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21 August 2017

R.I.P. -- Bob Polunsky

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Bob Polunsky (Courtesy: www.pinterest.com)

As far as I know, longtime San Antonio film critic Bob Polunsky was never a "Robert."

Bob, who died at 85 this week in San Antonio, Texas, was just Bob, a kindred spirit in the love and appreciation of any film really worth watching.  He was also never shy about condemning a flawed movie for its shortcomings in a Bob Polunsky style dubbed "Flicker Footnotes."  Bob's reviews were direct and sometimes ruthless but always honest.

Bob was well established as The Guy when it came to film criticism in San Antonio when I arrived in 1983.  Bob wrote for the Express-News daily newspaper.  After a year of general entertainment reporting at the other daily newspaper in town, the now-dark San Antonio Light, I became "that other film critic in town."

Suddenly, there were two movie critics traveling to Los Angeles, New York and much of the free world (France, Great Britain, Canada, Scotland, etc.) almost every weekend to preview upcoming movies and interview the biggest movie stars in the world. 

I've often wondered if I would have been half as gracious as Bob was if I had been the established San  Antonio film critic and he was the new cinematic kid in town.  Honestly?  Probably not.  Bob always went out of his way to make sure to introduce me to the movie studio executives when I made my first loop around the traveling film critic circuit.

Often, we'd wind up on the same plane, and often shared cabs.  We were cautiously cordial to each other but also old school newspaper journalists.  That meant spirited, if not fierce competitors.  I can't tell you how many times I've bounced around in the back of an airport cab with Bob just hoping I wouldn't let it slip that I had an exclusive interview set up with an A-list movie star.  I'm quite sure Bob did the same thing.

The only time I saw Bob come even close to losing his temper was one Sunday morning when we were sharing a cab from Beverly Hills to LAX, the L.A. airport.  It was an early flight and we were running a little late.  From out of nowhere, a policemen stepped in front of our cab and stopped us at an intersection, even though we had a green light.

I looked to my left and saw the first of what had to be hundreds of runners (perhaps thousands) of the Los Angeles Marathon pass in front of our cab as the clock ticked, the policeman's "don't even think about coming through" stance held fast and Bob's patience dwindled rapidly.  We made our flight, if just barely, and soon we were laughing about what seemed like half of the citizens of L.A. running through the streets early on a Sunday morning.

Over the years, our newspapers changed, as did TV stations and radio stations.  Yet for a quarter century or more in San Antonio, Bob had his Flicker Footnotes and I was known as The Jalapeño Guy because I rated movies on a scale of 1-to-4 jalapenos.  In fact, I still do when the mood strikes me.

As far as I'm concerned, when it comes to tough critics with an extremely kind heart, Bob is still The Guy.

Well done, Bob.  Rest in peace, sir.

Funeral services will be held Tuesday (Aug. 22) at 10:30 a.m. at Temple Beth-El Cemetery on Austin Highway in San Antonio.

Comments

Your tribute to Bob Polunsky was a wonderful sendoff. And so were your quoted remarks in today's S.A. Express News!

Patricia Lawrence, formerly of The Madison, now at Adante Independent Living.

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