Duncan Shepherd

Duncan Shepherd was the Reader's sole movie critic for nearly 40 years. Shepherd was a disciple of Manny Farber, a man Roger Ebert once called "the great iconoclast of American film criticism." Like Farber, Shepherd sought to assist moviegoers "in seeing what was in front of their faces, to wean them from Plot, Story, What Happens Next, and to disabuse them of the absurd notion that a film is all of a piece, all on a level, quantifiable, rankable, fileable." Instead of simply describing a film's attributes, he took hold of it like Jacob wrestling the angel, and sought to see it face to face. He retired in 2010.

His collection of five-star reviews collects those relatively few films that merited his highest indicator of priority, from 1924's The Last Laugh to 2009's A Serious Man. It is available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, and Kobo.

Read about Shepherd on Wikipedia.

Some of Shepherd's work from the print archives of the Reader:

Dec. 4, 1975, page 10 Thick Skin (Shepherd's view on pornography)

June 10, 1976, page 9 Naysaying (response to Shepherd critics)

Oct. 18, 1979, page 16 Gorin by Himself (collaborator of Jean-Luc Godard, friend of Shepherd's)

April 30, 1981, page 22 Cease Fire (another frontal stand against Shepherd's critics)

July 7, 1994, page 95 Upside, Downside (the new phenomenon of films on video)

March 7, 1996, page 86 More Than Money (review of Fargo)

Sept. 27, 2001, page 126 One Cent's Worth (reflections on 9/11)

Nov. 1, 2001, page 116 Bloop (review of The Man Who Wasn't There, first Coen Bros. film to disappoint author)

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Latest Articles

Movie reviews from the '70s

Crop Failure The most obvious damage done to a movie that has been trimmed, cropped, to fit the TV space, is to the composition of the images. It is like a museum trying to fit ...

So Long

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Life in Him Yet

Granted, Clint Eastwood in his senior years has demonstrated a remarkable readiness to broaden his boundaries as a director. A quick check of his filmography will show that as long ago as his middle-aged Breezy, ...

Different Strokes

Trepidation is not the ideal frame of mind in which to approach a film, even around Halloween. But after I Stand Alone and Irreversible, the French enfant terrible Gaspar Noé merits nothing less and nothing ...

Tight Spot

Sort of a Sorry, Wrong Number for the cellphone age, Buried is a gimmicky thriller whose single gimmick, if you have not been tipped off beforehand, dawns on you with a mounting sensation of hopelessness ...

October Kickoff

Everything you never wanted to know about the advent of Facebook, where “friends” gather on the Internet, will be revealed in The Social Network. That’s not to say you will understand it. Structured as an ...

The Other Bostonians

Ben Affleck’s second directed film, The Town, is a moderately diverting, mildly despicable game of cops-and-robbers that counts, in its play for the spectator’s sympathies, on the moral depravity of the public at large, a ...

The Boss’s Daughter

For your Mafia fix, you can safely go to The Sicilian Girl, a fictionalized factual story from the fatherland, focussed on (at the start) the ten-year-old daughter of a soon murdered mob boss, slowly simmering ...


Top of the heap this week, The Tillman Story rehashes the shameful facts of how Pat Tillman, Jr., the Arizona Cardinal who set aside a professional football career to enlist in the Army post-9/11, had ...

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