The Big Small Screen
June 23, 2011
Too Big to FailHBO Bobby Fischer Against the World HBO In the last few weeks, America has had the chance to see two disturbing movies about our warping emphasis on heroes. Both of them played on cable, on HBO in fact, and some may think that therefore they fall under the rubric of “television.” But this misunderstanding has not prevented many of the best film directors in America from being driven to cable recently for worthwhile work.
David Thomson on Films: What Does a Producer Do?
June 23, 2011
What does a producer have to do to get noticed by film critics? It’s not enough to raise the money, order the cars, serve the lunches and make sure the location latrines are in working order—all of them.
Here’s another “movie” from Britain that without a touch of pomp or pretension seeks to ask us, “Well, why in hell do you think you know what a movie is, or has to be?” Since nearly anything could serve and function within the gloriously loose structure of The Trip, I found myself hoping that its two guys might find one of their conversations leading into a lugubrious consideration of what Terrence Malick thought The Tree of Life was really about.
Stanley Kauffmann on Films: The Whole Thing
June 09, 2011
Stanley Kauffmann is on temporary leave. This review was written by David Thomson. The Tree of LifeFox Searchlight The Greatest virtue of Terrence Malick’s new film may be the controversy attending it. Whatever we think of The Tree of Life as a show or a work of art, there are going to be defenders and doubters driven to join a fierce debate that turns on these questions: “Very well, in 2011, with the movies on life support, what should an ambitious American motion picture look and feel like? What should it do to us? And what do we require of this strange medium?
David Thomson on Films: Hollywood Hopeful
June 07, 2011
You feel it’s a story you’ve heard before, but that’s often the way in Los Angeles where there are more scripts than cars on the street. This happened at a cottage on Benedict Canyon, one of those roads that wind down from the crest of Mulholland Drive to Sunset Boulevard. The cottage was tucked into the hillside, overgrown with ivy, shrubberies, and bad karma. It looked like the forsaken or forgotten house in a fairy story. Over a period of time, a neighbor noticed that its delivery box was crammed with more and more junk mail. So she decided to break into the house.
David Thomson on Films: ‘Midnight in Paris’
June 01, 2011
Opening in May and reaching out into the early summer, Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris is an artful and shameless encouragement of going back to Paris. I suppose that’s better than artless and shameful, but, from a director who is aged 75 now, wouldn’t it be nice to feel some age and regret, to say nothing of this being the last time he’ll see Paris with the euro stronger than a two-day old croissant?
David Thomson on Films: Who Killed Jack Sparrow?
May 21, 2011
The other day, I was talking to another film critic about the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. This was in the dawn before the fourth film, On Stranger Tides, had opened. My friend said he had seen the three previous films, but he couldn’t recall a single scene or incident from them. “And yet, when we see the fourth,” I suggested, “everything will seem entirely predictable and familiar from the past.” Oblivion without surprise: I suppose that’s a definition of both the experience of Alzheimer’s and our relationship with that saucy (if not over-sauced) Jack Sparrow.
David Thomson on Films: ‘The Arbor’
May 20, 2011
What do “documentary” and “newsreel” hope to mean in this benighted age of the Internet, when information threatens to overwhelm intelligence? Though the genre is still hard to fund and difficult to make, there is no doubt but that, in the last 20 years, more documentaries have been getting limited theatrical release. So an orthodox complacency reigns that this is “a good thing.” But is the age of Michael Moore, Ken Burns, Werner Herzog, Frederick Wiseman, and movies like Charles Ferguson’s Inside Job really useful and critical of how we are being run?
David Thomson on Films: ‘The Beaver’
May 10, 2011
There are things wrong with The Beaver, starting with the gamble of giving that title to a Mel Gibson picture in the moment of his lowest public esteem. The considerable courage in making his character a profound depressive is not adequately explained—in life, depressives are often suffering because they don’t understand their problem, but, in drama, it’s hard to offer just a numb stare to such questions. We expect explanation, where depression sees only chaos. In addition, as this story trails away it tries to slip a facile feel-good disguise over its persuasive claim that life is shit.
She drowned in her own swimming pool in the south of France, aged 66. Marie-France Pisier had an immense, composed beauty, with a marble air of absolute assurance. In her brow and her gaze, serenity seemed on the point of becoming a mask. But she was made for drama, and even melodrama. Though she had the look of a Parisian socialite, so much about her was unexpected: She was born in Dalat, in Indo-China, the daughter of a French colonial governor. In fact, she only came to live in France at the age of twelve.