In the last week, my attention has been taken up by two American crime films from the 1950s that have appeared in excellent DVD versions: Joseph Losey’s The Prowler (1951), restored and delivered by a combination of benevolent institutions, the Film Noir Foundation, the U.C.L.A. Archive, and the Stanford Theatre in Palo Alto, which means the exceptional patron of so many arts, David W.
TNR Film Classic: ‘The Pride of the Yankees’ (1942)
October 01, 2011
Before seeing "The Pride of the Yankees" you may or may not know that the Yankees referred to are the ones who win the World Series each year. After seeing it you will find that the reference is indirect. Deep down inside it's the baseball story of Lou Gehrig, the silent strong boy, who went from Columbia to the Yankee Stadium to hit home runs. It was at the start of the fabulous Yankees, when the manager was a runt-sized baseball genius named Miller Huggins, and "Murderers' Row" meant Gehrig, Ruth, Coombs and Meusel.
David Thomson on Films: Remembering Margaret Sullavan, Who Would Have Been 100 (or 102) This Year
September 27, 2011
Every now and then, you run into people who have not seen The Shop Around the Corner. These men and women seem normal enough. They speak English, they wear clothes, they comb their hair. They may be walking the dog or looking for a pinot noir at a party, and they say, “What was that film you mentioned?” They’re good-natured about their ignorance, especially when you tell them the film is 71 years old and in black-and-white. There are people who reckon those conditions are beyond their range or pay level, like the famine in East Africa or the bubbling of the permafrost in Siberia.
TNR Film Classic: ‘A Man for all Seasons’ (February 25, 1967)
September 24, 2011
A Man for All Seasons is tasteful and moderately enjoyable; Robert Bolt’s dialogue is crisp, lucid, and well-spoken; the actors are generally efficient. Fred Zinnemann’s direction is placed at the service of Bolt’s material—in the manner of a good, modest stage director who does not attempt more than a faithful, respectful interpretation of the play. It’s pleasant to see a movie made with integrity and sensibility: A Man for All Seasons wasn’t that easy to do and it wasn’t “safe”—though it appears to have turned out well for all concerned. But that’s really just about all I can say for it.
Stanley Kauffmann on Films: Kinds of War
September 23, 2011
Where Soldiers Come From International Film Circuit Point Blank Magnolia Pictures Iron Crows Min-Chul Kim No, it won’t. That is the answer as to whether the flood of documentaries about current wars will lessen. Why should it? Don’t we all frequently wish that film had been invented in time for Troy? Where Soldiers Come From is unique. It is about war, about Afghanistan in particular, but it is more about civilization than about combat.
He is called “Driver” on the wishful but forlorn principle that you only need to be what you do. He works in an auto repair shop in Los Angeles for a man named Shannon (Bryan Cranston), whose heavy limp bespeaks a bad history with the Mob. It is Shannon, acting as an amiable manager, who guides Driver into other jobs: doing stunts for movies; and driving the getaway car on serious robberies.
‘Contagion’ Isn’t Just a Thriller. It’s a Defense of Big Government.
September 19, 2011
There is a scene in Contagion, Steven Soderbergh’s global mega-pandemic thriller, in which the scalp of a dead patient—played by one of the film’s biggest stars—is sliced open during an autopsy. A flap of marbled flesh flops limply over her forehead; in the screening I attended, this was definitely the moment that elicited the most grossed-out gasps. It wasn’t the most jarring part of the movie, however. What I found way more shocking was the notion of a film in which the good guy is played by … the government. Our times are awash in the swill of anti-government paranoia.
TNR Film Classics: ‘The Wizard of Oz’ and ‘The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes’ (September 24, 1939)
September 16, 2011
The Wizard of Oz was intended to hit the same audience as Snow White, and won’t fail for lack of trying. It has dwarfs, music, technicolor, freak characters and Judy Garland. It can’t be expected to have a sense of humor as well—and as for the light touch of fantasy, it weighs like a pound of fruitcake soaking wet. Children will not object to it, especially as it is a thing of many interesting gadgets; but it will be delightful for children mostly to their mothers, and any kid tall enough to reach up to a ticket window will be found at the Tarzan film down the street.
Thomson on Films: Cliff Robertson and the Sordid Ways of Old Hollywood
September 15, 2011
Cliff Robertson died the other day. He was 88, and I suppose he was what is called an establishment figure. Long ago he had won an Oscar for his performance in Charly (1968) about a retarded man who is given an experimental drug that lets him find genius (and his doctor, Claire Bloom) but then slips back to being a fool, and he was perfectly OK in the film if you can manage to sit through it now, in which case you may surmise that nearly any actor in that begging role might have won the Oscar.
David Thomson on Films: ‘The Hour’ Is the Most Complex and Absorbing Story Currently Playing on Any Screen
September 06, 2011
If you haven’t caught up with it yet, “The Hour” is halfway over. The fourth of six hour-long episodes will play on BBC America on Wednesday, September 7th. But don’t be disheartened. You don’t want to watch it in its original transmission because it is stretched out to 90 minutes with some especially egregious commercials. If you wait a day, you can pick it up on Exfiniti “on demand” without the commercials. Start now and you can catch up on the first three episodes, and get in training for the most complex and absorbing story playing on film (and in English) at the moment.