The Lowdown: Matthew Bernstein
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The Lowdown: Matthew Bernstein

I Bet You Didn't Know ... Matthew enjoys singing (badly) to Beatles songs in his car.

After 37 years with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and now with the AJT, , Jaffe’s focus is lifestyle, art, dining, fashion, and community events with emphasis on Jewish movers and shakers.

Matthew Bernstein
Matthew Bernstein

Atlanta is chock full of interesting “movers and shakers” – some bent on creativity, activism and/or just plain having fun and living the good life. Lean in to hear some of the “off the cuff” remarks as to what makes Matthew Bernstein, PhD, tick.

Matthew H. Bernstein is the Goodrich C. White Professor of Film and Media at Emory University, where he teaches courses on film history and criticism. He is the author of “Screening a Lynching: The Leo Frank Case on Film and Television” (2009), and “Walter Wanger, Hollywood Independent” (1994; 2004), a biography of a major producer in the classical era.

The editor or co-editor of four anthologies on topics ranging from John Ford westerns to film censorship, Bernstein is a two-time recipient of NEH research grants as well as teaching and scholarship awards from the prestigious Society for Cinema and Media Studies. From 1998 to 2020, he hosted the popular Atlanta Cinema Club. He has served in leadership roles in the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival since 2006. From 2005 to 2020, he served on the National Film Preservation Board, advising the Librarian of Congress on matters of preservation as well as films to add to the National Film Registry. He is currently co-writing a history of the Columbia Pictures studio and a study of Atlanta film culture in the segregated era.

Matthew earned his B.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and an MFA from Columbia University.  He and his wife, Natalie, the former elementary school librarian at the Paideia School, moved to Atlanta in 1989. They are proud parents of two sons residing in Amsterdam and Atlanta. Members of The Temple, they love to travel, especially to film festivals, or curl up with a good bottle of wine and binge watch.

And who has even heard of the movies this “master of all things film” lists as favs?

What was your first job?
When I was 14, I worked at a heating oil storage plant from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m.  It was formative.

What advice would you give a 20-year-old Matthew Bernstein? 
Read and watch widely and serendipitously, be infinitely curious about people. Travel abroad so you can meet your future wife (which I did, in England, at the age of 20).

My comfort food is …
Pizza and pasta. I would eat them every day if I didn’t care about turning into Jabba the Hutt. Any shape, pretty much any sauce.

I am currently reading …
“Down There,” a noir novel by the Philadelphian David Goodis. Francois Truffaut adapted his “Shoot the Piano Player” from it.

If “they” made a movie of your life, who would play the lead?
In earlier years, I was mistaken for Kevin Kline (usually when sitting down—he’s much taller).  More aspirationally, Cary Grant … You know he said: “Everyone wants to be Cary Grant. Even I want to be Cary Grant.”

College students today are definitely more … than when I was a student …
Smart, motivated, thoughtful, engaged! And sober.

Top three favorite films of all time?
Just three? No can do. Jean Renoir’s “The Rules of the Game” (1939); Preston Sturges’ “The Lady Eve” (1941); Alfred Hitchcock’s “Notorious” (1946) or “North by Northwest” (1959); Akira Kurosawa’s, “High and Low” (1963). More recently? Florian von Donnersmarck’s “The Lives of Others” (2006).

One silly thing no one knows about me is …
I drive around singing (badly) along to Beatles songs.

My last fashion error was …
Should I have buttoned my jacket for this photo?

The last time I cried was …
Watching Federico Fellini’s “The Nights of Cabiria” (1957) and Vittorio De Sica’s “The Bicycle Thieves,” even though I’ve seen each of them at least 14 times.

Best city for making movies? Hollywood vs. Atlanta?
Hollywood for now, but Atlanta will catch up soon.

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