Emily Yoshida is a film critic at Vulture and co-host of the podcast Night Call.
Why do different critical voices matter?
Because when I was at film school, even with a near-even split of guys and girls, it was still accepted as gospel that Woody Allen was a genius. You either believed it or you shut down the voice in your heart that told you he was a repetitive hack with 2.5 great films under his belt and Manhattan should have been a career-ender. And now you don't have to shut down that voice! Critics aren't gods (shocking) but sometimes you don't even know where you stand on something until you hear someone else articulate it. Hearing that can be a catalyst for a lot of things — being a more engaged moviegoer, maybe making your own thing eventually.
What inspired you to be a critic?
I feel like I wandered into my current role a little backwards. I had been an editor and occasional writer about all sorts of things, but since I have I guess what you'd call a "formal" film background" (i.e. I took some classes and got a degree at some point in my life) it's one subject I can hold forth on and feel like I'm talking out of my ass the least. I don't know if I was inspired to be a critic so much as I've been a loudmouth about movies since I was a child and I kind of can't help it. When I started working on my school paper as a sophomore in high school, I immediately got with my friend and decided that we were going to be the Siskel and Ebert of our school. I wouldn't have guessed that I'd revisit that role as a working professional, but it makes a lot of sense.
What films are you excited about right now?
I've been banging the drum a lot for Chloe Zhao's The Rider. It's a gorgeously shot and edited film, and even though it takes place in this really obscure milieu (native rodeo riders in South Dakota) it's intensely relatable, because it's just about how we define ourselves by the things we do with our bodies (riding bucking broncos, sitting in movies theaters and subway cars all day) and what happens when that's taken away. I interviewed Zhao recently for Vulture, and she is so impressive and sure of herself artistically. I can't wait to see what she does next.
What “hidden gem” do you think deserves more attention?
There's this doc called Dead Slow Ahead that anyone who knows me has heard me go on and on about. It's a nearly wordless documentary where the filmmaker spent almost a year on a container ship, making these long voyages across the ocean with the crew. It's one of those films that makes you realize that contemporary industrialized society is more sci-fi than sci-fi. The director, Mauro Herce, is a cinematographer, and the photography is jaw-dropping, with shots that last minutes but are completely hypnotizing. It's impossible to see right now, so it's truly hidden. But! A professor I know at Tisch got the school to buy a DCP, and we're going to try to have a screening sometime in the next few months.