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IMAGE: Courtesy Helaine Garren
Finding just the right words to describe film critic D.K. Holm can be difficult. Shawn Levy of The Oregonian describes Doug—that’s what his friends call him—as a “curmudgeon, gadfly, and boulevardier.” I’ve always thought of him as what it would be like if underground cartoonist R. Crumb had created a Sesame Street character. Imagine a better-groomed version of Oscar the Grouch with a vast knowledge of film, literature and pop culture, and a charming disposition that by and large remained hidden under a persona of misanthropic wit. To put it simply, he’s the sort of person you love to hate, but you can’t help liking.
I first started hating Holm when he was a film critic for WW from 1985 to 1995, as well as for the now-defunct PDXS newspaper from 1995 to 1998. During those years, I grew to dislike Holm in a way that defied reason. It seemed as if he hated every film that I liked, and liked every film I hated, and every week I would read his reviews and swear I would never again waste my time reading opinions that were so obviously wrong. But week after week I would return to his reviews. I even wrote him a letter once, telling him what an asshole he was for disagreeing with me about some movie I can’t even remember, but I never sent the letter. And though it might sound strange to some people, my disdain for Holm was always a testament to his skill as a film critic, because if there is one truth about Holm, it would have to be that he is incapable of inspiring indifference.
When I finally got to know Holm, I was disappointed to find I actually liked him. Sure, he is gruff, opinionated and has a tendency to rub some people the wrong way, but he’s not without his charm. And even though I often disagreed with his criticism, I’ve always thought he was a great writer. He has proven it time and time again in his various columns and his books, which include R. Crumb: Conversations, Independent Cinema and Kill Bill: An Unofficial Casebook.
But most important of all is the fact that Holm is someone who has proven himself to be supportive of other critics and the local arts community—a commitment he proves by running the Far From Hollywood Film Society, Portland’s only movie reviewers’ guild.
Recently, Holm was diagnosed with esophageal cancer, for which he has begun chemotherapy and is scheduled for surgery. This is a life-altering experience in its own right, but Holm is facing his daunting circumstances as someone who is unemployed and without insurance—which makes him, in his own words, the “American nightmare.”
To help offset the debts Holm is accruing, several friends have put together a fundraiser. The event includes live entertainment by Thomas Lauderdale of Pink Martini, a screening of local director Patti Lewis’ latest work and a silent auction. The highlight of the evening promises to be a live reading of some of Holm’s most volatile reviews, as well as some of the more caustic hate mail he has received over the years. I only wish I had sent that letter telling him how much I hated him, just so it could be read at Sunday’s event.
HELP OUT: The fundraiser for D.K. Holm will be at 6 pm Sunday, April 27 at Cinema 21, 616 NW 21st Ave., 223-4515. Tickets start at $10. For more information, visit helpdkholm.com.