paul Stathakis | Sep­tem­ber 7, 2014


Paulz­eye: Talk to us a lit­tle about your­self. What per­suad­ed you to become an arts reporter and film critic?


Eli Glas­ner: Well essen­tial­ly I was a behind-the-scenes chase pro­duc­er at CBC Radio when one of our film colum­nists moved on.  I had stud­ied film, in par­tic­u­lar screen­writ­ing at York Uni­ver­si­ty, it was my first love.  When there was a chance to share my thoughts about movies with an audi­ence I jumped at it.  I had already been doing it in an infor­mal way (both­er­ing my col­leagues) this was just a bet­ter way to focus my ener­gies.  Arts Reporter fol­lowed lat­er, as there was a anoth­er open­ing and I’ve always been inter­est­ed in the arts. At York Uni­ver­si­ty I stud­ied pho­tog­ra­phy, played in the jazz pro­gram, worked at the local radio sta­tion (CHRY), so again report­ing on the Arts suit­ed my many interests.


Paulz­eye: You’re cur­rent­ly the lead­ing film crit­ic over at CBC.  When you embarked on the jour­ney to become a crit­ic, did you ever imag­ine that you’d some­day review film for the CBC?


Eli Glas­ner: Nev­er.  CBC is a place that is very dear to my heart.  I grew up with the radio always on at the break­fast table.  To work in the same insti­tu­tion where As It Hap­pens, Morn­ing­side and The Nation­al orig­i­nate is a great source of pride.  But you said “jour­ney” and my path was nev­er so planned.  More like a mix­ture of deter­mi­na­tion and luck.

Paulz­eye: Gene Siskel, Roger Ebert, Pauline Kael, the list of cel­e­brat­ed crit­ics is vast. Who are some of the film crit­ics that have inspired you?


Eli Glas­ner: Kat­ri­na Onistad used to write the most amaz­ing reviews for CBC online.  She shared some­thing I also appre­ci­at­ed in the writ­ing of the Globe and Mail’s Rick Groen, they used the writ­ing of film as a spring­board for some­thing big­ger.  Also you see a bit of this in the best of Roger Ebert.  Oth­er film writ­ers I trust include Johan­na Schneller, Bilge Ebiri, Andrew Park­er and Jef­fery Wells who I don’t always agree with but cer­tain­ly knows his voice.

Paulz­eye: Your pod­casts are live­ly and always a plea­sure to lis­ten to. Some­how, I imag­ine you sit­ting alone in this tiny booth with a micro­phone, record­ing your thoughts. Is that what the set­ting looks like? Talk to us about that experience.


Eli Glas­ner: The pod­cast is the final thing I do every Fri­day after speak­ing live to approx­i­mate­ly 20 CBC radio sta­tions.  I see it as my final record.  I’ve spent the day yakking about films and slow­ly clar­i­fy­ing and fig­ur­ing out how I real­ly feel about things. Hope­ful­ly by 6:30 PM on a Fri­day night I’ve sort­ed it out.  Sit­ting alone in a record­ing booth in front of a mic and mix­ing board, I talk to myself for 7 min­utes or so.  I start­ed the pod­cast because I lis­ten to a lot of them myself and I want­ed to be part of that community.


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Paulz­eye: Peo­ple assume that all a film crit­ic does each day is watch movies and sim­ply review them but sure­ly there’s a lot more to it. Describe to us what a day at work is like for you.


Eli Glas­ner: Well my job is more of a hybrid so it’s a mix.  Some­times I’m at a screen­ing in the morn­ing.  Oth­er times I’m work­ing on a news sto­ry for TV.  Basi­cal­ly I need to bal­ance my screen­ings around my news gath­er­ing duties.  So my job is a mix of watch­ing films, writ­ing arti­cles, inter­view­ing peo­ple, research­ing sto­ries and of course on-air duties for CBC News Network.

Paulz­eye: What are some events/stories that you’ve had the plea­sure of cov­er­ing over the years and why?


Eli Glas­ner: One of my favourite sto­ries were my pro­file of the Native DJ col­lec­tive A Tribe Called Red.  Amaz­ing guys, amaz­ing music and we had the priv­i­lege of see­ing them cre­ate in the stu­dio and the night­club in Ottawa (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z0S3wP-8VFw).  Then there was the time I fol­lowed artist and writer Jeff Lemire up to North­ern Ontario to tell the sto­ry of a new Cana­di­an super­hero.  I’m also a com­ic book buff so that was a great oppor­tu­ni­ty and the peo­ple in Moosonee were amaz­ing (http://www.cbc.ca/news/arts/equinox-new-cree-teen-superhero-joins-dc-comics-lineup‑1.2588623).

Paulz­eye: As a crit­ic, you’ve also had the oppor­tu­ni­ty to inter­view a num­ber of impor­tant actors and actress­es. Who are some of the most mem­o­rable celebri­ties you’ve sat down with? And why?


Eli Glas­ner: Get­ting Don Chea­dle to play my trum­pet and talk about Miles Davis was a high­light.   It’s always fun to sur­prise an actor or direc­tor in the movie jun­ket set­ting which I also man­aged to do with Jason Reit­man.  I didn’t love his film Labor Day but we had a great chat.  The mark of a good inter­view is that it has the abil­i­ty to change the way you look at a film, which is what hap­pened after talk­ing to Reit­man.  Also it was a plea­sure to talk to David Cro­nen­berg about his career on film.   Such a gen­er­ous, fun­ny and ground­ed guy.

