Five of his writings from last year were reviewed by the group before being elected:
Horton, 59, discusses how his interest in films began as a child, what he hears from readers about his reviews, wanting to hear more from them, and some of the elements he looks for in reviewing films.
Do you hear much from readers on your movie critiques saying, “You hated it and I loved it”?
Not as much as I’d like. I’d like to hear more from people. Usually people will write you when they want to disagree.
What are some of their comments?
I got an email from someone who wondered why I was reviewing very, very, small films that weren’t necessarily showing in Snohomish County along with the other blockbusters. I wrote back and said the reviews are running in Seattle Weekly and The Herald (both owned by Sound Publishing). But I also said I feel like people will be curious about films, even if they’re not watching them right now.
You can watch some of these small films on video on demand or Netflix. I want to cover the whole gamut. Our readers are interested in reading about small obscure things as well as the giant superhero blockbusters.
What makes for a good or great film?
I always feel like there’s no formula. One of the things would be originality. Looking for a sense of passion behind the project.
And you know even as I say originality, sometimes you see movies similar to things done before but they’re done well this time. You’re seeing four to five superhero films every year. There’s still a new way of saying something.
What else do you look for?
Sometimes l look for the feeling a movie was not made by a committee — that I can sense a single personality. I’m interested in films by David Lynch or Kathryn Bigelow who made “Detroit.” You can see that person’s strong personality shining through.
I don’t go into a movie with a checklist of what I’m looking to see… I want the movie to define itself for me.
What makes for a good script? Is it just the ease of conversation?
Well, that’s an excellent question. It’s different with every movie, and every movie sets its own parameters. Some movies are in a naturalistic style. You want them to sound casual and realistic.
One of the movies I really liked a lot was “Three Billboard Outside Ebbing, Missouri.” A lot of people said the dialogue doesn’t sound realistic and the way people from Missouri talk. I totally agree with all that. It’s not supposed to be realistic in that case. It is stylized. And it makes it even a little artificial. So it always depends on the individual film, I think.
How many movies do you walk out of?
I can’t do that when I’m reviewing one. I always stay ‘til the end.
There’s been a few times at a film festival I’ve maybe taken a chance on something, and in 15 minutes you can tell ‘This isn’t going to be my thing.’ But that would be the only time.
Is there a particular cinematographer or others in the film industry whose work you particularly look forward to seeing?
Of course it’s obvious with actors or directors. And sometimes screenwriters. There are always people I look forward to. But you never know. Everybody is capable of blowing one. Just not hitting it on the nose.
But the reverse is when I go see movies where the subject doesn’t sound that appealing or a director I’ve hated in the past. A little of the discipline in doing this, you really have to hope this will be a great movie when the lights go down. Five minutes later you often find out it’s not going to be good. There’s always, always a little bit of hope.
Have you loved movies since you were a child?
Yes, I was really drawn to movies always as kid. Not so much going to the theater. My family wasn’t that much a movie-going family. I watched a lot on TV when there were only five channels. A couple would be recycling the same movies from the ‘40s and ‘50s — Humphrey Bogart a lot.
What else did you see?
When I grew up, every Friday night there was on Channel 7 a horror movie double bill — a guy dressed up like Dracula introduced a movie every week.
That probably ruined me for life, watching that every week. Those are still some of my favorite movies. I wrote a book about the original “Frankenstein” that came out three to four years ago, which had its roots in that childhood experience.
So your love of movies began with watching them on TV?
I discovered a lot about film through television. In the days before VCRs, I would take a tape recorder when I knew a movie I liked would be on, and I would listen to it later.
I would tape the dialogue of Marx Brothers movies. “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre” was one of my favorites.
Sharon Salyer: 424-339-3486 or email@example.com.
Horton’s top 10
Here is Robert Horton’s list of favorite movies, in no particular order. He defined them as: “Nothing too recent because I tend to believe favorite-est things are formed early in life.”
“North by Northwest” (1959, Alfred Hitchcock)
“It’s A Wonderful Life” (1946, Frank Capra)
“Jules and Jim” (1962, Francois Truffaut)
“Frankenstein” (1931, James Whale)
“Some Like It Hot” (1959, Billy Wilder)
“Treasure of the Sierra Madre” (1948, John Huston)
“Help!” (1965, Richard Lester)
“Duel” (1971, Steven Spielberg)
“Chinatown” (1974, Roman Polanski)
“The Shining” (1980, Stanley Kubrick)