David Thomson

David Thomson on Films: ‘Sweet Smell of Success’
April 01, 2011

Nobody had seen or heard anything like the first half of Sweet Smell of Success in 1957. It wasn’t just the way the picture went out onto the streets and into the bars of Manhattan, letting cameraman James Wong Howe get his best stuff at dawn and twilight. Film noir had made hay with darkness for ten years, but still, you didn’t get a lot of real night in American pictures.

David Thomson on Films: ‘Mildred Pierce’
March 25, 2011

You can see why HBO thought to re-make Mildred Pierce, especially if it had Kate Winslet committed to playing the title part. The James M. Cain novel (published in 1941) is attuned to our grim economy: It’s the story of a single mother in Glendale in 1931 who has to take a job as a waitress and who then builds it into a flourishing, modest restaurant trade, based on the pies she bakes at home. As with so much of Cain, this is a story about money and business—I think he was more interested in those things than in the sex that dogged his reputation.

David Thomson on Films: Can You Watch?
March 19, 2011

We are looking down on a plain building, without distinction or appeal. Its one point of interest seems to be that rapid, rushing water surrounds it to the height of ten feet or so. Then, the story begins. On the current of this water, a sequence of empty automobiles reverse tidily round the corner of the building—it’s very prettily done and somehow confirms the suspicion that drivers may be the problem in cars. A line of them, six or seven, complete the turn, without collision or dispute, and then reverse out of frame.

David Thomson on Films: ‘From Here to Eternity’
March 05, 2011

It was a Friday night, and Turner Classic Movies were doing “Thirty-One Days of Oscar,” so the network played From Here to Eternity (1953). It’s a film I’m fond of (being twelve when I first saw it), and, when you’re that familiar with a picture, you’re not quite watching any more. But then, something happened.

David Thomson on Films: The 2011 Best Picture Oscar
February 24, 2011

For a while in this awards season, The Social Network seemed to be the favorite for the Best Picture Oscar. But the later opening of The King’s Speech has served it well. In the crucial nomination and voting period, The Social Network’s domestic box office slowed down, and it has earned less than $100 million. The picture has been hard to find in theaters, in part because it appeared on DVD in January.

David Thomson on Films: ‘Just Go With It’
February 23, 2011

The columns I’ve written so far in this space may suggest that going to the movies these days is a happy experience. That is, in part, because of the time of year: We have learned that the only movies the business has any pretense of respect for open as a year closes—because Christmas is a rich season that builds towards the Academy Awards nominations. It is also because I prefer to praise films, or to send you in search of watchable stuff.

David Thomson on Films: Remembering Maria Schneider
February 08, 2011

A generation of male movie-goers may have gulped when they saw the obituaries for Maria Schneider and that picture of her from 2003 when she was 50—tense, not quite well, anxious about being looked at. How can we read so much into one picture? Well, how did we assume so much in 1972 when the breathtaking Schneider rolled across the screen in Last Tango in Paris like a bowling ball and took part in all those scenes with such aplomb?  In 1972, we told ourselves, we were watching the most candid mainstream film we were ever likely to see.

David Thomson on Films: ‘Inside Job’
January 24, 2011

I have some reservations about the movie Inside Job (made by Charles Ferguson, a man I know a little and like), and I’ll address them. But they don’t matter. They don’t begin to alter my estimate that, if Inside Job is not among the ten nominations for Best Picture Oscar, it will be one more travesty that points to the feebleness and the lost soul of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. My reservations?

David Thomson on Films: ‘The Last Command’ (1927)
January 22, 2011

It’s about time for this column to look back for a moment and delve into our library of DVD treasures. The reason is obvious: Most people passionate about film now spend as much time with that library as with new pictures. I’m talking about 1928, a very good year. An odd, sentimental gesture attended the first Oscars—but only those top prizes. The awards were held in the Blossom Room of the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel on May 16, 1929, when awards were being delivered for the years 1927-28.

David Thomson on Films: 'Blue Valentine'
January 17, 2011

 As the award season builds, Blue Valentine is being promoted by the Weinstein Company as “the most provocative film of the year.” That’s not far-fetched: This is a challenging experience, and a conscientious effort to expose raw lives. But is it a movie or a new way of revealing helplessness? Perhaps the picture’s largest strength and problem is that its two embedded performances--from Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams--leave us realizing their characters may not be suited to either marriage or a great fictional movie.

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