Film Critics for a Night

A full house at Guild Hall
Alec Baldwin, Ruth Appelhof, director of Guild Hall, David Nugent, artistic director of the Hamptons International Film Festival, and Anne Chaisson, HIFF’s executive director Morgan McGivern

    A screening of Alfred Hitchcock’s 1958 film “Vertigo,” presented by Guild Hall and the Hamptons International Film Festival, drew a full house to the John Drew Theater at Guild Hall in East Hampton on Saturday night.

    Following the screening, the actor Alec Baldwin, who has a house in Amagansett, hosted a brief but equally entertaining forum with David Nugent, the festival’s artistic director.

    As Guild Hall’s website noted, the British film journal Sight & Sound named “Vertigo,” a psychological thriller starring James Stewart and Kim Novak, the best film of all time in 2012, dethroning longtime favorite “Citizen Kane.”

    Mr. Nugent, following the screening, read aloud the Sight & Sound editors’ reasoning. “ ‘It’s the ultimate critics film,’ ” he read. “ ‘It’s a dreamlike film about people who are not sure who they are but are busy reconstructing themselves and each other to fit a kind of cinema ideal about the ideal soul mate.’ ”

    “If you love cinema,” Mr. Nugent said, “it has pretty much everything you want. It’s about as perfectly done as could be.”

    After the screening, Mr. Baldwin invited two members of the audience — provided they were between the ages of 30 and 60 and had seen most of the current Academy Award-nominated films — to serve as “guest film critics.”

    Clearly enjoying himself, Mr. Baldwin riffed on current cinema and its actors and directors. “Tonight you are a critic,” he told his guests, exhorting them to speak freely. “I’m not me, you’re not you, we’re not us,” he instructed. “We’re like film critics: We can say whatever we want to, and ruin people’s careers, hurt their feelings, decimating their careers in the industry. We don’t care.”

    The ad-hoc panel discussed their favorite films of the year, which included “12 Years a Slave” (which Mr. Nugent noted was the closing night film at the 2013 Hamptons International Film Festival), “The Act of Killing,” “American Hustle,” “Nebraska,” “The Wolf of Wall Street,” and “Blue Jasmine.”

    “I hear that’s good,” Mr. Baldwin joked of the latter film, in which he appeared.

    He asked the guests who they felt would win the Academy Award for best actor. “Christian Bale, and if not him [Leonardo] DiCaprio,” one replied. “He got cheated with ‘The Aviator.’ ”

    “I hear that’s good, too,” Mr. Baldwin, who also appeared in that film, deadpanned.

    Mr. Nugent predicted that Matthew McConaughey would be named best actor for “Dallas Buyers Club,” but felt that Chiwetel Ejiofor, who stars in “12 Years a Slave,” was the more deserving actor.

    For his part, Mr. Baldwin said he felt that “12 Years a Slave” was the year’s best film, with which much of the audience and panel concurred. He did part company with the editors of Sight & Sound, however: “Citizen Kane,” he said, remains the greatest film of all time, likening it to a Shakespearian tragedy.

    This year’s Hamptons International Film Festival will take place Oct. 9 to 13, coinciding with Columbus Day weekend.