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Jeff Simon

A semi-retired critic and columnist for The Buffalo News. Before that, he spent a couple decades as The News' arts and books editor.


Columns

There's a neat little game going around social media: The 10 movies (or records or books or whatever) that made me me. It looked like fun, so I thought I'd give it a whirl. Typically, my passion for movies is such that I couldn't keep it to 10. So here are 15. Nor do I see any point in just printing titles (not everyone is such a movie maven they know what it means, for…

Gusto

"Abusive phone calls and name calling. Daily embarrassment and harassment, threatening of arrest or jail time if you don't pay up. The reality of living with anxiety, financial distress and bad credit..." It's a consumer trial that's "the worst of the worst." "This form of debt collection has been called the scourge on American society where the lowest of bottom feeders…

Columns

Here are some people you might be grateful for when the Oscars are over Sunday night: Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr. Yes, I know you've never heard of him. There's good reason for that. He was born in 1808 and died in 1890. He was the author of some novels and a critic. He was also the editor of France's legendary periodical Le Figaro. Most importantly, he's the fellow wh…

Columns

Among the nonfiction bestsellers on Amazon's current list is Philip Rucker and Carol Leonnig's "A Very Stable Genius: Donald Trump's Testing of America," a book clearly published to coincide with the impeachment. The two authors are Pulitzer Prize winners. According to President Trump, their book's subject, the two are "stone-cold losers." The book's release was pred…

Columns

I have seldom been as wrong about anybody as I was about Brad Pitt. I was, for all intents and purposes, present at the creation of Pitt as a major movie figure. It happened in 1991 when women got a look at his washboard abs and aura of romantic deliverance in the ground-breaking Ridley Scott movie "Thelma and Louise." I was among the critics who first got a look at …

Columns

I'm with the kids on this one. If Meghan and Harry want to withdraw as much as is seemly from the British Royal Family racket, I'm on their side. I'm happy on our side of the pond to applaud and holler, "Hear, hear." It's a lousy job. The money's good, of course. The fame and the ancient tradition of gangs-in-servitude to you mean you can do a lot of things with your…

Columns

All the usual suspects were there – Marty, Meryl, Brad, Quentin. You know, the whole gang. As far as I'm concerned, the Golden Globes on Sunday night turned into the Michelle Williams Show before it was over. The actress some of us have been watching since she played a lost and promiscuous teen on "Dawson's Creek" won a well-deserved award for playing legendary Broadway…

Gusto

If I've learned anything at all in my years on earth, it's that only fools are afraid to admit they need help. I need help with my best films of 2019 list. And I'm not afraid to admit it. I simply didn't see all the films that are most definitely "in my wheelhouse" to land in my Top 10 list. So if you've got a better Top 10 list of your own, by all means add it to th…

Columns

Eddie Murphy was the funniest I ever saw. This requires some explaining. I'm talking about a specific performing circumstance here — answering questions at a news conference with the national movie media. I've seen an awful lot of comedians perform in my life, under all circumstances. A lot of them were certainly funnier in live concert and club performance than Murp…

Columns

Make no mistake. "Bombshell" isn't just a movie. If you're not paying close attention, you might think it's just a slick movie takedown of Roger Ailes and Fox News for the sake of megaplex box office. Nope. That's not all – or even close. It's a good, watchable movie, mind you – a smart, hugely topical, fleet, and well-written choice for weekend entertainment more gr…

Columns

"What? No Madonna? No Redford? Not even Leslie Fiedler? His wife was a family friend for pity's sake, which means he came to one of your daughter's birthday parties. You didn't even take a picture with him then?" Well, no. I didn't. It's worse than that. My first interview with Fiedler was a long one – about 90 minutes in his home on Morris Avenue, all of which was bril…

Columns

Natalie Portman isn't like most actresses. That's for sure. She's a Harvard University graduate who once said – and seemed to mean – "I'd rather be smart than a movie star." That, of course, didn't stop her from winning – and probably deserving – an Oscar for "Black Swan." So there she was, a prestigious figure nabbed to announce the best director nominees for the Go…

Books

It may sit just a sprig of mistletoe away on the calendar but Hanukkah has absolutely nothing to do with Christmas. Let me allow someone else to tell it: "Chanukah – also spelled Chanuka, Chanukkah, Chihuahua, Chardonnay, Hanukah, Hannukah, Hannah, Hannukah, Hanuka, Honeydew, Hanaka, Hanika and Khanukkah – is perhaps the most celebrated and best-known of Jewish holid…

Gusto

Some advice: I know movie theaters now are full of acclaimed movies crawling with big pedigrees but don't, for a minute, expect "The Aeronauts" to be inconsequential or boring. Yes, it's about 19th century British balloonists who set ascent records by going 8 miles up and virtually inventing meteorology in the process. The movie is far from a dusty history of science. I…

Columns

Money is the answer. But then one might sagely observe "isn't it always?" The winning question in this game of box office "Jeopardy" is "Why did Paul Thomas Anderson – arguably the most serious and formidable American filmmaker of his generation ("Boogie Nights," "There Will Be Blood," "Magnolia") – swoop down on a suddenly ambitious Adam Sandler to make, arguably, S…