Margaret Pomeranz and David Stratton

Margaret Pomeranz and David Stratton

Celebrating 25 years in 2011
 Jan Thurling

The NFSA's Jan Thurling gives five stars to TV film critics David Stratton and Margaret Pomeranz, who were celebrating 25 years on air together in 2011.
Margaret Pomeranz and David Stratton. Image used courtesy of ABC TV

The often feisty discussions between Margaret Pomeranz and David Stratton are the highlight of a show that has entertained and informed Australians since they began working together in 1986, co-creating the half-hour program The Movie Show on SBS.

At the time, they had both worked at SBS for a number of years: Margaret as the producer of tv programs like Front Up, Subsonics and the AFI and IF Awards; and David as SBS’s feature film consultant and host of the film programs Cinema Classics and A Whole World of Movies (later Movie of the Week ), which showcased the latest in world cinema as well as foreign classics to an Australian TV audience.

David and Margaret wanted to create a new film review program for SBS. Initially Margaret was only going to produce the show, and there was a hunt for an appropriate co-host for David, until it was suggested that Margaret should be both a host and the producer.

Their first episode aired on SBS on 30 October 1986, and it included a review of Bruce Beresford’s Australian feature The Fringe Dwellers. After 20 years at SBS, the program moved to the ABC, where on 1 July 2004 it became At the Movies.

The show includes interviews with filmmakers and actors, and coverage of special events including national and international film festivals, and Australian film awards. At the Movies later added a ‘classic’ film segment, picked each week by Margaret or David, with the review discussing the film’s place in cinema history and the other work of its director or stars.

The format of their shows is simple. David and Margaret each introduce a film (four to five new films were reviewed each week), show clips, describe the plot and give a short review. The other then gives their opinion, they discuss it together, and then they both award the film a number of stars out of 5.

The spontaneity of their reactions to each other’s comments is real as they choose not to discuss their opinions before the show begins filming. While their opposing views create much of the fun of the program, they often agree about films more than they disagree.

David Stratton believes that the success of the show comes from 'a fascination in seeing two people who come from totally different backgrounds, but who share a love for cinema discuss, and sometimes argue and fight, about movies'. Each has their own pet hates, with David’s aversion to hand-held camerawork well known.

One issue they particularly agree upon is their opposition to censorship of film in Australia, which has been a constant theme of the program over the years.

The NFSA has a large number of episodes of The Movie Show in its collection. kl