David Thomson on Films: ‘Larry Crowne’ Could Have Tackled the Challenges America Faces Today. Instead, Its Story Is Stale and Cheap.
July 06, 2011
Why is this picture called Larry Crowne? Is it because the filmmaker and star, Tom Hanks, buys into the limp orthodoxy that he is an American everyman figure? Is it because he has vague hopes that this is a story about everyday, good-natured American stick-at-it-ness, in the league of Jerry Maguire or Erin Brockovich? Or is it because no one involved in the making of it really knows what the film is about? Just think for a moment how the film’s attitude toward us, and its sense of purpose, might shift if the title was, For Example, Larry Crowne? And why not?
Peter Falk’s Columbo had a heavy patina of grubby naturalism. His raincoat had never seen a dry-cleaner; he was often unshaven and his hair was wild. One of his eyes could look the wrong way—but which eye? His halting speech affected shyness, befuddlement, or hours spent watching John Cassavetes films. He was as unkempt as Hercule Poirot is spick-and-span. But the two characters were equally artificial. I’m not complaining. If I’d done a murder, I’d rather be drawn into serpentine discussions with Falk, and even be arrested by him. He had respect for a wily games player.
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?