Paulz­eye: Now, a ques­tion I love to ask each guest here at Paulz­eye. What are some of your ear­li­est film memories?


Eli Glas­ner: Being ter­ri­fied when Luke Sky­wak­er gets his hand loped off.  Ani­mal smash­ing out of the saloon in “The Mup­pet Movie.”  “Old Yeller.”  (Boo hoo)

Paulz­eye: Your pro­file page on the CBC web­site lists “Brazil”, “Bara­ka” and “Brick” as three of your favorite films. If you were told that you could only pre­serve 5 films for all of mankind, which would you select and why?


Eli Glas­ner: Holey Moses that’s a huge ques­tion.  I think I’d nom­i­nate “Bara­ka” because it’s a beau­ti­ful beau­ti­ful overview.  “Hunger” because of it’s stark human­i­ty and amaz­ing artistry.  The Marx Broth­ers’ “A Night at the Opera” so we still have some­thing to laugh at.  Sarah Polley’s “Sto­ries We Tell” because it speaks to fam­i­ly and how we per­ceive our­selves and final­ly “The French Con­nec­tion” because of Pop­eye Doyle and human­i­ty will always need a good car chase.


Paulz­eye: Why is it, you think, that film crit­i­cism con­tin­ues to remain rel­e­vant today as it has for sev­er­al decades?


Eli Glas­ner: Well I don’t know if I ful­ly agree.  Cer­tain­ly in the world of print there isn’t as much val­ue put on crit­i­cism.   Many of my friends in the trench­es strug­gle to keep their jobs.  But then there’s the suc­cess of Rot­ten Toma­toes, which points to a cer­tain appetite for, if not crit­i­cism, at least some sense of guid­ance.   I think in our media sat­u­rat­ed world peo­ple still want fil­ters or sug­ges­tions.  They want to know their time wont’ be wast­ed.   If I can help some peo­ple dis­cov­er a gem or a avoid a dis­as­ter, that’s a start.  And if in the process of my ram­blings I open their eyes to a cer­tain tech­nique or the larg­er world of film, all the better.

Paulz­eye: In a Feb­ru­ary 2012 inter­view, I asked film crit­ic Nell Minow whether or not she thought crit­ics still had an impact on how well or poor­ly a film per­formed at the box office. Her answer was: “Yes, espe­cial­ly inde­pen­dent and small-bud­get films that do not have a big adver­tis­ing bud­get.” Do you agree with those sentiments?


Eli Glas­ner: I think good reviews can help give a film a push.   Peo­ple do con­sult rat­ings and fac­tor them into their deci­sions.   Often rat­ings can be quot­ed on iTunes and pro­mo­tion­al cam­paigns, so we do give the audi­ence a lit­tle nudge.

Paulz­eye: There’s been a lot of talk late­ly con­cern­ing Hol­ly­wood’s aban­don­ment of cel­lu­loid and embrace­ment of dig­i­tal film­mak­ing. What are your thoughts on that topic?

Eli Glas­ner: I’ve cov­ered this sto­ry and I’m sad to see cel­lu­loid fad­ing away.  I’m not entire­ly thrilled with the dig­i­tal view­ing expe­ri­ence and on some lev­el it just irks me that I’m sit­ting in the the­atre pay­ing for pix­els.   Much of this is just nos­tal­gia on my part but I am glad a col­lec­tive of Hol­ly­wood film­mak­ers have band­ed togeth­er to try and keep Kodak in busi­ness of mak­ing cel­lu­loid (http://www.indiewire.com/article/quentin-tarantino-christopher-nolan-and-judd-apatow-lead-the-charge-to-keep-film-stock-alive-20140730).


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Paulz­eye: Con­sid­er­ing the advances in tech­nol­o­gy, what do you think the future of film will look like?

Eli Glas­ner: I fear we’re head­ing to a more immer­sive, 3 dimen­sion­al expe­ri­ence.  I say fear because our cur­rent cin­e­mat­ic lan­guage (edit­ing, cam­era move­ments, etc) don’t  nec­es­sar­i­ly trans­late to a  3D medi­um.  I can only think of a cou­ple films that actu­al­ly use the depth in an artis­tic man­ner, “Pina” and “How to Train Your Drag­on 2” being my favourite exam­ples.  Of course, a new cin­e­mat­ic lan­guage may evolve, but I like my movies flat.

Paulz­eye: One word to define cin­e­ma so far, this year?


Eli Glas­ner: Evolving.


Paulz­eye: What valu­able advice would you offer to the many ambi­tious film com­men­ta­tors around the globe?


Eli Glas­ner: Watch as many much as you can, say what you think hon­est­ly and try to avoid snark, it’s an easy crutch. 

Paulz­eye: Eli, I want to thank you for tak­ing time out of your busy sched­ule to answer these ques­tions today. It’s been a real joy and a great honor.


Eli Glas­ner: My plea­sure.  See you in the dark.


Read Eli Glas­ner’s film reviews

Lis­ten to Eli Glas­ner’s  pod­cast “Eli Glas­ner on Film”