Film Festival opens with celebration of co-founder Kathleen Carroll

Adirondack Film Society Vice President and Co-chair Nelson Page, left, gives Kathleen Carroll a plaque commemorating her work as a film critic, co-founder of the society and co-founder of the Lake Placid Film Forum Thursday night at the High Peaks Resort in Lake Placid. (Enterprise photo — Griffin Kelly)

LAKE PLACID — Growing up, Nelson Page, vice president of the Adirondack Film Society, had a poster for Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey” hanging on his wall. The film, which chronicles evolution and man’s necessity to not only advance technology but abandon it, has been hailed as a masterpiece of filmmaking. Some call it the only true science-fiction movie. Toward the bottom of the poster, it said “New York Daily News: Three stars.”

The reviewer, Kathleen Carroll thought the movie was just alright. She said product placements such as Hilton, Howard Johnson’s and IBM made it feel like a big commercial. The minutiae and intricacies of the spacecraft, while impressive, had too much screen time and would only thrill an employee of NASA. People have written books and made documentaries about Kubrick’s 1968 film, but Carroll got her point across in less than 400 words.

“A small sphere of intellectuals will feel that Kubrick has said something, simply because one expected him to say something,” she wrote in ’68. “Others will be disappointed but will have to admire his technical grasp of the subject.

“Most moviegoers will only wish that Mr. Kubrick would come back down to earth.”

In 2018, Carroll said, “I don’t know where I got the guts to write stuff like that.”

The Adirondack Film Society, friends and family honored Carroll at a gala Thursday night at the High Peaks Resort. More than 100 people showed up to celebrate.

“It’s quite shocking,” Carroll said of the gala in her honor. “To be honest, I wasn’t really prepared for it.”

Carroll, originally from Lake Placid and now living in New York City, was a film critic and journalist for the New York Daily News for more than 30 years. She also co-founded the Adirondack Film Society in 1999 and the Lake Placid Film Forum (now a festival) in 2000, bringing a liveliness to the cinematic arts in the North Country.

Not too many women were making a living as film journalists in the early 1960s, so she was a pioneer for her era. The Daily News was also regarded as the every-person’s paper, but in her writing, Carroll was neither an elitist nor did she dumb things down. She challenged the reader and the paper without being a snob, not only covering the blockbusters but also foreign and independent films. The first movie she ever reviewed was a German film with no subtitles. The manager at the movie theater had to translate for her.

As the guests took their seats and noshed on plates of chicken and shrimp Thursday, a slideshow projected some of Carroll’s old news clippings and photos of her with friends and film stars. Many of her clips and interviews will soon be published in book called “My Life in the Dark.”

Pictures of Carroll with Robert Shaw and fellow critic Rex Reed flashed on the screen, but the one that garnered the biggest reaction was Carroll with Reg Clark, the owner of the Palace Theatre who died this summer. She smiled, pointed and clapped.

At one point, state Sen. Betty Little congratulated Carroll. She read from a future proclamation from the state Legislature. It will put Carroll in the history books for New York, she said.

“Whereas, since 2000, Kathleen Carroll’s generous contributions to the Adirondack Film Society and distinguished service as artistic director for the Lake Placid Film Festival have brought unique film programming, conversations, directors, actors, producers and industry insiders to the Lake Placid community …”

The audience started to laugh — not at Little or her words, but at the blown-up photo of Tom Cruise from 1986’s “Top Gun” that appeared on the slideshow. Next to it was a line from Carroll’s review: “‘Top Gun’ is terribly monotonous.'”

“It was a big deal to get four stars from Kathleen,” her sister Mary Claire said.

This isn’t to say Carroll hated everything. She wasn’t like Jay Sherman, thinking everything “STINKS!” Far from it, actually. She loved Disney’s “The Little Mermaid” and gave a great review to “A Clockwork Orange,” another of Kubrick’s films.

Toward the middle of the gala, Carroll received two special video messages from well-wishers: Martin Scorsese, who was a guest at the fifth Film Forum 14 years ago, and Chaz Ebert, a friend of Carroll and wife to the late film critic Roger Ebert.

“I remember you fondly,” Scorsese said.

“You’ve contributed invaluably to the arts, and were always the classiest of ladies,” Ebert said.

Finally it was time for Carroll to say a few words.

“I have a great love for this community and I always will,” she said. “Growing up here was, well, quite magical. It’s wonderful to be able to come back here. I never thought I’d come back here like this with plaques and all these kinds of things.”

(Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly said Scorcese was a guest at the first Film Forum 18 years ago. He was at the fifth, in 2004.)

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