David Thomson

Feel-Good Noir
December 06, 2010

Dennis Lehane has written a piece of feel-good noir. Everyone ends up dead or better than they started off, which is the clean-up that excuses any for

Demon Dog or Faithful Retriever?
September 14, 2010

James Ellroy’s new book injects his mother’s maiden name—Hilliker—into its veins and describes itself as just a memoir. But its sub-title, “My Pursuit

Fudging Holly Golightly
August 31, 2010

This book is such a swift, sweet, smart stroll through the making of the movie Breakfast at Tiffany’s that it takes a little while for one to realize

Chinamen
August 27, 2010

Charlie Chan: The Untold Story of the Honorable Detective and his Rendezvous with American History By Yunte Huang (W.W. Norton, 354 pp., $26.95)  Even in our fading half-life of cultural memory, the notion may endure that 1925 was a good moment for American literature. In that year, we were given Dreiser’s An American Tragedy, Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, Anita Loos’s Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, and Willa Cather’s The Professor’s House. Hemingway was writing The Sun Also Rises.

Chinamen
August 27, 2010

Charlie Chan: The Untold Story of the Honorable Detective and his Rendezvous with American History By Yunte Huang (W.W. Norton, 354 pp., $26.95)  Even in our fading half-life of cultural memory, the notion may endure that 1925 was a good moment for American literature. In that year, we were given Dreiser’s An American Tragedy, Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, Anita Loos’s Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, and Willa Cather’s The Professor’s House. Hemingway was writing The Sun Also Rises.

Where Does Ethan Edwards Go?
August 04, 2010

Let me say straightaway that this is a very thoughtful, observant book, well worth the time for any reader who takes Hawks, Ford, and the Western seri

The BACK LOT: The Menace of ‘Metropolis’
July 24, 2010

I have just had a sensational night at the movies, and the picture was only 83 years old. At the Silent Film Festival in San Francisco, the Castro Theater was packed for a showing of a “complete” Metropolis. Moreover, the screening was graced by the presence of the two Argentineans—scholar Fernando Pena and archivist Paula Felix-Didier—who discovered the previously lost footage in Buenos Aires a couple of years ago. I honor their work, and their amusing commentary on the discovery—they were a couple once, then separated, then back together with the excitement of the find.

Why Is Everyone So Obsessed With ‘Inception’?
July 21, 2010

There are plenty of moments in its 150 minutes when Inception is flying in mid-air, uncertain whether there is a safety net or a parachute of coherent plot to explain its entire exhilarating enterprise. Don’t ask to have its theory of dreaming spelled out in foolproof detail, just know that the age-old love affair between dreaming and the movies has been reasserted. Above all, treasure the film’s serene lack of exhausting violence or ingenious cruelty.

Elliott Kastner (1930-2010)
July 09, 2010

I had known Elliott Kastner a little over the years, by way of phone calls. He had tracked me down once and called, and I had wondered why, and it was just to say he had enjoyed some things I had written. Without any strain, I told him I was very fond of some of his pictures. So we agreed we should meet some time, but nothing ever developed until a couple of years ago. He was coming to San Francisco, where I live—let’s have dinner. He had a plan. That’s where he broke it to me, at Post Trio. He was a character, he said, but he was not in the best of health.

Dead, Man
May 29, 2010

There was a time when Dennis Hopper exulted in the reputation of being the first kid who knew what was wrong with Hollywood. What he said, more or less, was that the movies have gone dead, man, that it’s just old-timers doing it all on automatic pilot, that there’s no truth, anymore, man, and they won’t put me in lead parts. There was some truth in what he said, and it was certainly the case that a number of veteran directors found Hopper an intolerable smart-ass who said he had known Jimmy--Jimmy Dean--and that what he was saying now was only what Dean would have said.

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